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Asthma – what you can do about it

Boy using asthma pump

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Asthma affects about 10 – 11% of Australians (1).  This lower respiratory tract condition causes wheezing from air attempting to leave the narrowed bronchial airways, and coughing due to the lungs trying to reduce the build up of sticky mucus.

Asthma affects people in different ways. Some people with asthma are symptom free most of the time, with an occasional brief episode of shortness of breath. For others, coughing and wheezing is part of their daily life. Severe attacks may be brought on after a viral infection, exercise, allergen exposure and irritants (1). Common environmental triggers include house dust mites, feathers, cockroaches, animal dander (dead skin cells), pollen, smoke and cold air.

A flare up of asthma symptoms can also be brought on by food allergies and sensitivities. Common asthma food allergens include milk, chocolate, peanuts, wheat and citrus. Cow’s milk products, with yellow cheese and ice-cream being the worst culprits (2).

A word of caution

The following recommendations are in conjunction with your prescribed asthma medication. With asthma being potentially life threatening, prescription medicine must only be reduced slowly and under medical supervision.

Dietary changes to reduce symptoms of asthma

  • Use onion, garlic and ginger generously in your cooking to loosen up mucus in your airways. Make your own pesto, hummus or baba ganoush with plenty of garlic.
  • Include fish with its omega-3 anti-inflammatory actions. Aim for four to five fish meals per week (fish can be canned, frozen or fresh).
  • Load up on fresh seasonal fruits such as kiwi, mango, pawpaw, strawberries, etc. Increasing your vitamin C, bioflavonoids and antioxidants levels are vital in supporting respiratory health and reducing a histamine immune response.
  • Drink herbals teas. Liquorice tea has soothing and anti-inflammatory actions and thereby reduces irritation of the airways. Fenugreek decreases mucus production.
  • Reduce your salt intake. Excess salt intake aggravates your immune reaction to histamine and more inflammatory substances are released by the cells during an asthma episode.
  • Avoid dairy, wheat, processed foods, additives especially tartrazine (yellow 102), sulphites (220), beer, wine, dried fruit and pre-prepared salads (1)

Supplements to help reduce symptoms of asthma

  • Stress often triggers an asthma attack. Studies have shown that supplemental magnesium may  reduce asthma symptoms by relaxing and dilating the bronchial airways (1).
  • The antioxidant Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) has also been shown to be beneficial. Research shows that asthma sufferers tend to have lower levels of antioxidants and CoQ10 than controls (1) and oxidative stress and asthma symptoms have been shown to be reduced.
  • Supplementing with a B Complex is recommended due to (1)
    • Vitamin B3 having an inhibitory effect on histamine release
    • Vitamin B5 being beneficial for allergies, asthma, infections, stress
    • Vitamin B6 being vital to reduce tiredness, irritability, hypoglycaemia

Lifestyle recommendations to reduce symptoms of asthma

  • Avoid known asthma triggers such as animal dander, airborne moulds and pollen by cleaning regularly. Keep dust mites and mould under control by using mattress and pillow cover protectors and wash them regularly.
  • Avoid irritants such as cigarette smoke, dust, odours, irritant fumes.
  • Reduce stress and learn ways to deal with stress. Take up gentle exercise such as Tai-chi, yoga, Pilates, swimming or any exercise that focuses on controlled breathing.
  • Learn how to breathe correctly through your nose. The Buteyko breathing technique has been shown to be greatly beneficial for asthmatics (2).

References:

 

 

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