Take a Deep Breath: Healing Asthma Naturopathically
Asthma is chronic inflammatory condition of the airways of the lungs caused both by environmental and genetic factors. This inflammation leads to swollen, sensitive airways which tend to react strongly to certain inhaled substances.
When the airways react, the muscles around them tighten, resulting in a condition known as bronchospasm. This narrows the airways, causing less air to flow into the lungs. Cells in the airways might make more thick, sticky mucus than usual, which can further narrow the airways. It is not surprising, therefore, that symptoms include cough, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. There are different classifications of asthma based on how often symptoms occur. The severity of the condition will determine which medications are needed to control symptoms.
There are many etiological factors of asthma:
- Environmental allergies are a common cause. More than half of the people with asthma have allergies to outdoor pollutants, mold, dust mites, pets dander and dried excrement such as cat urine. Further, heavy outdoor air pollution, strong odors, and byproducts of combustion can also trigger asthma.
- Food allergens can cause asthma. Common food allergens include wheat, corn, dairy, eggs, soy and sulfites in wine.
- Acid reflux is also highly associated with asthma. More than 75% of patients with asthma have reflux to some degree.
- Other contributing factors include medicines such as aspirin or beta blockers, physical activity, vertebral fixations, stress, anxiety, respiratory infections, and very hot or very cold air.
Conventional testing for asthma includes spirometry and the skin prick testing. Treatment depends on many factors and includes inhaled steroids, inflammatory modifiers, avoidance of trigger foods and inhaled vasodilating drugs. Although these medications are useful in emergencies, they all have side effects, especially with long term use.
A naturopathic physician employs tests and therapies that are far more versatile and effective than those used by our allopathic counterparts. Some of these include:
- Adherence to a highly anti-inflammatory diet.
- Serum IgG food allergy testing to identify and remove food allergens that may not cause asthma until several days after consumption.
- Adding nutrients that help heal lungs. These may include fish oil to help reduce airway inflammation, magnesium to help reduce brochospasms, and vitamin C, bioflavanoids and quercitin to help prevent mast cell degranulation. N-acetyl cysteine is another supplement that helps thin the mucus in the lungs. Herbs that can be helpful include lobelia, yerba santa, licorice, and marshmallow.
- Measuring the home for pollution and mold content. Much can be done to improve indoor household air and reduce allergens. Examples include replacing chemical cleaners with vinegar and baking soda, eliminating the use of candles and air fresheners, replacing carpets with tile, and using non-VOC paints and finishes. Because new furniture and flooring off-gasses formaldehyde, choices can be made regarding exchanging these for alternatives that do not produce these gasses. Further, hidden leaks in the roof may result in moisture buildup that leads to mold growth. Molds release potent neurotoxins have dramatic effects upon the immune system. Testing should be done to rule in/out the presence of mold growth.
- Evaluation for possible vertebral misalignment.
- Low Dose Immunotherapy. Because asthma is frequently exacerbated by histamine based reactions to foods, inhalants and/or chemicals, a novel yet well established treatment called low dose allergy therapy can be very effective. This treatment involves the use of antigenic mixtures combined with an enzyme to modulate the inflammatory response. Results may be noticed in as few as four treatments.
As with many conditions, asthma is an affliction that can be effectively treated, but only when addressed in a holistic manner that truly uncovers and removes the precipitating causes.
Dr. Daniel Smith practices at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic. His office is on 2612 Barnett Ave. He specializes in naturopathic oncology, but still maintains a strong family practice, treating all manner of conditions. He can be reached at 541-770-5563 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please ask specifically for Dr. Dan.