❑ Homeopathic uses of belladonna have been shown to relax the bronchioles in the lungs, which alleviates the wheezing symptoms in an asthma attack.
❑ Black cumin seed oil (Nigella sativa) has been a primary treatment for allergies in the Middle East. The best seeds come from Egypt. These seeds contain more than one hundred different chemicals, including essential fatty acids. The seeds can be used to make tea by simply pouring a cup of hot water over about 1 tablespoonful of the seeds and letting the mixture steep for about ten minutes, then straining. Keep the tea covered until you are ready to drink it so as not to lose the aroma. Capsules are also available that contain the cold-pressed oil.
Caution: Do not use this product if you are pregnant. Skin exposure to undiluted oil can cause irritation in sensitive individuals.
❑ Eat a diet consisting primarily of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole grains. The diet should be relatively high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and contain no sugar. A diet rich in whole grains and fish has been shown to protect against asthma in children. Consuming one component of soy—the isoflavone genistein—was associated with better lung function in patients with asthma. Soy-based foods such as soy milk and tofu would provide this nutrient, unless you suspect that it is worsening your symptoms.
❑ Include garlic and onions in your diet. These foods contain quercetin and mustard oils, which have been shown to inhibit an enzyme that aids in releasing inflammatory chemicals.
❑ Include “green drinks” in your program. Kyo-Green from Wakunaga is excellent. Take it three times a day, one-half hour before meals.
❑ Avoid gas-producing foods, such as beans, brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage) and large amounts of bran, or take an enzyme complex. Gas can irritate an asthmatic condition by putting pressure on the diaphragm.
❑ Do not eat ice cream or drink extremely cold liquids. Cold can shock the bronchial tubes into spasms.
❑ Use a juice fast, a fast using distilled water and lemon juice, or a combination of both for three days each month to help rid the body of toxins and mucus. Growing children should not fast.
❑ Eat lightly—a large meal can cause shortness of breath by making the stomach put pressure on the diaphragm. If you are overweight, lose weight; symptoms should improve. Eating margarine, in particular, was associated with an increased risk for developing asthma as an adult. Margarine is rich in oleic acid, but it is not known why this may precipitate asthma. If you must use it, use it sparingly.
❑ Use an elimination diet to see if certain foods aggravate the asthmatic condition. Common culprits include alfalfa, corn, peanuts, soy, eggs, beets, carrots, colas, cold beverages (which may cause bronchial spasm), dairy products (including milk and ice cream), fish, red meat (especially pork), processed foods, salt, spinach, chicken and turkey, white flour, and white sugar. It is a common belief that milk increases mucus production in the upper and lower respiratory tract. This goes back to the twelfth century and was first proposed by Dr. Moses Maimonides. Traditional Chinese medicine also supports this notion. However, there is no evidence that milk exacerbates symptoms of asthma. And eliminating dairy products makes it hard to obtain adequate vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium without supplementation.
❑ We all need exercise to become and remain healthy. If you find exercise can induce an asthma attack, try taking 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C one hour before your workout. Recent studies showed that those who took vitamin C prior to their workouts suffered no coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath. However, people at risk for kidney stones or hemochromatosis (an iron-absorption disorder) should not take vitamin C at this dosage level.
❑ If exercise produces an asthmatic response, check your salt intake. According to one report, people with asthma who eat high-sodium diets (4,000 milligrams daily) have more difficulty breathing while exercising and immediately afterward than those who habitually consume far less sodium (1,500 milligrams daily). Ask your doctor what sodium level is right for you.
❑ If you use aspirin or any other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), do so with caution. Painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Nuprin, and others), naproxen (Naprosyn and Aleve), and piroxicam (Feldene) account for over two-thirds of drug-related asthmatic reactions, with aspirin causing over half of these. Experts don’t know why one can take these medicines and others cannot. Studies have shown that around 20 percent of adults are prone to drug-induced attacks. Chemotherapeutic agents and antibiotics also can induce asthma reactions.
❑ Keep an ongoing list of things that trigger your asthmatic responses and then avoid them as best as you can. Also, try keeping a diary of your symptoms, medications, and so on. It can be very helpful to you and your doctor in creating and maintaining your best asthma management program.
