Asthma is a condition typified by an overreaction of the airways to normal environmental triggers. Breathing becomes more difficult leading to shortness of breath, particularly on exertion. People with asthma often cough as a result, particularly after dusk, and this may be the first sign of the condition. Although asthma may be accompanied by upper respiratory tract infections, it may also occur in the absence of infection.
What happens during an Asthma attack?
During an asthma attack, a trigger from the environment causes an excessive immune system response. The internal membranes of the airways swell due to inflammation leading to narrowing. This is accompanied by an involuntary contraction of the smooth muscle in the walls of the airways further restricting air entry.
Phlegm may also be produced in the absence of infection, usually being a clear sticky consistency. In the absence of accompanying infection it will not be coloured.
How do Asthma medications work?
Asthma medications work on three levels to relieve and prevent attacks. These drugs therefore work to:
1.Decrease the sensitivity of the immune system to reduce the risk of triggering disease.
2.Reverse the smooth muscle contraction that occurs immediately during the asthma attack.
3.Reduce the inflammatory response that occurs after the asthma attack.
Can Integrative Medical Approaches assist?
Yes they can, in a similar manner to medications, although it is best to use both mainstream and complementary medicines side by side where necessary. Complementary medicines can be aimed at each of the goals treated by pharmaceutical medications.
What Triggers Asthma?
This is highly individual, although there are common triggers to look out for. The following are a list of triggers that may cause asthma attacks. You may have one, several or many depending on the severity of asthma you experience.
*Cigarette smoke and other gas born pollutants such as diesel and petrol fumes, paint solvents, heater vapours, outgassing from new carpets etc
*Foods including cow's milk; high salicylate foods (most fruits); artificial colourings, flavourings and preservatives, wine and beer
*Bed mites and Cockroach droppings
*Medications that include salicylates. Also check the excipients in medications.
What can I do to avoid Triggers?
First and foremost, identify your individual triggers as accurately as possible. What follows is a thorough list of measures you could undertake, however, which measures are necessary for you depends upon your own individual triggers. With this in mind, here are methods of reducing your exposure to triggers.
*Wear loose clothing including ties and collars
*Keep bedding and bedrooms as dust free as possible
*Avoid feather pillows, elder downs and quilts
*Dry bedding and clothes in the sun to reduce dust mites
*Use a plastic cover on the bed to avoid dust mite accumulation
*Wash childhood toys regularly and dry in the sun
*Undress in the bathroom
*Non-asthmatics should do the vacuuming. Vacuuming should be done when asthmatics are not around and time allowed for the dust to settle. Vacuum regularly to clean, but not excessively as it will continually stir up the air
*Use vacuum cleaners that suck through a water chamber
*If you have a choice, avoid carpeting bedrooms
*Be especially diligent in eliminating cockroaches from your house as children are often sensitive to their droppings
*Choose outdoor pets and pets that do not shed hair. Avoid furry animals where ever possible
*Become aware of the pollution and pollen count in your area if it is available (particularly Spring) and remain indoors if high.
*Avoid exposure to pollen producing indoor plants or flower decorations.
*Seat yourself away from air conditioning ducts, wide-open windows during cold weather spells and gas emitting heaters. Keep your bedroom warm at night, trying to prevent it from cooling in the late evening
*Avoid diesel fumes
*Always avoid passive smoke environment. Do not smoke yourself.
*Try where possible to avoid the use of aerosol based insecticides and sprays. If you need to use them do so at a time that asthmatics will not be present.
*Do not wear polyester clothes
*Avoid chemicals associated with paints. Avoid freshly painted rooms until the vapors have cleared.
*Avoid exposure to photochemicals such as from photocopy machines
*Always warm up slowly to exercise. Try to exercise in warm humid environments.
*Always have Salbutamol medication with you and use it as you feel necessary.
*Swimming is encouraged. Asthmatics can enjoy and succeed at sport if they follow sensible approaches to exercise. Not bold..just fix please!
