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Asthma

Asthma

Description

Asthma is a chronic reactive disorder involving episodic reversible airway obstruction because of bronchospasms, increased mucus secretion and mucosal cell edema. This makes breathing out more difficult than breathing in, causing stale air to be retained with each new breath, leading to suffocation. Asthma may occur due to an allergy (atopic/extrinsic) or because of a respiratory infection (non-atopic/intrinsic). Both causes are equally common. Asthma attacks, the actual reactions, vary in duration, intensity and frequency. Attacks may be mild to life threatening, occur suddenly or with premonitory symptoms, and may occur at any time, even in sleep. Symptoms of airway obstruction can persist between acute episodes.

Asthma affects twice as many males as females from birth to 10 years of age; 50% of all cases begin in this age group. Another 33% of all cases begin between the ages of 10 and 30, affecting males and females equally.

If allergic, the best treatment, if possible, is prevention by elimination of the causative agent from the person's environment. If related to infection, treatment with antibiotics and vaccines may be tried. Bronchodilators such as epinephrine, desensitization injections, breathing exercises, and/or biofeedback may also be prescribed.

Causes

Primary Factors
The primary cause of Asthma is still unclear. It is suspected irritants cause bronchoconstriction due to a malfunctioning autoimmune reflex mechanism. This involves decreasing chemical inhibition which allows asthma reaction mediators, such as histamine, to rise.

Smooth muscles then undergo spasmodic contractions, swelling in membranes that line the bronchial tubes is promoted, and increased mucus secretion occurs.

Predisposing Factors
Since both types of asthma may coexist, the following predisposing factors are not explicitly isolated to their designated categories:

Allergic

Heredity
Allergens such as:

PollenHouse dust
Fungal sporesAnimal dander
Kapok or feather pillowsAspirin


Specific foods, especially dairy products such as milk & eggs


Respiratory infection

Hypersensitivity to:

ExerciseBacteria
Emotional stressFatigue
Endocrine changesChronic lung disease
Pulmonary edemaCongestive heart failure
Temperature and humidity changesExposure to noxious fumes and other irritants, especially industrial fumes and air pollution

Signs & Symptoms

Acute asthma

Dyspnea
Hyperresonant lung fields
Coughing with thick, tenacious sputum that may be clear or yellow
Inability to speak more than a few words without taking a breath
Difficult inspiration with more difficult expiration
Rapid pulse (although breathing rate may be normal)
Obvious use of accessory respiratory muscles
Tightness in chest
Profuse sweating

Status asthmaticus

Cyanosis
Confusion
Extreme lethargy

Nutritional Supplements

Structure & Function: Immune System Support

---------------------------------
General Supplements
---------------------------------

AdultChild/Adolescent
Calcium 500 - 1,000 mg 200 - 500 mg
EPO 2 - 3 g 1 - 2 g
Fish oils*
Garlic*
Ginkgo biloba*
Lecithin*
Magnesium 200 - 500 mg 100 - 300 mg
Niacin 50 - 200 mg 10 - 100 mg
Proanthocyanidins*
Vitamin B6*
Vitamin B12*
Vitamin C2,000 - 6,000 mg 1,000 - 3,000 mg
Vitamin E*
Luteolin*



Please refer to the respective topic for specific nutrient amounts.

Notes:

The recent explosion of interest in both antioxidants and fatty acids has added considerably to the choices available.

Favorite bioflavonoids tend to be: quercetin and rutin.

Other leading antioxidants mentioned include: vitamin E and pycnogenol™.

Besides Evening Primrose Oil (EPO), other fatty acids, particularly from fish, may prove useful.

Trace minerals which have been cited include: molybdenum, selenium and zinc (which is sensitive also to copper levels).

Other plant products and their derivatives include: bee pollen, garlic, ginkgo biloba and lecithin.

Reynolds, R.D., Natta, C.L. Depressed plasma pyridoxal phosphate concentrations in adult asthmatics. Am J Clin Nutr. 41 (1985): 684-688.