❑ Apply castor oil packs to the back and around the lung and kidney areas. To make a castor oil pack, place castor oil in a pan and heat but do not boil it. Dip a piece of cheesecloth or other white cotton material into the oil until the cloth is saturated. Apply the cloth to the affected area and cover it with a piece of plastic that is larger in size than the cotton cloth. Place a heating pad over the plastic and use it to keep the pack warm. Keep the pack in place for one-half to two hours, as needed.
❑ Practice methods to relieve stress. Stress and strong emotions like worry and fear can trigger an asthma attack.
❑ Avoid furry animals, the food additives BHA and BHT, FD&C Yellow No. 5 food dye, tobacco and other types of smoke, and the amino acid tryptophan.
❑ If you suspect that dust mites are causing your asthma symptoms, try to get rid of the microscopic bugs. There are vacuum cleaners on the market that destroy these mites. An application of benzyl benzoate powder (such as X-MITE from AllerGuard) will eliminate mites for two to three months. One pound of this powder treats approximately 150 square feet of carpeting or fabric. If local pharmacies don’t carry the powder, you can order it from AllerGuard Corporation.
❑ Consider removing carpeting, at least in the bedroom, to help keep dust mites, germs, and bacteria from aggravating asthma. Covering mattresses in plastic casings and washing sheets in hot water at least once a week can be helpful, too.
❑ Until relatively recently, even with a good nutritional plan, the only sure way to avoid an allergic attack was to avoid the irritant that caused it. Today, treatment for asthma includes the use of anti-inflammatory and bronchodilating medications. The anti-inflammatories can halt inflammation quickly, but only temporarily, and there are side effects to using these drugs over long periods. Most medications stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and can produce anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, and dry or cotton mouth. Additionally, they can cause blood pressure to rise and, over the long term, can contribute to kidney and liver damage.
❑ A treatment has been approved that differs completely from current asthma medications. Instead of treating the symptoms, the medication goes to the source of the problem—the allergic reaction itself. Omalizumab (Xolair) is a drug that is designed to bind to the circulating antibodies in the blood, which decreases the number of antibodies that are available to bind to mast cells. This ultimately inhibits the mast cell’s release of the chemicals that cause the inflammatory response of asthma. Thus, the first preventive medication is available for those adults and adolescents (aged twelve and up) with moderate to severe persistent asthma, especially those whose symptoms have not been adequately controlled by the use of inhaled corticosteroids. This is not a replacement for existing corticosteroid treatment, and any such replacement must be done under a physician’s control. However, it is surely a step in the right direction.
❑ Life-threatening cases of asthma diagnosed as status asthmaticus require immediate hospitalization, and sufferers may have to remain hospitalized for days.
❑ People with asthma may be deficient in certain nutrients, such as vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, and selenium, as well as in the enzyme glutathione peroxidase. People with asthma often have lower than normal levels of gastric hydrochloric acid, which is needed for proper digestion. Dr. Jonathan Wright, a noted nutritionist, claims excellent results using a combination of gastric acid replacement therapy (usually in the form of betaine hydrochloride) and supplementation with vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and magnesium for treatment of asthma.
❑ According to Nutrition Health Review, strong feelings of anger, anxiety, and depression may be an important cause of asthma attacks. Unfortunately, many of the drugs used to control and alleviate asthma cause jittery nerves, mood swings, and insomnia. Other usual triggers include stress, acid reflux, smoking, and respiratory infections.
❑ Many people with asthma are sensitive to the food additives known as sulfites. Many restaurants use sulfiting agents—including sodium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, potassium bisulfite, and sulfur dioxide—to prevent discoloration and bacterial growth in green salads, cut and sliced fruit, frozen shellfish, and other foods.
❑ Beta-blocking medications, used to treat high blood pressure, can constrict the bronchial muscles and cause life-threatening problems for a person with asthma.
❑ Ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, cigarette smoke, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, and photochemical substances are air pollutants that can trigger asthma attacks.
❑ Inhaling a muscle-relaxing medication such as albuterol from a bronchodilator can relieve an acute asthma attack immediately by opening the bronchial tubes. Bronchodilators do not treat the underlying problem.
