Asthma — Breathe easier with natural medicine

Asthma, a chronic inflammation of the lungs, is one of the most common childhood diseases and is responsible for more school absences and hospitalizations than any other chronic childhood illness.

Asthma, a chronic inflammation of the lungs, is one of the most common childhood diseases and is responsible for more school absences and hospitalizations than any other chronic childhood illness.

by Dr. Toni Vaughan — 

If you have ever tried breathing through a straw, you know what asthma feels like. You probably know someone with asthma, maybe your child or spouse — perhaps even yourself. Asthma, a chronic inflammation of the lungs, is one of the most common childhood diseases and is responsible for more school absences and hospitalizations than any other chronic childhood illness.

While most asthma treatments, whether natural or conventional, focus on reducing inflammation, your naturopathic doctor will usually start with your diet, because the “Standard American Diet” (SAD), which is high in processed foods, sugar and fat, promotes this inflammation. Also, many asthmatics often have food allergies that can exacerbate asthma symptoms.

Diet

Begin with a simple elimination diet. This is done by avoiding classic allergens such as cows’ milk products, wheat products, eggs, citrus, peanuts and soy. In addition, avoid alcohol, soft drinks, sugar-containing foods and highly processed foods. Once these foods have been eliminated for at least three weeks, you may start adding the foods back into your diet one at a time, watching for any aggravating symptoms that result.

Supplements

Remember that these treatments are not meant to replace your asthma medications; rather, they are to be used in conjunction with them.

  • Fish oils — Fish oils contain omega-3 fatty acids, improve lung function and reduce inflammation.
  • Antioxidants — Vitamin C is the lungs’ major antioxidant. In fact, low vitamin C levels are often indicated in asthmatics. Other important lung antioxidants are the flavonoids found in quercitin, green tea and ginkgo.
  • B Vitamins — Vitamins B-6 and B-12 help reduce asthma attacks and reliance on asthma medications.
  • Magnesium — Dietary magnesium improves lung function and reduces asthma severity. Intravenous magnesium is also a well-proven treatment used to stop an acute asthma attack.
  • Tylophora indica/asthmatica — This herb from India is a natural bronchodilator, anti-inflammatory and antihistamine.
  • Glycyrrhiza glabra — Also known as licorice root, it is a strong anti-inflammatory.

Diet and lifestyle changes, along with herbal and nutritional therapies, can help you breathe more easily. Whether you prefer a conventional and/or natural treatment, asthma is a complex medical condition that should be managed by a doctor. And always remember that natural treatments are not a replacement for your rescue inhaler during an acute asthma attack.

 

Dr. Toni Vaughan is a naturopathic physician in practice at the Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine Center in downtown Phoenix. She practices naturopathic family medicine with an emphasis on chronic lung and heart conditions. 602-265-1774, drvaughan@aimcenteraz.com or www.AIMcenterAZ.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 6, December 2005/January 2006.

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