There is quite a bit you can do to prevent and treat asthma naturally. If your diagnosis is established always have your inhaler handy – that’s just common sense. Aside from that, here I teach you some crucial information about how to address asthma, especially through diet.
To prevent and treat asthma naturally means to help the body to fix itself so it doesn’t display those signs and symptoms. Asthma is serious and complicated, but also luckily it responds very well to correct treatment. Professional practitioners of Chinese medicine use acupuncture and herbs, both of which require years of knowledge to correctly administer.
Luckily asthma responds very well to dietary therapy, and correct diet forms the basis of professional treatment more so than in many other diseases.
Also in the case of asthma, there are some useful, readily available herbs and spices that can be safely used that do not require prescription. With this information, you can go a long way toward easing asthma and its signs and symptoms. For a ‘cure’, follow the advice here, but also find a good practitioner.
What does asthma look like?
Asthma is usually accompanied by any of the following or a combination. Also you may ‘have’ asthma without any of these symptoms:
- Shortness of breath, some describe it as ‘you can’t get air out of your lungs.’
- Coughing, often is worse at night or early in the morning, making it hard to sleep.
- Wheezing, a whistling or squeaky sound that occurs when you breathe, most often on exhale, and
- Chest tightness, uneasiness.
Western medical treatment includes a class of drugs for acute attacks, and inhaled corticosteroids for long-term control of asthma. These help bring down the inflammation and swelling that makes an asthmatics airways sensitive to certain inhaled substances. Common side-effects of long-term use includes cataracts, osteoporosis, and more.
Asthma and Natural Medicines
Chinese medicine doesn’t go against science and Western medicine. It comes from a different perspective and predates modern medical equipment and so therefore uses different modes of diagnosis and treatment. None of the following information goes against what your medical doctor is trying to do…
In Chinese Medicine, asthma and wheezing are treated differently.
Asthma refers to the bronchospasms, while wheezing is specifically wheezing.
Cough as a general issue has its own set of causes but its recognized that cough often accompanies asthma. Chest Tightness often accompanies many of the causes of cough. Asthma patients always have dry skin, respiratory problems and allergic conditions – these are taken into consideration when a professional acupuncturist/herbalist treats your asthma.
Asthma and Chinese Medicine
Chinese medicine classifies anything invading the body from the outside (airborne virus, allergens, …) into what can be translated as Wind. There are several different types of wind. Colds/flus are a type wind; there is also pathological wind generated internally from debility or heat, or triggered by exterior wind. In the case of spasms in asthma, we approach the problem by looking to prevent and treat Wind.
The issue of allergens is a big subject in itself. Every asthmatic needs to pay attention to find out what triggers them and avoid those things!
Common allergens include:
cold air, mold, dust, pets, smoke, grass and weeds, medication such as aspirin, shellfish or the sulfites in dried fruit and red wine, perfume, and chemical odors.
Identify yours and avoid them! Here is some information on naturally allergy relief, most of which also applies to asthmatics.
The other major component of the western definition of asthma is wheezing. In Chinese Medicine, the base problem in wheezing is phlegm in the lungs which is often a consequence of inappropriate diet combined with a weakened digestion.
Diet as the foundation for natural asthma treatment
Diet is very important for treatment of asthma. Its clear to see that diet will affect phlegm, but its also true that diet affects the other major component of asthma: wind.
To talk about phlegm in Chinese Medicine you have to learn about dampness (the cousin of phlegm!) click this link for my article on the traditional Chinese Medicine concept of dampness.
In general, phlegm and damp producing foods include:
dairy, flour products (pasta, chips, most cheap bread, cookies, crackers, pastries, snacks, most restaurant food!), cold and iced drinks and foods, wheat, soy, tofu, and anything greasy or filled with sugar.
Cold and damp foods, especially in excess, also congest and tax digestion and lead to unprocessed liquids/oils in the body that form the base of pathogenic dampness and phlegm in the body. In Chinese Medicine it is said the thousands of diseases there are in the world start with excess dampness.
Aside from making sure to avoid too much cold and damp/phlegm inducing foods, help your digestion do its job by putting the following digestion promoting common spices and herbs in your diet: coriander, cumin, fenugreek, mustard seeds, thyme, basil, oregano, garlic, cinnamon, and my current favorite cardamom.
All these guidelines apply to coughs as well, especially wet coughs (which produce sputum or sound not-dry).
What to eat to help treat asthma naturally
Make it a easy for your digestion to do its job: eat mostly cooked foods, like vegetable broth-based soups. Include in your diet rice or barley broth, garlic, leeks, string beans, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and carrots. Eat complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables – they release their sugars slowly and evenly into the blood stream as opposed to simple sugars.