Note: All amounts are in addition to those supplements having a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). Due to individual needs, one must always be aware of a possible undetermined effect when taking nutritional supplements. If any disturbances from the use of a particular supplement should occur, stop its use immediately and seek the care of a qualified health care professional.

Dietary Considerations

Asthma can be a symptom of food allergies. Other manifestations of food allergies are itchy eyes, rash, hay fever, headache, diarrhea, vomiting and eczema. The most allergenic foods are fruit juices, nuts and milk. Shellfish, eggs and chocolate provoke asthma in sensitive individuals. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) can provoke asthma in sensitive individual within a few hours of consumption. The Elimination Diet should be used to identify the offending substance or substances. The allergen can then be excluded from the diet.

Food reactions are a common problem, initiating an attack. However, reactions may be immediate or delayed. Eggs, fish, shellfish, nuts and peanuts tend to evoke an instantaneous reaction, while delayed response may result from consuming: milk, chocolate, wheat, citrus fruits and food colorings or additives.

The elimination of food additives is also vitally important to the control of asthma. These cover: dyes and preservatives, notably sulphites. Another classic substance capable of inducing anaphylactic shock is MSG. Classic outbreaks occur with salad bars and Chinese restaurants.

Allergy to cow’s milk is often cited and seems to have been confirmed, for some infants with severe immune reactivity. Some authorities have down-played the role of immunoglobulin in favor of histamine.

Part of the problem with food intolerance may stem from low stomach acid. Possibly for this reason, vitamin B12 therapy is a mainstay for treating childhood asthma. It may, however, be most effective in weekly intramuscular injections.

Certain ethnic groups have a high incidence of asthma, such as in Puerto Rican children. This cannot be explained. It is not only higher than caucasians but also other Hispanic groups.

Exposure to cobalt has also been identified, which may impact vitamin B12.

On the positive side, favorable results have been identified through consumption of fish, or fish oil products. This seems to operate via arachidonic acid metabolism. Also, magnesium seems to counteract stress, which is often associated with attacks of asthma. Arachidonic acid is unique to animal products and forms leukotrienes, which are more potent stimulators of bronchial constriction than even histamine. Vegan diets, consequently, have been tried and achieved some success, although benefits may require several months to a full year in some resistant cases. Garlic and onions are also thought to work by inhibiting leukotrienes. Selenium is also useful in reducing leukotriene formation.

A common kitchen spice (capsicum) may even break an acute attack.

Vitamin C also helps with fatty acid metabolism, besides its better-known role as an antioxidant. Other antioxidants, like carotenes benefit the epithelial lining of the respiratory tract, or vitamin E inhibits the formation of inflammatory compounds.

Children with asthma may have a defect in tryptophan metabolism, which can be corrected with vitamin B6 supplements. Adults may also benefit.

Magnesium relaxes bronchial smooth muscle.

Homeopathic Remedy

SEE ALSO - BRONCHITIS

1.* Lobelia inflata - 30X to 30C
2.* Eucalyptus globulus tinct. - 30X to 30C
3.* Adrenalinum - 30X to 30C a bronchodilator
4.* Grindelia robusta (squarrosa) - 30X to 30C - good for wheezing
5. Ipecacuanha - 30C or higher
6.* Badiaga - 6X for 4 days, then 30C - for thick cough, with wheezing

Treatment Schedule

Doses cited are to be administered on a 3X daily schedule, unless otherwise indicated. Dose usually continued for 2 weeks. Liquid preparations usually use 8-10 drops per dose. Solid preps are usually 3 pellets per dose. Children use 1/2 dose.

Legend

X = 1 to 10 dilution - weak (triturition)
C = 1 to 100 dilution - weak (potency)
M = 1 to 1 million dilution (very strong)
X or C underlined means it is most useful potency

Asterisk (*) = Primary remedy. Means most necessary remedy. There may be more than one remedy - if so, use all of them.

