Asthma

Definition

Asthma is a condition which is created by the production of thick sticky mucus in the airway, compounded by spasm in the smaller airways.

Asthma represents a condition in which several problems overlap. One of the early symptoms of asthma is a dry cough, often worse at night. As the condition worsens, it usually proceeds to a wheeze, starting on the out-breath, but as is worsens, on the out and in-breath.

These problems may be grouped in three categories:

Allergic

In asthma the white blood cells, other cells, and chemical substances in the airway wall are primed to over-react to allergens (animal dander, dusts, dust mite fecal matter, pollens etc.) or chemicals (perfumes, smog, vehicle exhausts, cigarette smoke,) or food triggers (dairy products, peanuts, shellfish etc.).

Hyper-reactive airwaysRespiratory tree

This sensitive condition relates to allergies and is made worse as the muscle fibres in the medium and small airways (illustrated to the right) get more 'practice' in tightening up. These constrictive muscles are what, in health, help to protect our lungs from pollutants in the air. With asthma, the muscle bands around the airways get thicker. The muscle bands are illustrated by the pink fibres in this illustration.

This condition is accentuated by an imbalance in the fatty acid composition in the diet - too much Omega-6 and Omega-9 fatty acids. These substances are found in oils from corn, canola, soy, safflower and to a much lesser extent in flax. Commercially prepared packaged and fast foods are prepared using these oils because they can easily be purified i.e. stripped of their components which render them susceptible to rancidity, and which allow them to be heated to high temperatures without readily breaking down.

A diet with some of these oils is not harmful, but if the majority of the diet comes from such food, it creates an imbalance. The consequence of this imbalance is the tendency of the body to contract, to become inflamed, irritated.

To be healthy, we require a diet balanced by oils containing Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, flax, borage and evening primrose oils and some of the foods upon which fish feed - plankton, and blue green algae. Increasing the proportion of Omega-3 to Omega-6 and Omega-9 oils can help the airways relax and improve asthma symptoms.

Unfortunately, most of the commercially available fast foods are prepared with the problem oils, canola, safflower etc., so it takes some effort to shift the diet away from these foods.

Thickened mucus

Mucus becomes thicker in dry air, (winter heated air), with inadequate consumption of water, and in my experience, with excess dairy and flour consumption, and with insufficient vegetable foods in the diet.

How does Asthma start?expectant

Often the roots of asthma can be traced to the medical condition of the parents. Sometimes it's that they were allergic, or that they had asthma or eczema. The mother may report that she had some digestive difficulty with milk or dairy products during her pregnancy.

Some children get asthma with the introduction of cow's milk-based formulas. This is often accompanied by colic, heralding a digestive connection. Often the first asthma attack comes some time after a course of antibiotics. The connection in this case is likely that antibiotics can create a candida overgrowth in the digestive system, a condition called leaky gut, which, in my experience can lead to asthma. In children, acute ear infections, often following a viral upper respiratory infection, are a common reason for an antibiotic

My interpretation of these connections is that the digestive system of the affected children becomes injured in one, or several, ways leading to a condition referred to as 'leaky gut'. In this situation Candida is a common culprit. In leaky gut, proteins, often those from cow's milk, leak through the small intestine wall setting up a hyper-reactive response which seems to effect the lung as well as the intestine.

Breast fed infants seem less likely to have this reaction unless the mother is eating a lot of dairy and she can't fully digest it, or perhaps she is eating foods to which she is sensitive.

Antibiotics, while very helpful for bacterial ear (and other) infections, can strip the intestine of beneficial bacteria and leave it vulnerable to leaky gut. Dairy, wheat, and to some extent, baked flour products, may in my experience, also contribute to increased respiratory mucus. This mucus affects the eustachian tubes, the passages leading from the mouth to the middle ear and when these tubes become loaded with mucus, they provide fertile territory for infections.

What do drugs do for Asthma?