Advice for Non-food Triggers
It is important that you become aware of what triggers your asthma. Otherwise you will either be vulnerable to repeated asthma attacks without an awareness as to why, or you will live a life of excessive restriction in an overly conscientious attempt to avoid an asthma attack.
What about Foods and Diet?
It is strongly recommended that you perform a Food Elimination Regime to establish if any foods are triggers for your asthma.
A Low Immune Enhancing Healthy Eating Plan is encouraged after you have established your individual food intolerances, to down regulate the inflammatory environment that forwards asthma. Reduce your salt intake by limiting processed foods and additional serves and limit your consumption of animal fats.
Can drinking cold water trigger my Asthma?
For some people drinking ice cold water may trigger asthma. Keep water at room temperature unless it is a cold day, in which case you may consider warming it.
Should I Exercise?
Yes. Exercise is important, even if you have Exercise Induced Asthma. You should discuss your use of medications during sport with your Doctor or Respiratory Specialist.
Swimming is particularly good due to the humid air above the pool water as long as you do not get to cold.
Avoid exercise in cold weather or ensure you are satisfactorily dressed and that you do not cool down after sweating.
What about Infections?
Infections will trigger asthma. Be prompt in dealing with any infection of the respiratory system through either complementary or mainstream approaches, whichever is appropriate.
What Nutrients might a Practitioner recommend?
The following nutrients are recommended particular to asthma. Always ensure, by discussing with your practitioner, whether there are any drug-nutrient-herb reactions you need to be aware of.
Fish Oils, particularly the EPA component have a powerful role in controlling inflammation. High doses (6-9 standard doses/day) should be used to trialed for at least 3 months.
Magnesium with supportive B Group nutrients is also helpful in inducing smooth muscle relaxation, particularly when acutely affected by an asthma attack. Intravenous Magnesium can be extremely effective.
High dose Garlic concentrate (oil or capsule) is recommended. Alternatively you may crush a clove of garlic every day.
Antioxidant nutrients (A,C,E, Lipoic Acid, Selenium, anti-oxidant phytonutrients) may also be of assistance.
3 grams or more of Vitamin C should be taken one hour before exercise along with immune suppressing nutrients (part of your daily Fish Oil dose.
Zinc supplementation (or increased intake of zinc foods) may improve immunity.
Glycine and/or Gelatin may assist with reducing salicylate intolerance.
Smoking?..The answer's obvious.
This is probably the most significant change you can make in your life if you are a smoker. If you cannot quit without assistance, this being the majority of smokers, it may be sensible to join a multidisciplinary programme. Peer support if often essential to the success of any quit smoking plan.
Remember, although pharmaceutical approaches that replace nicotine via chewing gum, patch or otherwise can be helpful, eventually they must be weaned otherwise you may simply be trading the risk of lung cancer for other diseases.
And Passive Smoking?
Seek a smoke free environment, particularly for your children. Passive smoking may certainly trigger asthma attacks.
Should you learn a Relaxation/Meditation Technique?
Learning to consciously relax may help during mild asthma attacks. You will need to commit yourself to daily practice to become as successful as possible.
Stress, Life Balance, Emotional Intelligence, Spirituality
If stress contributes to your asthma you may also consider undertaking further stress management and life skills development including learning:
Relaxation and Meditation independent or as part of a Yoga programme
Other Effects Based Stress Managements techniques
Cause Based Stress Management Techniques
Achieving Work Life Balance
Learning to effectively manage Emotions
Prioritising Family and other Relationships (including healing old wounds)
Becoming connected with your community, environment and, if you are spiritual,
the concept of God/Universe that matters toYou.
See appropriate sections on this site.
Although the physiological changes during asthma are common to all sufferers, the triggers that precede an attack are different for everyone. Individualising your integrated approach to asthma management is therefore critical. Remember, Integrated Medicine includes pharmaceutical options that may be critical during acute asthma attacks.