As previously discussed, Asthma is a long-term disease that causes a narrowing of the airways due to an allergic or hypersensitive reaction. The bronchus spasm, and make breathing very difficult. There are numerous medications that can be taken either in pill form or inhaled, that are FDA approved, or you can try some different alternative therapies: some include taking herbal supplements (which may or may not be helpful) and some include diet, exercise, and breathing techniques.
Modern Medical Treatments:
Allergy medications– like Zyrtec or Claritin to prevent common allergies and possible flare-ups
Inhaled Corticosteroids- like Flovent or Pulmicort. These are inhaled medications that have low risks from long term use and take a few days to a week to build-up in your system and are used for long term prevention of symptoms.
Leukotriene Modifiers: Oral medications such as Singular that prevent asthma symptoms for 24 hours at a time. They can have some serious mental side effects like depression and hallucinations, so you need to be aware of any feelings of sadness that are new and unlike you.
Long Acting Beta Agonists (LABA): like Serevent are inhaled medications that open airways and prevent inflammation but they have been linked with severe asthma attacks if they are not taken along with an inhaled corticosteroid.
Combination Inhalers: a mixture of a LABA and corticosteroid, like Advair. They work well for long-term control of symptoms, but there is a risk of asthma attack because of the LABA involved.
Theophylline: a daily pill that helps to open the airways by relaxing the muscles around the airways. It is kind of a treatment of the past, and not used very frequently these days….it was a first line treatment years ago.
What are Alternative Treatments?
Breathing exercises: in which you stretch the volume of your lungs and learn to relax to take deep breaths, can help to decrease the amount you need medications. Yoga breathing techniques can help to learn to relax and the feelings involved with taking deep, relaxed breaths.
Diet: eating fresh fruits and veggies high in antioxidants can help improve lung functions and prevent asthma symptoms. As well, Omega-3 Fatty Acids (found in fish, flax, etc) have been found to reduce inflammation throughout the body, including the lungs, so it can help to improve asthma symptoms as well.
Exercise: regular cardiovascular inducing workouts can hep to strengthen your lungs and improve their function. Working out in cold weather can trigger asthma, or if outdoors during high allergy season, but in a gym with AC you can work out your lungs and body all at the same time!
Are there Herbal Supplements?
As always, they haven’t been extensively studied or FDA approved, so I can’t say I condone the use of herbal supplements but many people have reported decreased asthma symptoms when using these products, and they may benefit you: butterbur, dried Ivy, Ginko extract, Indian frankincence, reishi mushroom, and Choline. It is best to take these under direction of your HCP or an herbal healer, so please discuss so they can talk to you about any interactions to look for and any reactions that may occur.
Does anything make Asthma worse?
Exposure to allergens: if you are allergic to something, and know it, it can make your asthma symptoms worse, or cause flare-ups so you should stay away from that allergen, or do your best to avoid it (like cigarette smoke, exhaust, or foods that cause allergic reactions.)
Cold weather: As stated above, it can cause constriction of the bronchioles and make asthma symptoms worse.
– Anything high in saturated fats (meats, butters, etc) can make asthma symptoms worse
– Additives and preservatives can cause people to have reactions and common additives are artificial sweeteners and sulfites (found in cheeses, red wines, etc.)
– Milk products can cause an increase in mucus production and a thickening of the mucus, making asthma symptoms worse.
Asthma is different for everyone and the way we all react can be very different, so work with your HCP to see what best fits your lifestyle and your beliefs. Work with your HCP on your Action Plan and take into account all aspects of alternative and medical therapies. You know your body best, so learn what your triggers are, and how to prevent them!
Yours in Good Health