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How to Help Asthma

Asthma | December 2, 2016 | Author: Naturopath


How to Help Asthma

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways that affects 14% of children and 6-7% of adults in Australia. This makes asthma the fourth most common condition in Australia with research showing a dramatic increase in prevalence over the last 25 years.


In asthma there is hyper-reactivity and narrowing of the airways in response to stimuli that do not affect the airways in normal lungs. In an asthma attack the smooth muscles of the bronchi go into spasm, causing inflammation and obstruction of the airways.

Common triggers include:

  • Allergens such as pollens, animal dander, cockroaches and house dust mites
  • Cold air
  • Inhaled irritants such as tobacco smoke and air pollution
  • Changes in weather
  • Exercise
  • Viral infections
  • Stress or high levels of emotion
  • Sulfites (food preservatives or naturally occurring)

Signs and symptoms

Key features of asthma include intermittent shortness of breath, wheeze, dry cough, chest tightness and mucous production. Asthma can be difficult to detect as sometimes the symptoms can be subtle. This is especially the case in children if they present with recurrent respiratory tract infections and a night-time cough.

Asthma attacks can range in frequency and severity with some people being symptom free most of the time with an occasional, mild episode of shortness of breath. Others can wheeze and cough most of the time and suffer major attacks on a regular basis due to a trigger such as exercise or coming into contact with an allergen.


It is important to eat a wholefood diet incorporating a wide range of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains.
An antioxidant rich or Mediterranean diet has been associated with a reduced risk of asthma and improved function of the respiratory system. Increase intake of fresh fish, chili, ginger, onions, garlic and horseradish as they all help to reduce inflammation and support healthy immune system function.

Ensure adequate fluid intake by drinking fresh juices, broths, soups, water and herbal teas.

Reduce the intake of red meat, sugar, saturated fat, salt, processed foods, additives, preservatives and colourings (especially a yellow food dye called tartrazine).

Avoid all sources of MSG and its derivatives and sulphites found in alcohol, dried fruits and in pre-prepared salads.

It may also be helpful to avoid wheat and dairy products derived from cows.

In some individuals, an elimination diet may be helpful to determine any food allergies.
The foods most commonly associated with asthma include:

  • apples
  • citrus
  • cows’ milk
  • eggs
  • chocolate
  • soy
  • rice
  • tree nuts
  • shellfish
  • corn.

However, a wide range of foods and chemicals may also be implicated and these include glutamate, salicylates, histamine and amines.

Nutritional supplements

Nutritional deficiencies such as vitamins C, D and E, magnesium, potassium and fatty acids have all been linked to asthma.

Vitamin B6 has been shown to significantly reduce the symptoms of asthma. Vitamin B5 and B3 are also indicated in asthma as they are particularly beneficial for people with allergies. It is best to take the B complex so that all the B vitamins are included.

Vitamin C helps to reduce airway inflammation and supports a healthy immune system. Studies have shown that supplementing with 2g of vitamin C before exercise reduces the risk of exercise induced asthma.

Magnesium may help to relax smooth muscles leading to opening of the airways. Magnesium supplementation of 400mg/day was found to improve the symptoms of asthma in people with a low magnesium diet.

Omega-3 has been found to be beneficial as a direct treatment. One study found that 3.2g of EPA and 2.2g of DHA per day for 3-10 weeks reduces inflammation, bronchodilator use by 20% and pulmonary compromise by nearly 80% in those who suffer exercise induced asthma. It has also been proven that children who regularly eat fish have a lower risk of developing asthma and experience fewer attacks.

Quercetin is a flavonoid naturally found in:

  • onions
  • apples
  • blueberries
  • kale
  • broccoli

These may be also helpful in asthma as quercetin has anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Probiotics may be implicated in the naturopathic treatment of asthma as gastrointestinal symptoms such as leaky gut, reflux and dysbiosis are common in this condition. Specific strains for asthma include

  • Lactobaccillus rhamnosus LGG
  • Bifidobacterium animalis sp.
  • Lactis Bb 12
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus L92 among many others.

Herbal medicines

Anti-inflammatory herbs indicated in asthma include licorice, boswellia, turmeric and ginger.

Boswellia inhibits a key cytokine specific to asthmatic inflammation and in a clinical trial 70% of participants reported an improvement in their symptoms compared to 27% of controls.
Adhatoda is considered a specific herb for asthma as it enhances bronchodilation.
Anti-allergic herbs such as albizzia and baical skullcap have also shown to be very helpful in asthma. The flavonoid baicalin derived from baical skullcap showed it was 4-5 times more potent than the anti-inflammatory drug azelastine. Other herbs that may be indicated include coleus, picrorhizza, astragalus and ginkgo.


Turmeric has been effective in treating airway hyper responsiveness in allergic airway diseases as well as helping to remove the mucous and to relieve cough.

Asthmatics taking boswellia, licorice and turmeric showed lower levels of inflammatory mediators compared to placebo.


As stress exacerbates asthma, relaxation therapies that are utilised to reduce stress may be helpful. Tai chi, yoga and meditation have shown efficacy in this area and may be partly related to their focus on breathing exercises.

The Buteyko breathing technique of breathing slow and shallow has shown to reduce medication use and improve quality of life in asthma sufferers.

Reduce environmental exposure

It is important to minimise exposure to environmental allergens such as dust mites, mould and pet dander in the home by regularly vacuuming and removing items that collect dust such as carpet and curtains. Allow regular ventilation of air by opening windows and doors to reduce mould growth. Pillows, bedding and mattress should be covered with allergen-blocking covers. Replace pillows every 3 years and a mattress every 10 years.

It is important to know what triggers your asthma and take measures to avoid your exposure if possible. Making improvements in the diet and incorporating supplements and specific herbal medicines can help in its management.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Hechtman L (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine, Churchill Livingstone, Australia

Sarris J, Wardle J (2016). Clinical Naturopathy 2e: An evidence-based guide to practice, Churchill Livingstone, Australia

Tecklenburg S, et al. Ascorbic acid supplementation attenuates exercise-induced bronchoconstriction in patients with asthma. Respiratory Medicine 2007;101(8):1770-8

Niitsuma T, et al. Effects of absorbed components of saiboku-to on the release of leukotrienes from the polymorphonuclear leukocytes of patients with bronchial asthma. Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol. 2001;23(2):99-104

Houssen ME, et al. Natural anti-inflammatory products and leukotriene inhibitors as complementary therapy for bronchial asthma. Clinical Biochemistry. 2010;43(10-11):887-90

Prem V, et al. Comparison of the effects of Buteyko and pranayama breathing techniques on quality of life in patients with asthma – a randomized controlled trial. Clin Rehabil. 2013 Feb;27(2):133-41

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