Asthma---A Naturopathic Approach by Dr. Jennifer Botwick
Asthma is a term that is often thrown around when we hear a person with breathing disorders. But what are we actually talking about when we use this term? Asthma is most simply defined as an episodic constriction of the bronchial tubes. It is a disorder with symptoms including sudden wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms can be mild or in the worst cases fatal.
When a person is suffering from an asthma attack, the muscular bands that regulate the size of the bronchial tubes inside their bodies tighten. Associations have been made to allergic or emotional causes for this reaction and there is evidence which demonstrate how it may be related to a respiratory infection (as seen to the right below).
Treatment for this disorder is dominated by the mainstream medical approach of proscribing a variety of drugs which, unfortunately, have toxic side effects. For instance, most bronchodilating drugs increase anxiety and sympathetic tone. Furthermore, many inhalers contain steroids, which can be very dangerous because they are addictive and extremely poisonous. In short, although in the moment allopathic drugs can save lives, used over time, they don’t present the best environment to promote healing in the body.
Interestingly, research shows that Asthma is often aggravated by diet. In some cases Asthma might even be caused by diet. It is therefore not surprising that many patients have already been treated successfully by naturopathic doctors through simple dietary recommendations. Factors such as low consumption of fresh fruits and flavanoids weaken the immune system and set the stage for asthmatic tendencies. Simultaneously, an overabundance of fried foods, protein-rich and fat-rich animal products have harmful affects on the body and can aggravate the already weakened immune system.
For long-term prevention it follows that dietary strategies can be extremely effective. For instance, decreasing animal protein in your diet and replacing it with plant protein is a powerful first step. Replacing milk products with other calcium sources is also a valuable practice. Eating organic vegetables and fruits as much as possible is extremely beneficial as well. All of these dietary recommendations will only be effective however if you also cut out polyunsaturated vegetable oils, margarine etc. from your diet and use healthier alternatives such as extra virgin olive oil. Additionally, drinking lots of water keeps your respiratory tract secretions more fluid. So stay well hydrated.
Another step you can take to improve this condition is to try to eliminate wheat, corn, soy and sugar from your diet…one-at-a-time for a period of 6-8 weeks and see how you feel. If your situation improves due to abstention by reducing one of these possible trigger foods, than you would do well to stay off of this food for a longer duration (ask your doctor/nutritionist).
Aside from diet, there are many other changes you can make in your lifestyle that will have a positive affect on your asthmatic symptoms. Deep tissue massage, or osteopathic manipulation for example can be extremely helpful for Asthma patients. Avoiding respiratory irritants as much as possible such as smoke, dust, molds, volatile chemicals and the like is also beneficial. One step to take in this direction would be to install a good air filtration system in your house. Sometimes, location alone can play a huge role in aggravating or relieving asthma. Experimentation with living in different locations could unlock the key to your personal healing. Try living in the high mountains, the desert, or near the seacoast if possible. Amazingly, Asthma can actually improve greatly with a simple change of climate. In terms of herbal treatments, traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine (traditional Indian medicine) have much to offer the asthmatic patient and it is well worth it to explore these areas and see what works for you.
The good news is that in many cases, with a patient’s commitment to change habits, Asthma can be reversed or at least significantly improved in as little time as a few months. Based on the experiences of many naturopaths, patients asthmatic symptoms are potentially curable. I invite anyone who would like to learn more to contact me with questions. As you can see there are many approaches to healing asthma and the information can appear overwhelming.
I am available to counsel patients individually to best suite their individual cases and needs. As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours in Health & Happiness,
Dr. Jennifer Botwick