Asthma is a disease that makes the airways to the lungs prone to bouts of narrowing, resulting in breathing difficulties. Things that trigger asthma attacks include respiratory infections, substances that cause allergies (such as pollen, dust mites, animal dander, certain foods), airborne irritants (cigarette smoke, air pollution, and perfumes), exercise, emotional stress, and certain weather conditions.
Asthma deaths are on the rise in America. Increases in air pollution can take partial blame, but practitioners of alternative medicine point to the rise to illustrate that conventional medicine is not doing the trick and that more treatment approaches should be considered.
Mind/Body Medicine for Asthma
For people with asthma, the mind can be a powerful tool in the healing process. It can communicate with the body, giving instructions and assisting in easier breathing, relaxing, handling stress, boosting the immune system, and managing the action of the lungs' airways -- all factors that play a role in asthma.
Many therapies related to mind/body medicine hold the promise to reduce asthma symptoms and even eliminate future attacks. Those treatments include:
- biofeedback to learn how to chase away tension and anxiety and loosen the muscles of the upper body
- breathing exercises to relax and to emphasize breathing through the nose, rather than through the mouth
- guided imagery and creative visualization to picture the airways widening, allowing air to flow easily in and out of the lungs, and to envision the weakening of allergens, so they can no longer trigger an attack
- hypnotherapy to regulate breathing
- meditation to clear the mind and to push out emotional upset that can contribute to an asthma attack
- yoga to regulate and slow breathing and calm the mind
Breathing exercises, such as those practiced in yoga, prepare you for the movements and poses to follow. Here's an example of a breathing lesson that can help asthma sufferers:
- Get in a comfortable position, perhaps sitting with legs crossed on a floor mat. Keep your spine straight.
- Breathe in slowly and deliberately, sticking out your stomach as air comes into your lungs. This should take about six seconds.
- Exhale, drawing your stomach back in. Again, take about six seconds.
- Repeat this ten times.
Nutritional Therapy for Asthma
Nutritional therapy can help people with asthma by removing all possible food allergens, fortifying against certain vitamin or mineral deficiencies, and fighting off colds or other infections. A vegan diet, which contains no animals products whatsoever (including milk and eggs), can prevent some asthma attacks. Swedish researchers followed a group of asthma sufferers who were dissatisfied with the success of conventional therapies and wanted to try a vegan diet of mainly raw foods. Nine patients dropped out after two months, but for the 24 who stayed with the diet for one year, 92 percent reported an improvement or complete elimination of symptoms.
Large doses of vitamin C can strengthen the immune system and may even prevent the airways of the lungs from narrowing in response to an asthma trigger. Vitamin C is also valuable for its antioxidant properties, as are vitamin E, beta-carotene, and the mineral selenium.
Also, the mineral magnesium may work to widen the airways. Bioflavonoids (hesparidin methyl chalcone and quercetin), vitamin B6, vitamin B12 (especially in children), and essential fatty acids can also be useful.
Increasing magnesium intake may be very helpful for some asthma sufferers. In the diet, the mineral is supplied by avocados, oatmeal, tofu, and other foods. It is difficult to get enough magnesium to be effective, though, so magnesium supplementation may be in order.
Other Asthma Therapies
- Acupuncture for Asthma -- Treatments can correct any imbalances in vital life energy (perhaps along the lung, spleen, or kidney system meridians) that may be triggering the breathing problems.
- Chiropractic Treatment for Asthma -- Asthma may be a symptom of a misalignment of the spinal vertebrae, which chiropractic adjustments can correct.
- Environmental Medicine for Asthma -- Food allergies, molds, pollen, chemicals, and more can trigger asthma. Treatment may include desensitization, avoidance of triggers, and nutritional supplements (such as antioxidants).
- Herbal Medicine for Asthma -- Ginger, cayenne, Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata), turmeric, skunk cabbage, and goldenseal all hold promise for asthma sufferers.
- Homeopathy for Asthma -- Specific remedies must be tailored to the individual, but common prescriptions include aconitum napellus, ipecacuanha, and natrum sulphuricum.