Asthma is a condition of the airways in the lungs. It mostly affects the lower parts of the respiratory tract making it hard to breathe. Managed correctly, this chronic condition doesn’t need to be debilitating. Although it is a long-term affliction, the number of recurring episodes can be reduced by identifying and dealing with the underlying causes. This is chiefly due to inflammation of the lungs as a result of a hypersensitive immune system.
What causes asthma?
Asthma has been around for thousands of years. The grandfather of all modern medicine Hippocrates officially described asthma after linking it to environmental triggers. It is therefore a Greek word and it means ‘to blow’.
Genetic factors predispose certain people to asthma which involves hypersensitivity to environmental allergens such as dust mites, pollen and other airborne allergens and may occur with allergic conditions such as hay fever and environmental triggers. Constant recurring respiratory tract infections may also further increase the risk of asthma as infections also cause inflammation in the airways called the bronchial tubes.
This causes them to become narrow through a condition known as bronchoconstriction, making it more difficult to breathe. Inflammation in these tubes also leads to the production of excessive mucus. This further increases the typical symptoms of asthma and includes shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing or the feeling of not getting enough air in or out of the lungs.
The natural human instinct is to inhale more air in during an asthma attack. This is counterproductive because of bronchoconstriction which stops the lungs from emptying by themselves when breathing out or exhaling. What happens is that there is air trapped inside that stops the lungs from refilling with fresh air.
A healthy person’s lungs can inhale around six litres of air. People with asthma tend to have compromised lung abilities. Certain triggers cause their lungs to have an allergic reaction creating inflammation resulting in constriction and mucus production which builds-up blocking their air ways. Air can’t escape back out and is trapped inside the lungs. So, an asthma attack is not so much about taking another breath in, but rather about managing inflammation in the lungs and in the body and learning to exhale fully.
What are the symptoms of asthma?
- A whistling sound when trying to breathe called wheezing, often when trying to breathe out.
- The feeling of a rubber band around the chest known as a ‘tight chest’.
- Often with the tight chest, asthmatics must use all the muscles in their ribcage to help them force air in and out.
- A dry, persistent, and unproductive cough caused by inflammation that triggers the body’s natural cough reflex because the lungs feel as though there is a blockage that needs to be coughed out.
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath specifically during exertion.
- Tightening up of the chest after sneezing, laughing, or talking loudly.
- Inhaling deeper breaths exposes the lungs to more triggers or irritants which creates more inflammation and therefore produces more mucus which can worsen the asthma attack.
- Yawning frequently.
Asthma is a prevalent health condition in children. It is quite simple to diagnose by a registered healthcare provider who may conduct a non-invasive lung function test.
Other contributing factors in asthma
The pair of lungs are one of the five vital organs in the human body along with the brain, heart, kidneys and liver. The lungs are so important that they are protected by the hard bones of the breast plate and the rib cage. They are sensitive organs preferring clean, moist, and warm air. This is the function of the nasal passages and the sinuses. These cavities cleanse, moisten and warm the inhaled air before it reaches them.
Studies show that 50% of people living with asthma also have chronic sinusitis. This means that the sinuses cannot perform their function properly. A blocked nose causes mouth breathing. Dry, cold air breathed directly into the lungs without being warmed and humidified by the sinuses first, irritates the lungs causing more inflammation.
The nasal passages and sinuses are also equipped with tiny hairs called cilia that trap irritants such as dust particles, which cause inflammation. These prevent the irritants from entering the lungs. When the nasal passages and sinuses are blocked, they can’t do this properly and the irritants get breathed in and reach the lungs more easily which trigger asthma attacks more readily. This is why asthma attacks happen more frequently during allergy season too.
Common asthma triggers include:
- Allergens such as dust mites, mould spores, animal dander or more specifically the saliva of the animals on their fur, cockroach and other insect droppings, and things of that nature that are breathed into the lungs.
- Irritants such as chemicals found in deodorants, perfumes, cleaning materials, washing powders, insecticides, or tobacco smoke.
- Cold and/or dry air which trigger spasm in sensitive bronchial tubes.
- Hot, dry air from heaters or the weather that over-heat and dry out the air.
- Exercise that makes asthmatics breathe in very suddenly or when receiving a surprise or a shock that causes them to take in big gulps of air or to hyperventilate.
- Any situation such as stress or jumping into a sea of cold water that forces the person to take in a big mouthful of air very quickly that might distress the lungs resulting in inflammation thereby creating more mucus.
- Acute respiratory tract infections caused by viruses responsible for the common cold, flu and COVID are shown to trigger asthma attacks or compromise the control of chronic asthma.
When do asthma attacks happen?
Asthma attacks happen more frequently at night. That’s because levels of our natural anti-inflammatory hormone known as cortisol, are lowest at night allowing inflammation to increase.
