Natural Options For Managing Asthma
Natural Remedies and Complimentary Treatments for Asthma Management
If you have asthma or care for someone who does, you probably already know that prescription drugs are the largest medical expense related to asthma. According to the American Lung Association, asthma medications cost $6 billion a year in the United States.
In addition to the expense of asthma prescriptions, keeping track of different inhalers and medications can also be a pain. If you’re seeking more natural methods of asthma treatment or are looking for ways to improve control of your asthma symptoms, you may be thinking about using a natural remedy or alternative treatment for your asthma.
The natural treatment of asthma focuses on several key principles: reducing allergic exposure, reducing the sensitivity and spasticity of the airways of the lungs, balancing the allergic/inflammatory pathways in the body, and correcting nutrient imbalances.
Steam Baths as Asthma Treatment
While warm steam baths have often been used to help alleviate nasal congestion and airway irritation associated with asthma, there’s never been a study that proves that steam treatments help improve asthma symptoms. It’s important to understand that it’s not a cure for asthma.
Even so, just because the studies haven’t established a definite benefit doesn’t mean that steam baths won’t be of benefit to some people.
Steam baths may relieve some of the symptoms because it may provide moisture to the airways. One caution, though, is that steam can be dangerously hot, so in some asthmatics, it could exacerbate symptoms. So, always use a gentle steam and monitor how you react.
Steam baths may help offset some symptoms, particularly nasal stuffiness, it has to be stressed that steam baths are not a substitute for asthma medications.
If a steam bath isn’t convenient, try a personal steam inhaler to efficiently get the soothing steam into your nose and throat.
Herbs and Other Alternative Asthma Treatment Options
A number of herbs have been touted as natural remedies for asthma. While there are no definitive studies proving the efficacy of these options for asthma, it’s important to note that there is no financial incentive for large pharma companies to invest millions studying natural products which cannot be patented and profited from. So, just because a remedy hasn’t been scientifically proven, does not mean if doesn’t work for some people, or that it won’t work for you. I do suggest, though, that you check with your doctor before adding any of these supplements to your routine.
Some alternative treatment options and their associated risks and benefits include:
Garlic has been used as a natural remedy to manage many diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease, because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Since asthma is an inflammatory disease, it would make sense that garlic may also help relieve asthma symptoms.
There have never been any controlled studies investigating the effect of garlic on asthma symptoms, so its role in asthma treatment is unknown. The use of garlic as an alternative treatment for asthma is, however, currently being studied.
Ginger is also thought to decrease inflammation, and a recent study did show that oral ginger supplements were linked to improvement in asthma symptoms. The study didn’t show, however, that ginger use led to any improvement in actual lung function. As a result, we can’t really use this study to draw any conclusions about the use of ginger as an alternative treatment for asthma. Additional studies are now being conducted to evaluate more fully whether or not ginger may help manage asthma symptoms.
Turmeric has been the subject of a number of studies, and it has been found to have some anti-allergy properties. It’s thought that turmeric has an effect on histamines, which can cause inflammation. Nevertheless, much more research needs to be done before turmeric can be established as a safe and effective natural remedy for asthma.
I have written extensively on turmeric (it’s a true adaptogenic herb that is beneficial in so many ways!).
Honey is an ingredient in many cough and cold remedies, used to help sooth an irritated throat and calm a cough. Many people with asthma may try mixing honey with a hot drink for relief, but again, there are no studies to support the use of honey as an alternative treatment for asthma symptoms. Choose Manuka honey for its added health benefits.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are often used as a natural remedy to help prevent and treat heart disease. Though some research suggests that omega-3s may also help to decrease airway inflammation and boost lung function, there’s still a lot that isn’t known about their role in asthma treatment. There is some literature to say thatfish oil supplements may also be beneficial in people with asthma, but as of right now, more research needs to be done.
Avoid Echinacea and Licorice Root
One study that examined the use of a number of different herbs to treat asthma found that Echinacea — an herb often used to treat upper respiratory infections — was not only ineffective, but was also associated with a number of side effects.
Worsening asthma symptoms, skin rashes and possible liver damage when taken with other medications are risks linked to Echinacea use. Likewise, licorice root — which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and is sometimes used by people with asthma to soothe their lungs — was found to be ineffective as an alternative treatment for asthma and was also associated with side effects such as high blood pressure.
There have not been any clinical trials that have shown either Echinacea or licorice root to be an effective asthma treatment and she notes that there have been some reports that Echinacea may worsen asthma symptoms in some people. So, just stay away from both.
Check Your Indoor Air Quality
There might not be much you can do about pollution outdoors, but minimizing pollutants in your home can greatly lessen susceptibility to outdoor asthma attacks.
