Asthma
By Steven Horne, RH (AHG) & Kimberly Balas, ND


See also Adrenal Fatigue

Helplessness. Panic. Fear. These are the feelings invoked by an asthma attack, both for the sufferer and for parents or other loved ones. During an asthma attack the muscles surrounding the bronchial passages in the lungs constrict. This interferes with the outflow of stale air and causes a feeling of suffocation in the victim. Typical symptoms of asthma include a feeling of tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing often coupled with wheezing and coughing.

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Asthma is on the rise, affecting about 18.9 million Americans (as of 2013). The dramatic increase in asthma appears to be linked to the increase in air pollution and other lung irritants. For instance, in Mexico City, the most heavily air-polluted city in the world, as high as 50% of the children may have asthma.

This respiratory disorder is often unpredictable; and this what makes it so intimidating. Those who suffer from it experience bouts of breathlessness which can come on suddenly during periods of stress, anxiety, exercise, low blood sugar, laughing, changes in temperature, extremes of dryness or dampness or exposure to allergens such as dust, animal dander, smoke, mold or food additives. Asthma attacks can last from minutes to hours and can come daily or annually.

Everyone's lungs will react to irritants by the process of inflammation, swelling, mucus production and coughing.
Yet, for the person with asthma these reactions appear to be exaggerated or hyperactive. Swelling and inflammation in the lung tissue triggers spastic reactions in the lungs which further constrict airways. As air is trapped in the lungs, excess carbon dioxide builds up in the blood creating the suffocating feeling.

Asthma is commonly treated with antihistamines (substances which reduce allergic reactions), anti-inflammatories (substances that reduce swelling and inflammation) and bronchial dilators (substances that relax the bronchial passages, allowing air to escape). These therapies are effective for symptomatic relief and can ease attacks and even save lives. However, they do not help to relieve any of the underlying causes of this disease. Here are some of the underlying causes to consider:

Food and Respiratory Allergies

Most individuals who experience asthma notice that it is prompted by substances such as pollen, dander, smoke, cold air or excessive exercise. Along with the dust, mites, molds and pet dander that tend to cause an onset of allergies or asthma, diet has also become a part of the picture.

Dairy and wheat have come to be known as contributing factors. Most asthma sufferers notice tremendous relief once these allergens have been eliminated. Dairy, in particular, contains the protein casein that generates mucus. When a victim experiences an asthma attack, wouldn't it be better if his or her body were not insulted with mucus forming foods?

A number of remedies can also be used to reduce allergic reactions. HistaBlock is very helpful. Other possible remedies include burdock, which stabilizes mast cells, and cordyceps, which will particularly benefit the asthmatic athlete.

Excess Estrogen

Adult asthma tends to be most prevalent in women. Many physicians believe this to be hormonally related. With the rising number of asthma cases, this could be due to the influence of xenoestrogens (estrogen-like chemicals such as pesticides and plastics) present in our environment. Women who are estrogen dominant (with estrogen too high relative to progesterone) display signs of asthma more often than those who are more hormonally balanced.

The balancer for estrogen is progesterone, which can be applied topically in a progesterone cream such as the Wild Yam Emollient. This has helped to ease symptoms in some women. Synthetic progestins, conversely, have shown no such benefit.

Stress and Adrenal Fatigue

The adrenal hormone epinephrine acts as a bronchial dilator. Forms of it can be injected or are used in bronchial inhalers in order to halt asthma attacks. Epinephrine is an adrenal hormone and a sympathetic neurotransmitter. Corticosteroid drugs are also used to treat asthma. These drugs are mimics of another adrenal hormone, cortisol, which reduces inflammation in the body.

This suggests a connection between stress and adrenal fatigue in asthma cases. For any of us who have ever been involved in any type of organized athletics, we are bound to have met individuals with exercise-induced asthma. These individuals, as well as others under chronic stress, generally have exhausted their adrenals and are lacking the naturally produced steroids necessary to prevent these attacks.

So, rebuilding the adrenals is critical to overcoming asthma. The difficulty in this is that the drugs usually used to treat asthma contribute to adrenal fatigue. The best approach, therefore, is to start rebuilding the adrenals while slowly backing off the medications.

A number of nutrients can help to rebuild the adrenals. The combination of B-complex and vitamin C in Nutri-Calm has a rebuilding effect on the adrenals. It also contains herbs to relax tension and ease stress. Pantothenic acid is very important for adrenal function and can also help to rebuild exhausted adrenal glands. Nervous Fatigue Formula is another great adrenal rebuilding agent.

Licorice root helps preserve cortisol levels (the adrenal hormone that reduces inflammation) and can help to rebuild exhausted adrenals. Licorice is also anti-inflammatory. This herb can be taken regularly by many asthmatic children to reduce frequency and severity of attacks.

When rebuilding the adrenals, it is very important to avoid refined sugar, and foods and beverages containing caffeine, as these substances tax the adrenals. Licorice root or Mineral Chi Tonic can be taken to reduce caffeine and sugar cravings and maintain energy levels without these addictive and harmful substances.

Digestive Problems

Most asthmatics have a hiatal hernia which inhibits free movement of the diaphragm and contributes to poor digestion of proteins which causes mucus congestion. Food allergies, leaky gut and lymphatic congestion are all common in asthmatics.

Start by correcting the hiatal hernia, if present. Taking digestive enzymes, such as Protease Plus or Proactazyme Plus, can help reduce allergic reactions to foods that contribute to asthma.

Cleansing the liver and colon also has tremendous benefits for healing the lungs. Therefore the Tiao He Cleanse or CleanStart may also be beneficial. Blood purifiers like Enviro-Detox or All Cell Detox have also proved helpful in some cases.

It can also be helpful to take remedies that clear mucus from the lungs. Remedies to consider include ALJ and CC-A with Yerba Santa. As an expectorant and nervine, yerba santa is beneficial in easing most allergic or asthmatic conditions.

Natural Bronchial Dilators

To stop asthma attacks it is necessary to dilate the bronchials to let in more air. Lobelia has been long used to relieve asthma attacks. It can be rubbed onto the chest in tincture form or taken orally to relieve feelings of tightness and to relieve coughing while maintaining expectorant properties. Lobelia is a very effective bronchial dilator and antispasmodic that can be used as a natural alternative to inhalers.
The extract of lobelia can be administered in doses of about 10-20 drops at one to two minute intervals starting at the beginning of the attack until it subsides.

Occasionally, this therapy will cause the person to vomit. However, the attack nearly always subsides as soon as the person expels the contents of the stomach (which interestingly enough often contains a large quantity of mucus).

Another herb that can help to Stop asthma attacks is black cohosh. Although not commonly used for this purpose by modern herbalists, eclectic physicians at the turn of the century used both lobelia and black cohosh for asthma. Distress Remedy taken internally and Tei Fu oil rubbed on chest have also been used to open the bronchials during an asthma attack.

Asthma is a serious condition, yet one that can be dealt with effectively by natural means. It will however take some determination, study and a commitment to a generally healthier lifestyle.