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What Is AsthmaAsthma is a chronic condition that causes your airways to swell, narrow and constrict, and produce too much mucus. This inflammation, tightening, and mucus production can lead to symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and general difficulty breathing. The severity of symptoms ranges from minor to severe – some people only notice symptoms when they’re sick or exercising, while for some it interferes with daily activities. Although there is no cure for asthma, its symptoms can be managed and controlled.
Symptoms Of AsthmaThe severity and frequency of asthma symptoms differ depending on the person, and also on your environment. Typical signs and symptoms of asthma include: • Chest tightness • Shortness of breath • Wheezing (especially in children) • Coughing or wheezing attacks, when also dealing with a cold or flu • Chest pain There are also contributing factors and situations known to cause symptoms to flare in many individuals with asthma. These situations include: • Allergies: Asthma can be triggered by allergens such as mold, pollen, pet dander, and other airborne particles. • Exercise: You may notice your breathing worsens during or after exercise, particularly if your environment is cold and/or dry. • Workplace: There are various irritants in your workplace that may be triggering an asthmatic reaction such as chemical fumes or dust.
When To Go To The Hospital“Asthma attack” is the term given to a sudden worsening of asthma symptoms caused by a bronchospasm, or tightening of the muscles surrounding your airways. During an attack your airways become inflamed and swollen, which rapidly increases mucus production and makes it difficult to breathe. This can be life-threatening – if you’re experiencing a sudden worsening of asthma symptoms, you should seek immediate emergency treatment. It’s a good idea to talk with your doctor or naturopath to determine a plan for what to do if your symptoms worsen, but I can’t stress this enough – seek emergency treatment if your asthma symptoms suddenly flare up. If you’re experiencing shortness of breath with minimal physical activity or your inhaler doesn’t provide relief, it’s better to be safe and pursue emergency treatment.
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What Causes Asthma?No one definitively knows what causes asthma in some people as it is a multifactorial condition that results from both environmental and genetic factors. Some of the contributing factors considered to increase your chances of developing asthma include the following: • Having a family member with asthma; • Allergies or an allergic condition, such as hay fever or atopic dermatitis; • Lifestyle factors, for example if you’re overweight or a smoker/exposed to secondhand smoke; • Exposure to pollution, fumes, or chemicals (such as those used by hairdressers, factory workers/workers in manufacturing, farmers). An alternative (and often overlooked) cause of asthma is allergies, including both food and environmental allergies.
Common Threads With Asthma And AllergiesConsidering how the majority of individuals with asthma also suffer from allergies, there may be a link between the two that is now being investigated more thoroughly than ever before. According to research done in 2017 by Guibas, Mathioudakis, Tsoumani, and Tsabouri and published in the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics, notes the similarities between asthma and allergy symptoms. It also talks about the considerable research done with comparing the two, and while it admits “this is an exceedingly difficult task”, it outlines quite well the relationship between these two disorders. Another linking factor is the fact that a majority of asthmatic children experience allergies, and around half of adults with asthma also have some type of allergies. As a result, reducing exposure to allergens is a key part of mitigating asthma symptoms, which is the only way to treat asthma.
Naturopathic Solutions For Living With AsthmaThere are many natural methods you can use to reduce the severity of your asthma symptoms, including easy things you can do at home. Here are some steps you can take to minimize symptoms and improve the healthy function of your respiratory system.
1. Reduce Or Eliminate Food AllergensFood allergies are often overlooked as asthma triggers, but they can be a major contributing factor. As previously mentioned, food allergies are extremely common in those with asthma. Any food can be a potential allergen, which is why it’s important to determine if you’re suffering from any food allergies. This can be tested using a blood test or by an elimination diet, where you eliminate certain foods from your diet to test if your symptoms improve. When you think of a food allergy, you often think of an immediate physical reaction. However, food allergies can result in delayed and less immediately noticeable reactions. This is problematic as it makes it difficult to determine what food is causing the reaction. If you’re interested in investigating a potential food allergen, talk to your naturopath about pursuing testing.