Cortisol is at it’s lowest in the body at midnight when we are sleeping at our deepest, and also in the early hours of the morning just before we are about to wake.
The ambient air around us also tends to be cooler and drier at these times, sometimes forcing the asthmatic to breathe in through the mouth. This is often the reason a room humidifier is recommended for people with asthma. It is important to ensure that there is enough fresh air, and that sterile water is used in a humidifier. Hygiene must remain a top priority to prevent damp from building-up, and to ensure that the air is allergen and irritant free.
Living Naturally’s recommended asthma action plan
Asthma is a serious and life-threatening condition. It needs to be treated with reverence and respect. The number of reported asthma cases in South African children are increasing. Uncontrolled and undiagnosed asthma may have devastating and far-reaching consequences such as two or more trips to the hospital emergency room every year, or worse. There is always hope when we pay attention and look to the underlying causes.
The Living Naturally approach to treating any illness is that prevention is better than cure – asthma is no exception. This does not mean that we need to be complacent, rather that we need be informed and prepared, then stay that way.
Living Naturally therefore recommends:
- Always be prepared by ensuring that there are at least two asthma pumps handy.
- Understanding the difference between good and bad germs. We need to be exposed to the bouquet of germs and bacteria in nature to build resilient immune systems. Our reliance on antibacterial products is weakening our immune systems.
- Understanding what triggers the asthma attacks and learning how to manage them appropriately.
- Consulting a registered homeopath for homeopathic desensitization, which can reduce over-reactivity of airways when exposed to allergens.
- Supporting the health of the microbiome in the gut. The gut manages up to 70% of the immune system. Learn more here.
- Preventing respiratory tract infections which may worsen asthma and can make it uncontrollable. Read the article or listen to the podcast here.
- Decreasing the reliance on antibiotics from an early age. There is a time and place for these lifesaving medicines.
- Making healthier lifestyle choices. This includes:
- Eating an anti-inflammatory diet i.e. predominantly plant based, filled with wholefoods including fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds as well as plant-based omega-3 essential fats such as those found in Vogel VegOmega-3.
- Drinking at least 2 litres of good quality filtered water consistently every day.
- Avoiding refined carbohydrates such as sugar, chips, pastries and sweets, and limiting salt as well as those foods that cause inflammation.
- Having between six to eight hours of uninterrupted deep sleep every night. This is when the body and the immune system does most of its repair work.
- Exercising consistently, gently, and moderately for at least 30 minutes every day. This has many benefits and will also help strengthen the lungs and increase lung capacity.
Living Naturally recommends the following supportive products for asthmatics:
Preventing respiratory tract infections is critical for asthmatics. A.Vogel Echinaforce is the most extensively researched Echinacea product on the market. It is made exclusively from freshly harvested, organically grown Echinacea purpurea in the unique ratio of 95% from the upper parts of the plant and 5% from the roots.
A.Vogel Echinaforce is used for the prevention and treatment of the symptoms of colds, flu, respiratory tract infections (RTIs) and recurrent respiratory tract infections, and their associated signs and symptoms including rhinitis, pharyngitis, catarrh, cough, pyrexia, malaise, and myalgia. It improves resistance in those susceptible to the common cold, flu and recurring RTIs and prevents complications of RTIs such as sinusitis, tonsillitis, otitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia. It modulates and supports the immune system in paediatrics and adults and reduces the need for antibiotics (paediatric patients with RTI), and the need for analgesic and decongestant medication (adults with RTI).
Bio-Strath is a Swiss plasmolysed herbal yeast supplement that contains 61 of the 100 nutrients that your body needs daily. It helps to bring about order and balance in the body, with supportive herbal ingredients for every system inside the body including the lungs. It provides nutritional support to:
- Strengthen the immune system.
- Increase vitality.
- Support and contribute to the healthy metabolism of nutrients.
- Maintain good health.
Oxiprovin – The balanced antioxidant.
Oxiprovin is a health supplement that contains 140 mg of South African grape seed extract which is a source of antioxidants for the maintenance and preservation of good health and venous health. It reduces inflammation throughout your body including your lungs and can be used preventatively or therapeutically.
“Joshua suffers from eczema and asthma. At one stage he was using his asthma pump four times a day, and his eczema used to flare-up to the point where his skin would bleed. After taking two capsules of Oxiprovin for two months, he doesn’t need the cortisone creams and his skin is clear with only a mild and occasional flare-up. He also only uses his asthma pump once a week at a push now. Thank you Oxiprovin!”
Our expert team has done its best to take the guesswork out of respiratory health with this dedicated category. Learn more.
Living Naturally has a helpline to see you through every season of your life. Feel free to get in touch on:
09:00 to 16:00 – Mondays to Fridays.
Yours in good health,
The Living Naturally Team.
Listen to the podcast here: Asthma podcast
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