Bronchodilators puffer

These medications, like Ventolin®, cause the smooth muscle in the airway walls to relax. They work quickly and provoke the same kind of response as when we undertake strenuous exercise in which we produce adrenalin, which also opens the airways. Well known side effects include the 'jitters' and an increased heart rate. There are also a group of longer acting bronchodilators.

Steroids

These may come as a spray which is inhaled, as a powder which is sucked into the lungs. They can also be given orally or injected. Steroids reduce inflammation. They don't act quickly but when used regularly, usually twice daily, can have a very beneficial effect on asthma symptoms. The downside is that they encourage yeast infections - (thrush caused by Candida). Their use may also result in a reduced ability to resist viral infections and certain types of bacterial infections.

Immune Modifiers

These medications like Singulair™ reduce the way certain white blood cells, mast cells and eosinophils respond to allergens like pollens and animal dander. They can be quite helpful for some people.

What do I usually Recommend?

  • Follow the recommendations available from many reputable sources for removing allergens and airborne toxins from the environment.

  • Remove foods which may be a problem. Traditional allergy testing by skin prick likely will not reveal which foods are a problem unless you have anaphylactic reactions to them.
    The foods which can contribute to problems in asthma are more like food intolerances. This means that you may be able to tolerate these foods and may even include them in your daily diet, When you eat them you may feel OK but later you may feel less than great. If you're lucky, you may note a direct connection between the offending food and your breasting. You might also note some sort of delayed skin reaction i.e. eczema. Many people with asthma also suffer from eczema. Please also see the section on food allergies for more information.

    I usually recommend stopping all dairy foods except butter. Stop wheat, reduce breads and have very few sweets including little fruit juice. See the Candida diet for a more or less complete avoid list.

  • Increase water or watery foods like soups. Many people don't drink enough water. One clue is to note if your urine seems to be concentrated - it may smell a little or be dark in colour. You should be urinating at least five times daily. If not, please make sure to increase your water intake. Preferably spring water, filtered water, or herbal teas taken mostly between meals.
    If you are wondering about these recommendations, please read the section on digestive immunity for clarification.

  • Stop using foods prepared or heated in the microwave. This probably sounds strange, however some people report that the type of radio-wave energy which makes the food hot gets transferred to the food and then to the consumer. This type of heat is possibly a contributor to the dryness harmful in asthma.

  • Take very good digestive enzymes with each meal. This will assist in the breakdown of dietary proteins, reducing their influx into the bloodstream.

  • Begin taking probiotics. These friendly bacteria will work for you to help reduce your yeast load. There is some evidence that probiotics also give the immune system a boost.

Supplements to consider using

  • Include a WPG™ betaglucan product to boost resistance to infection,.Take one on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning. Wait for at least 20 minutes before taking other food which contains fibre - fruits, vegetables or grains.

  • Add fish oil, high in omega-3 fatty acids and DHA. Look for a deep sea fish oil which is certified to be mercury-free. A good brand is NutraSea™ which is available in capsules or tablets. Suggested dose is 2 capsules or one tablespoon daily, best taken early in the day. For children, this may be obtained in a pleasant tasting liquid form to be added to food.

  • Consider adding mineral rich supplements like blue green algae and Coenzyme Q10 (for older adults) as well as a multivitamin.

  • Add a glutathione accelerator. Increased glutathione levels reduce inflammation.

  • Add extra Vitamin D3 to your daily diet. For adults this can mean taking up to 4000 IU/day. Levels can be checked by your physician in several months. For more information on this see Vitamin D. Children with asthma may benefit from Vitamin D in the form of a liquid - D-Drops™.

Often as you begin the process of healing your asthma, you will need to use your puffers or other medication. As you improve, with the permission of your doctor, you will likely be able to reduce the frequency of use of your puffers, and in some cases, be able to stop them. Some people need them only briefly when they have a viral upper respiratory infection.

You may find that, over time, you can identify triggers which you may be able to avoid. Some people find that allergy injections, prepared by an allergist, may help. During, or following a cold or flu, there may be a temporary worsening of symptoms which may require a brief return to medications.

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