2. Reduce Or Eliminate Environmental AllergensThe most common environmental allergens are found in most homes, and they may be worsening your asthma. The most typical environmental allergens include mold, dust, pollen, and animal dander. The first step to eliminating environmental allergens is figuring out which allergens are affecting you and your body. There are two tests – a skin allergy test conducted by an allergist, and a blood allergy test conducted by most physicians – that can determine if you’re dealing with any environmental allergies. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can start working on a plan to reduce or eliminate these pesky allergens. Air filters can help remove allergens from the air around you as well. There are many kinds of filters on the market – HEPA and ionizing air purifiers are both effective but if you choose the latter, make sure it has a low ozone output (which is an irritant). Dust mites are a common allergen, and they are found in most carpets and maybe even in your bedding. Keeping your household decor clean and treating your home for dust mites may help keep your asthma symptoms in check.
3. Supplement With Omega-3Asthma causes your airways to swell, which means managing inflammation is an important step in mitigating asthma symptoms. Fortunately, you can modify your diet to help decrease this inflammation and restore balance to your body. Omega-3 oils are an easy way to help manage your symptoms. There are three different kinds of omega-3 fatty acids and they are found in fish, nuts, and seeds. Including these foods in your diet will help balance your body’s allergic pathways and contribute to reducing your asthma symptoms.
4. Use BronchodilatorsOne of the effects of asthma is the muscles around your airway tighten and spasm. Reducing the spasticity of your airways is crucial to reducing asthma symptoms and making it easier for you to breathe. This will also help you avoid permanent narrowing of the bronchial tubes, which is a possible asthma complication. Reduced spasticity can be achieved through the use of bronchodilators, which are substances that dilate your bronchi and bronchioles and increase airflow to your lungs. Quick-relief inhalers, such as albuterol or ventolin, are great bronchodilators for short-term use. HoweverIf you’re relying on your inhaler to help you breathe, your asthma may not be under control and there are natural ways that can help your lungs remain stable, reducing the frequency that you may need to use your prescribed bronchodilators.
5. SupplementSupplements are an easy and accessible way to assist your respiratory system. Here are some of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that may help you mitigate asthma symptoms:
Vitamin CTaking a vitamin C supplement has many benefits to your health, including a positive effect on chronic inflammation and lung damage. Seven of eleven studies conducted on vitamin C and respiratory health have concluded vitamin C has a significant beneficial effect on asthma symptoms.
SeleniumSelenium is an essential trace mineral that assists cognitive function and contributes to the health of your body’s various systems. This includes your reproductive, immune, and respiratory systems – in short, selenium is crucial for your overall health. The link between selenium and asthma is still being investigated, but it has shown people with asthma typically have a selenium deficiency. This was essentially the finding of Allam and Lucane’s 2004 paper.
MagnesiumMagnesium is a natural bronchodilator. Taking a magnesium supplement will relieve muscle spasms around your airways, which in turn affects mucus production and inflammation.
Contact Annex NaturopathicBreathing well is one of the fundamental functions you need to live healthily and happily. It can be immensely frustrating to deal with a chronic condition that impacts how you breathe on a day-to-day basis. You don’t have to suffer with your asthma symptoms in silence. There are natural solutions to help reduce the uncomfortable, painful, and stressful symptoms of asthma.
Improve your health naturally, with the help of experienced naturopathic doctors Book An Appointment We can work with you to discuss your symptoms and concerns, and determine natural and effective ways to improve your respiratory health. If you believe you may be suffering from a food or environmental allergy that is affecting your asthma, we can investigate and put together a treatment plan designed to help lessen the impact of these allergens. Reach out to us at Annex Naturopathic – we can help.
Yours in Health,
Annex Naturopathic Clinic is a clinic in Toronto that offers integrative healthcare solutions from Drs. Marnie Luck, ND, and Tanya Lee, ND