Asthma can be debilitating and frightening. If you or your child are one of the many who suffer, please read on for more information, complementary medical advice and tried and tested self- help tips.
Asthma is a common long-term condition that can cause a cough, wheezing, and breathlessness. The severity of the symptoms varies from person to person.
What is asthma?
Asthma is caused by inflammation of the airways. These are the small tubes, called bronchi, which carry air in and out of the lungs. If you have asthma, the bronchi will be inflamed and more sensitive than normal.
When you come into contact with something that irritates your lungs, known as a trigger (see below), your airways become narrow, the muscles around them tighten and there is an increase in the production of sticky mucus (phlegm). This leads to symptoms including:
- difficulty breathing
- wheezing and coughing
- a tight chest
A severe onset of symptoms is known as an asthma attack or an 'acute asthma exacerbation'. Asthma attacks may require hospital treatment and can sometimes be life-threatening, although this is rare.
If you are diagnosed with asthma as a child, the symptoms may disappear during your teenage years. However, asthma can return in adulthood. Asthma can also begin in Adult years.
What causes asthma?
The cause of asthma is not fully understood, although it is known to run in families. You are more likely to have asthma if one or both of your parents has the condition.
A trigger is anything that irritates the airways and brings on the symptoms of asthma. These differ from person to person and people with asthma may have several triggers.
Common triggers include house dust mites, animal fur, pollen, tobacco smoke, exercise, cold air and chest infections.
Who is Affected?
- 5.4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).
- Asthma prevalence is thought to have plateaued since the late 1990s, although the UK still has some of the highest rates in Europe.
Asthma and Complementary Medicine
- Complementary medicine has long been used alongside drug therapy to support asthma sufferers. Herbal medicine and Acupuncture are most documented in having a positive effect.
- Herbs such as butterbur, dried ivy, ginkgo extract and choline have been successful in treating asthma. Herbs are strong medicine and its advisable to consult a Herbalist who will give you a bespoke prescription; a combination suitable for your unique pathology and constitution
- Acupunture and Shiatsu Massage work with the Chinese Medical system, stimulating the energy meridians which feed our internal organs. They each work directly with your Lungs, to promote a smoother flow of energy and therefore better functioning in the organs. And as with most forms of Complementary medicine, Acupuncture and Shiatsu will addresses your whole system, fortifying your body to deal better with symptoms.
- Kinesiology is well documented for treating all kinds of allergic reactions. Kinesiology can help you to find out your triggers and what your body needs to alleviate symptoms. By receiving feedback from the body through muscle checking your Kinesiologist can help you to work out your optimum self- help program.
Tips on Self Help
- Find out what your triggers are and avoid them. This could be anything from house dust, pollens, cold air, down pillows and certain foods.
- Tea has been shown to be an effective asthma treatment. Theophylline is an extract that's been used in asthma medications for years, and it's also found in caffeinated teas, where it can act as a bronchodilator. Your body probably can't tell the difference between theophylline and caffeine, so drinking hot black coffee can work the same way.
- Teas made of sage or cherry bark may also be efficacious against asthma. Both these herbs have been used for thousands of years by Native American healers to combat asthma and other lung conditions.
- Use acetaminophen instead of aspirin - aspirin and related substances like ibuprofen can trigger severe asthma attacks in some people. This is a possibility that you should discuss with your doctor.
- Take vitamin B6. No one's certain about the action of this vitamin on asthma, but clinical studies have shown that reasonable doses of B6 (about 50 mg/day) have shown some impact on asthma sufferers.
- Eucalyptus oil is a very old treatment for asthma, and one of the active ingredients in Vick's salve. Use only pure eucalyptus oil, inhaled to open nasal passages. If you use a steam humidifier, pure eucalyptus oil can give you a peaceful night's sleep.
Activities and Lifestyle Changes To Decrease Asthma Attacks
- Swim for exercise. Asthmatics need to exercise to strengthen the pulmonary system and encourage good circulation - but with most asthmatics, exercise hurts. If you swim, the high humidity will keep your lungs lubricated while your body gets a good workout. It's probably the ideal exercise for asthmatics.
- Keep your weight down. Every pound you put on forces all your muscles to work harder, which requires your overtaxed lungs to come up with more oxygen.
- The Chihuahuas. This little dog from Mexico has long been documented as having healing powers. Many asthma sufferers have validated that since having the Chihuahua, their asthma symptoms have improved and sometimes disappear altogether!