Believe it or not, the Environmental Protection Agency tells us our indoor environments are two to five times more toxic than our outdoor environments!
Here are tips to help you remove many sources of irritants that are likely found in your home:
- Try to keep a window open even during the winter to bring fresh air in. If you can afford it, use a heat recovery ventilator (air-to-air heat exchanger) to bring outside air in.
- Avoid secondhand smoke from wood-burning stoves and cigarettes.
- Switch to natural cleaning products or use baking soda, lavender oil and vinegar to make your own. There are many simple recipes available online that can keep added chemicals out of your home and save you a bundle of money. I like Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day products. They’re made with essential oils and plant-derived ingredients, they smell wonderful, and yes – they are very effective.
- Avoid antibacterial soaps and disinfectants.
- Avoid aerosols and petroleum-based ingredients in your health and beauty products. Instead use natural air freshening products made from essential oils.
- Use a dehumidifier in damp areas, and fix water leaks to reduce mold. If you have (or suspect) a mold problem, read this article.
- Buy a water filter to remove chlorine from your tap water.
- Install flooring or carpets that you can vacuum beneath to reduce dust mites. Use a HEPA vacuum cleaner.
- Wash bedding weekly, and keep upholstery and carpets regularly vacuumed.
- Use sheets and pillow cases that are non-allergenic and don’t contain down or feathers.
- Keep furry friends out of the bedroom to limit the amount of pet hair you’re exposed to. Clean and brush pets regularly to remove some of their fur that can wind up around your home.
- Cockroaches are another asthma trigger, so speak with a professional exterminator if you suspect you might have some in your home.
Manage Your Stress
The Western lifestyle includes high degrees of emotional stress, and studies show that stress management techniques help reduce asthma severity. It’s well-known that stress increases the severity and frequency of asthmatic attacks because it hinders immune function and raises inflammation.
In fact, studies show that roughly 67 percent or more of asthmatics have diminished adrenal capacity, increased anxiety and other mood disorders related to stress. Mood disorders are considered “adaptive diseases” — that is, they result from a person’s inability to deal with stress.
Try natural stress relievers, including massage, deep abdominal breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery and art therapies. These can all help reduce stress and give asthmatics the tools to modulate their stress responses. This lowers susceptibility to future attacks and lessens reliance on asthma drugs.
On a personal note, we have a massage chair at our house, and it is a huge stress reducer (plus, it helped my husband heal from debilitating sciatica pain). I wrote about that and reviewed the best massage chairs here.
A growing body of literature indicates that lifestyle changes in recent decades, specifically decreased physical activity and dietary changes, are key contributing factors causing an increase in asthma prevalence and severity. Obesity is linked to higher risk for asthma and other breathing problems, including sleep apnea.
Although vigorous exercise can sometimes cause symptoms in people who already have asthma, staying active is generally very beneficial for improving immune function, preventing obesity, dealing with stress and lowering inflammation.
Asthma Attacks May be Unavoidable – Always Wear a Medical ID for Asthma
Over time, people with asthma may learn what triggers their asthma attacks and are thus better able to avoid having serious episodes. However, not all allergens are avoidable, and not all asthma attacks are caused by allergies. In fact, as we discussed, many asthma attacks are unavoidable because they are caused by chemicals, exercise, smoke exposure, and stress.
While most asthma attacks are treatable with rescue drugs such as inhalers, sometimes an inhaler is too far away to be reached. Other times, the attack may be extreme. In both instances, those surrounding the person suffering an asthma attack need to know what to do and how to help.
By wearing medical ID jewelry, those with asthma can have their diagnosis and treatment protocol on hand in the event they are unable to speak. Additionally, if EMTs do need to respond, knowing the cause of someone’s inability to breathe can contribute toward faster, more effective treatment.
If you have asthma, wearing medical ID jewelry is imperative. I recommend listing your name, diagnosis(es), any medications, all allergies, and emergency contact numbers.
Here are some examples of what to engrave on your asthma medical alert jewelry (ICE = In Case of Emergency):
INHALER IN PURSE
ALGYS: BEES, LATEX
EPI & INHALER IN BAG
Risk factors and underlying contributors of asthma include an inflammatory/poor diet, low immune function, food or seasonal allergies, and exposure to household or environmental irritants. Anything you can do to mitigate those factors will help with asthma management.
Look into supplements which reduce inflammation and enhance your body’s immunity, try to cut down on stress, and avoid chemicals and pollutants wherever possible.
Thanks for visiting and reading …
I hope this article provided you some practical information on natural options for managing asthma.
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