Asthma creeps on to you silently and there are many who don’t take it seriously. When considered that there are over 23 million Americans and more than one third of those number children who suffer from Asthma, the scenario turns grim. Studies have indicated that the loss to the public exchequer as a direct result of losing work days is to the tune of $ 20 billion in the US.
How does one treat Asthma? The common and most sought after remedy is the inhaler or the bronchodilator as it is better known. This works as an anti-inflammatory agent that makes the muscle cells in the lungs to relax and opens up the blocked air passage. If that does not bring relief the next step is to resort to the steroid inhaler that comes with a more potent effect. When considered that if not treated immediately Asthma turns fatal, the inhaler becomes a top priority to carry wherever one goes. But what if this is not the real story and that inhaler could be an agent of death instead of life. A new box warning on a long-acting beta 2-adrenergic agonist (LABA) clearly states that LABA can actually increase the rate of asthma-related death.
This does not mean that one should shun the use of inhalers since their timely intervention has saved the life of many asthmatics. However it is most recommended that they should be used as a last resort.
In medical terminology it is called tachyphylaxis – a decrease in the response to a drug due to a previous exposure to it. That process starts from the very first time one uses the inhaler and over a period of time all beta2-adrenergic agonists like the inhaler, effect the heart and body metabolism. Since asthma is a disease that results due to an allergic response or inflammation, prevention is better than cure.
Omega 3 foods and CLA: Keeping a tab on inflammation involves a proper regulation of your omega 3 to omega 6 ratios and one such beneficial omega 3 fatty acid is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
An asthma attack is stimulated when leukotrienes which are highly inflammatory in nature get produced. This occurs when an enzyme known as 5-lipoxygenase (5-lipox) acts on a particular fat called arachidonic acid (AA). Many of the inhaled drugs that treat asthma work by reducing leukotrienes.
A more healthy way is to resort to a nutrition plan that reduces the 5-lipox and AA in your body. CLA helps fight 5-lipox and AA inflammation without harming your arteries. CLA does this by converting inside your body to both DHA and EPA, both of which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. EPA DHA is an essential fatty acid which stands for docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. This essential fatty acid is an Omega 3 fat. The benefits of CLA can be further felt since it lowers blood pressure.
One of the best natural sources for CLA is grass fed beef. Since grain is not a natural diet for cows, grain fed beef has a lower level CLA. Grass fed beef also has a better fatty acid and anti oxidant profile, is more nutritious and better for the body than grain fed beef.
CLA found in grass fed beef also helps in muscle gain, gives relief from arthritis, helps in better regulation of insulin and has an anti-carcinogenic effect on the cells. It is important to increase the proportion of animal based omega 3 fats in your diet. Though plant based omega 3 fats are very important, not everyone has the ability to metabolize them into DHA and EPA. Sources like fish oil and krill oil are very good sources for omega 3 fats.
Improving Vitamin D: Since Vitamin D is a known immunity modulator it is recommended to maintain a healthy intake for it. Exposing significant amount of skin instead of merely the hands and feet to sunlight should prove effective in the body producing a more viable store of Vitamin D.
Decreasing Omega 6 fats: One has to counter an increase in Omega 3 fats by a decrease in Omega 6 fats. One of the best ways to achieve this is by avoiding processed foods.
Hygiene: Though cleanliness is important it has now been found that exposure to common bacterial and viral infections as a child can help in the body providing a better immunity response to asthma. This dispels the popular myth that cleanliness is a requirement to avoid asthma.
Exercise: Getting an adequate dose of regular exercise in fresh air helps asthmatics in improving overall body metabolism. You can also use allergy testing to build up your immune system. A far better intradermal skin test would be provocation neutralization testing.
Avoiding Steroids: The number of adults who suffer from asthma has Asthma doubled in the last two decades complimented by a six fold increase in steroid prescriptions. These steroids may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 70 percent, according to a study. Additionally, the drugs are associated with several serious side effects including thinning of the bones, infections, susceptibility to bruising, diabetes, cataracts, glaucoma, high blood pressure and weight gain.
Use an Air Purifier: It has also been found by EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) that indoor air is more polluted that outdoor air by 5 times. This should make one consider using an air purifier for the home to avoid allergens.
Dairy Products: Asthma also gets triggered by commercial milk products. If possible, consume milk from grass fed cows and monitor how your body adjusts to it.
Increasing Vitamin E: Eating foods rich in vitamin E also lowers allergic responses since it has a lower serum IgE concentration. Research suggests that Vitamin E has a protective effect from Asthma. A study that tried to establish a connection between diet and asthma comprised a group of 77866 women. This was conducted over a ten year period for an age group that comprised women from 34 years to 68 years. The study indicated that women with the highest intake of Vitamin E had half the risk of asthma compared to those consuming lower levels.
Butterbur: Consumption of Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) also helps in reducing asthma since it has an inhibiting reaction on leukotrienes and histamines. This perennial shrub has been known for its medicinal usage since the 17th century as a remedy for pain, fever and spasms.
EFT: Medical practitioners have now come to recognize the important role emotional factors like stress can play to aggravate an asthma condition. Methods like EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) views asthma from the emotional viewpoint and bring out a host of possibilities for physicians and patients to explore.
In essence, EFT is an emotional version of acupuncture where the needles are not required. Instead, certain relief points are stimulated by tapping them with the fingertips. The basics of EFT can be learnt by anyone who is interested for personal application.
Expressive Writing: It has been revealed that writing about a stressful event reduces the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis for people suffering from it.
These new findings have given further fuel to the study that interlinks mental and physical health. Called as ‘expressive writing,’ this technique has had a cathartic effect on patients and led to an overall improvement in their health.
On average, asthma patients who wrote about their most stressful life event showed a 19% improvement in a specific measure of lung function, while control asthma patients showed no change, the researchers report.
In this and a growing number of studies, it is now becoming more evident that the mind matters and there are many more possibilities yet to explore that would bring about a more holistic treatment for Asthma.