❑ The FDA has approved new versions of the albuterol sulfate HFA metered dose inhaler (MDI) for asthma and other obstructive lung diseases. Unlike the older version of Ventolin, the new inhaler uses an alternative propellant called hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) rather than the traditional ozone-reducing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used previously. There are now four HFA-propelled inhalers (ProAir, Proventil, Ventolin, and Xopenex) approved for use in the United States. Proventil HFA was approved in 1996. Although they have all been shown to be effective, there are some differences among the products. Talk to your health care provider to find the right one for you.
❑ Researchers at Cornell University studied children aged four through sixteen years who were part of the Third National Health and Nutrition Survey. It was found that the antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin C were associated with a very significant reduction in asthma prevalence. An increase in selenium intake also was associated with a similar decrease in asthma prevalence. In this study, it was found that vitamin E had little or no association with asthma.
❑ A corticosteroid has been approved for young children with asthma. Budesonide inhalation suspension (Pulmicort Respules), a synthetic hormone, is designed for use once or twice daily to prevent asthma attacks, but is not used to treat acute attacks. Acute attacks are still best handled by a fast-acting bronchodilator. The drug is generally well tolerated, but side effects can include respiratory infection, coughing, and congestion.
Caution: Inhaled corticosteroids can have an effect on growth in children, and the effect on eventual adult height is not known.
❑ A sustained-release form of the drug theophylline, sold under the brand name Theo-Dur Sprinkle, has been used with good results. For children, this medication can be administered by opening a capsule and sprinkling the contents on a soft food such as applesauce. Theophylline has side effects, such as producing a rapid heartbeat and/or insomnia in some users. Some doctors believe that inhaled drugs or topical treatments are safer than asthma pills because they are drawn directly into the bronchial tubes and lungs.
❑ Researchers at Harvard University and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have discovered that people with asthma who drink coffee and other caffeine-containing drinks generally have one-third fewer symptoms than those who do not. This is most likely due to the action of the caffeine, which has a dilating effect on the bronchial airways.
❑ A study reported in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggested that taking salmon oil capsules before each meal and eating fish three times weekly may be beneficial for asthma.
❑ The Air Supply personal air purifier from Wein Products is a miniature unit that is worn around the neck. It sets up an invisible pure air shield against microorganisms (such as viruses, bacteria, and mold) and microparticles (including dust, pollen, and pollutants) in the air. It also eliminates vapors, smells, and harmful volatile compounds in the air.
❑ Regular exercise is beneficial, but exercise can also trigger an acute attack in some individuals. No one is sure why this is, but it has been speculated that inhaling lots of cool, dry air while working out aggravates the respiratory system. Running, for example, induces many more asthma attacks than swimming. One way to control exercise-induced asthma is to wear a mask that retains heat and moisture and limits the effects of breathing cold, dry air.
❑ Zanamivir (Relenza), an antiviral drug used for the treatment of influenza, can have a detrimental side effect on asthma sufferers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration notes that it should be used with caution by anyone with asthma or chronic lung disease, and if a person with asthma does take this drug, he or she should have emergency bronchodilator therapy readily available. Interestingly, although the FDA granted clearance for the drug to be marketed, an FDA advisory panel voted against approval, noting that it considered the drug’s overall effectiveness as negligible.
❑ A study conducted by North Dakota State University found that people with asthma and arthritis markedly improved their health simply by setting aside time to write. Of the seventy patients participating in the one-month study, 47 percent showed definite improvement, as opposed to only 24 percent who showed improvement without writing. The researchers concluded that putting your thoughts and observations on paper relieves stress and eases the mind.
❑ Children with asthma experience much more successful treatment through mind and body control training, according to numerous recent studies. Asthma specialist Richard Firshein, D.O., based in New York City, uses a technique in which children are taught not to panic when they realize an asthma attack is approaching. He calmly guides their thought processes to focus on images and smells that please them; like the warm sun, hot dogs, or a favorite pet. At the same time, he helps them bring their breathing under control. This helps them feel less helpless and afraid. Adults too can benefit from this calming technique.
❑ Goose feathers can cause and aggravate lung ailments.
❑ The NIOX Nitric Oxide Test System can measure how well anti-inflammatory drugs may be working. The test is administered by a doctor.