Asthma: Medications and Alternative Treatments

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

Asthma: Action Plans

There are more people with Asthma worldwide than is actually documented, because not everyone knows the signs and symptoms.  But for those of us with documented asthma, we should have an asthma action plan to prevent flare ups and hospitalization.

What exactly is asthma?
Asthma is a long-term disease that causes narrowing of the airways due to an allergic type reaction or hypersensitivity. The bronchus (airways) spasm, making breathing a very difficult task.

What are signs and symptoms?
Coughing: that is usually worse at night or early in the morning, making it difficult for you to sleep.
Wheezing: high-pitched whistling or squeaking that occurs when you breathe and coughing won’t make it go away.
Chest tightness: your chest just feels tight, like there is a vice on your upper body and you almost physically feel like you cannot take a deep breath.
Shortness of breath: no matter how much air you take in, it is not enough.

What can cause it to flare?
Since asthma can be caused by allergens, many of the “triggers” for asthmatics, are: Allergens: Dust, animal fur, bugs (such as cockroaches), mold and pollens
Irritants: cigarette smoke, chemicals, air sprays (hair, room scents), bug sprays
Medications: aspirin containing medications, beta blockers (for heart rate control)
Viruses: causing upper airway/respiratory infections
Physical activity: cardio exercise

There are tons of treatments, ranging from taking anti-allergy medication, to inhaled steroids to oral steroids, inhaled non-steroidal treatments, and emergency inhalers (which immediately open up the airway in an emergency).  I will talk more about Asthma treatments in my Asthma: Medical and Alternative treatments blog!

Action Plans: What are they?
Action plans are super important in the treatment of asthma.  Literally, they are plans that you, the patient, and your HCP come together and create; it’s a plan that works for YOU.  You create plans so that you know what the early signs and symptoms of a flare-up are, what your triggers are, and what you should do as soon as you realize you are going to have an asthma attack.  For some people, it is to take their rescue inhaler, some can stave off an attack by drinking ice-cold water, others just need some caffeine, and some people need to go immediately to the Emergency Department (ED) because they will have a major attack.  Action plans help to prevent those trips to the ED, and to prevent those major asthma attacks that can keep children out of school, and people out of work.

It is imperative that you are a part of the action plan, because it is your body and your life, if part of it is unfeasible, then you know you will not do it, so speak up and have open and honest conversations with your HCP, because we all want you to be successful and stay healthy.  So, if you are allergic to dogs, but have one, be honest and tell your HCP that you are not going to get rid of your dog, and work on a way that maybe your dog sleeps in another room, and you use a HEPA filter in your room to clear the air.  There are many different plans, and tons of different treatments, we need to create one that is good for you, and that you will stick to!

Read here for more treatments…….

Yours in Good Health