Asthma is a disease that begins in childhood, right? Well, not always. Though many adult asthma sufferers have struggled with the condition since childhood, research shows that up to 40% of new asthma patients are over age 40 when they have their first asthma attack. Some of my patients are surprised when I explain to them the role that a naturopathic physician can play in helping them prevent and control mild-to-moderate asthma. While patients with severe or unresponsive moderate asthma need conventional medical attention, natural medicine has a lot to offer.
First, it’s important to recognize which adults are at increased risk of developing asthma. This includes people who suffer from frequent and recurrent upper respiratory infections, such as colds, sinusitis and the flu. When these illnesses occur too frequently (once a month or more often), inflammation can damage the respiratory tract—a perfect setup for asthma. Asthma is also closely linked to allergies (due, for example, to certain food preservatives, such as sodium bisulfate, and inhaled irritants, such as pollen and mold) as well as exposure to pollutants and toxins, including cigarette smoke. Research now shows that severe stress can also trigger an asthma attack.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to treating asthma. In general, I recommend approaches for my patients that will reduce inflammation and enhance their lung and immune health. Asthma-fighting supplements that I recommend (all can be used with asthma medication, if needed)…*
• Fish oil. Research has found that these oils reduce bronchial inflammation that often accompanies asthma. Typical dose: 2,000 mg daily.
• Antioxidants. Vitamin C—2,000 mg per day—and vitamin E—400 international units (IU) daily. Both improve immune health and reduce the allergic response that so often triggers an asthma attack.
• Magnesium. Use of this mineral (300 mg to 500 mg daily) can reduce bronchospasm (a tightening of the airways that makes breathing more difficult).
• Botanicals. One of my favorites is astragalus. It supports both lung and immune health. Typical dose: Use one-quarter teaspoon of tincture in two ounces of water daily until asthma symptoms improve. Repeat when needed.
Also helpful: Deep-breathing exercises and/or yoga help prevent asthma attacks by calming the nervous system and increasing lung capacity.
Because all asthma patients have different needs, I recommend seeing a naturopathic doctor (ND) to help create a personalized natural regimen. To find an ND near you, consult The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. But remember, not all asthma can be well controlled with natural medicine. If you have more than mild-to-moderate asthma, you should also be under the care of an allergist or pulmonologist and not shirk any prescription drugs, such as inhalers, that he/she has prescribed for you.
Combining natural medicine with prescription medication (when needed) gives you the best chance of keeping your asthma well controlled!
*Consult your doctor to find out if this asthma-fighting protocol is right for you.
: Jamison Starbuck, ND, a naturopathic physician in family practice and a guest lecturer at the University of Montana, both in Missoula. She is past president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and a contributing editor to The Alternative Advisor: The Complete Guide to Natural Therapies and Alternative Treatments. Date: September 1, 2015 Publication: Bottom Line Health