Correct use of oil CANNOT BE OVERSTATED. The next few links to my articles on oil help you to get a handle on what oils to be eating and not eating:
To sum it up, you HAVE TO avoid bad oils such as Canola and other vegetable oils, read up on some oil/fat basics. Every time you eat out these days, restaurants are using trans-fat Canola or some other vegetable oil, thinking that they are heart healthy – the exact opposite is true and the articles explain why. Put butter and coconut oil in your diet, they are GOOD for you.
Some specific nutrients you should be aware of:
- Vitamin D – make sure your levels are not low; your doctor can order a lab test. Good sources of Vitamin D are exposing your skin to the sun, eating fish and eggs, and eating chlorophyll which is abundant in leafy greens. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a variety of non-bone related diseases including depression, autoimmune disorders, and asthma. The prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency in asthmatics is a recent discovery so get your levels checked!
- Magnesium may reduce constricted airways in asthmatics by relaxing the muscles around the bronchial tubes. It buffers the acidic stage of an allergic reaction. Some think a deficiency in magnesium can release histamine. Magnesium can be found high in almonds, spinach, avocados, oysters, seeds.
Bioflavonoids are a group of compounds that are found widely in plants. The white just beneath the peel in citrus fruits are full of them. Also found in peppers, black currants. Bioflavonoids have antibacterial properties and help to maintain the strength of capillaries, promote circulation, and stimulate bile production. Bioflavonoids modify the body’s response to inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, asthma, eczema, hayfever and other allergies.
- Reducing inflammation helps prevent the chain reaction that causes asthma symptoms, so not only biofalavonoids, but any substance that reduces inflammation should help.
Last but not least: chew well and chew a lot! Very very important especially with complex carbs so that adequate minerals and other nutrients are absorbed.
You should have a good idea at this point of what to eat. Now lets make some limitations really clear:
Dietary restrictions for treating asthma naturally
- No Sugar, coffee, alcohol, dairy, soy, or anything that gives you mucus. Totally eliminate refined sugar and sugar products from your diet.
- Anything processed, put in a box like instant oatmeal or instant whatever has been refined probably with added sugars and other so-called ‘natural flavorings’ that are bad for you. Many people recommend fortified cereal especially for Vitamin D – but its in a box, so avoid it!
- All raw, iced, or chilled foods and all energetically cool and cold foods should also be avoided.
- Never eat junk food, never eat chemicals posing as food such as margarine, food coloring, additives, genetically modified foods, …
- Artificial sweeteners are very bad for you, so are the oils used in fast food
- Reduce and eliminate alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco consumption
- Find out what foods you are allergic to, if any, and avoid them at all costs
- Corn, wheat, milk products may cause inflammatory response; asthmatics might be sensitive to them
- Don’t eat hydrogenated, synthetic fats: margarine & shortening are bad for everyone. Never ever eat them. (donuts are made with shortening).
- Avoid denatured foods (anything processed, canned, or bottled as much as possible)
- Avoid late-night eating
- Avoid complex food combinations
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General recommendations for treating coughs and coughing
To help ease any type of cough and to help open the lungs, get essential oil of Pine, Eucalyptus, and/or Wintergreen and drop a few drops in a bowl of hot to boiling water for a facial steam. Cover your head over the bowl with a towel to let you breathe in the warm steam but careful to not burn yourself.
An onion poultice over the chest with deep breathing helps too. Fresh garlic or the juice is useful for coughs with mucus, especially white or clear mucus. Thyme herb is also useful, in food or especially in tea or syrup form.
Asthma and constipation
Constipation often accompanies the elderly with asthma. Sometimes it can exacerbate the onset of attacks or an asthma attack can bring on the constipation. Either way, its important to make sure the bowels are emptied. Treatment of constipation can itself be a big subject but diet always plays an important role. This is another one of those issues where no one single herb is going to cure everybody. You can get a purgative like the herb senna for emergency cases, but you need a trained professional to give you an herbal formula that you can digest that not just helps you void, but also fixes the reason for the constipation.
In many cases, if your diet is bad to average, a cup or two of the juice of celery and some leafy greens like kale or collard greens can help you quickly need to go to the bathroom for #2!
Treatment of Acute Asthma attack – don’t throw out the inhaler!
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can take shortcuts. Dietary modifications can only go so far, so fast. The most effective natural asthma treatments require a skilled practitioner to give you the correct herbal formula for several months ON TOP of your dietary corrections. So dont throw out the inhaler, it can save your life.
Having said that, one herb that is known to be very useful for either asthma or wheezing is lobelia. Purchase in tincture form or fresh herb.
Acupuncture is excellent for acute asthma attacks but not so much for wheezing. Professional herbal formulas are complicated and personalized to address the root cause of asthma & wheezing, its manifestations, and the need for digestion to be able to deal with the herbal formula itself!
Acupuncture works from the outside in, foods/herbs work from the inside out. These dietary tips should always be in the picture for best results in treating asthma.