References

Boericke, D.E., 1988. Homeopathic Materia Medica.

Coulter, C.R., 1986. Portraits of Homeopathic Medicines.

Kent, J.T., 1989. Repertory of the Homeopathic Materia Medica.

Koehler, G., 1989. Handbook of Homeopathy.

Shingale, J.N., 1992. Bedside Prescriber.

Smith, Trevor, 1989. Homeopathic Medicine.

Ullman, Dana, 1991. The One Minute (or so) Healer.

Tissue Salts

Calc. Fluor.asthma with yellow, lumpy expectorant;
Calc. Phos.Bronchial asthma, childhood asthma;
Kali Murasthma with digestive disorders present;
Kali Phos.Principal remedy - nervous asthma;
Mag. Phos.asthma with flatulkence, restriction of the chest, spasms;
Nat. Mur.asthma with clear, frothy expectoirant, runny eyes and nose;
Nat. Sulf.asthma in youth, worse from damp weather, greenish-yellow coating on the root of the tongue;
SiliceaHay asthma, onset of itchy, tingling nose;



4 tablets every 15 minutes during the acute stage, otherwise 3 or 4 times daily.

Herbal Approaches

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Herbs
-----------


Angelica sinensis or Dong Quai
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Ephedra
Ginseng
Hyssop
Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Lobelia
Mullein Leaves (Verbascum thapsus)
Pleurisy Root (Asclepius tuberosa)
Slippery Elm Bark (Ulmus fulva)
Wild Cherry Bark (Prunus virginiana)

Note: The misdirected use of an herb can produce severely adverse effects, especially in combination with prescription drugs. This Herbal information is for educational purposes and is not intended as a replacement for medical advice.

Discussion:

Angelica (Angelica sinensis or Dong Quai) inhibits the asthmatic response to inhaled antigens (dander, pollen etc.).

Chamomile is given during an asthma attack because it is antispasmodic and sedative. It is suited for babies and young children.

Chickweed (Stellaria media) has been a popular folk medicine for respiratory problems. It is an antibiotic against certain respiratory pathogens.

Ephedra is the main component of ephedrine (60 mg every 4 - 6 hours). It is stimulating (raising blood pressure, heart rate and cardiac output) but also has possible cardiac and teratogenic effects, so should be avoided altogether if pregnant.

Chinese medicine includes Ephedra (ephedrine) for asthma, although its usage needs to be carefully monitored, so that there is not over-stimulation nor weakening of the adrenal glands. Hence, traditional herbal combinations would provide support for the adrenals: licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and ginseng (Panax ginseng). They would also contain an expectorant (facilitate the release of secretions from the respiratory tract) such as: lobelia (Lobelia) or sundew (Drosera rotundifolia).

As with prescription medications, chronic use may require additional support, including potassium since licorice can deplete potassium stores.

Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicelensis) is rich in flavonoids, operating as an antioxidant to scavenge free radicals.

From Japan, there has always been an appreciation for green tea (Thea sinensis) which has antioxidant properties.

Euphorbia is commonly called the "asthma weed". It relieves spasm and can prevent asthma spasms if taken regularly.

Hyssop is valued for its essential oil which is valued against asthma and other respiratory disorders e.g. bronchitis.

Licorice Root inhibits two enzymes involved in asthma. (Inoue) Its antitussive effect has also been compared with that of codeine.

Mullein Leaves (Verbascum thapsus) soothes mucus membranes and also has expectorant properties.

Pleurisy Root (Asclepius tuberosa) earned its reputation during centuries of folk medicine. It acts specifically on respiration.

Slippery Elm Bark (Ulmus fulva) Its mucilage is beneficial for the throat (as well as the digestive tract).

Wild Cherry Bark (Prunus virginiana) is an expectorant which relieves respiratory distress.

Olive leaf and Yellow Jasmine root have not received approval status by the German Commission E as bronchodilators.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Hoffmann, D: The New Holistic Herbal. Element, 1983. Third edition 1990.

Inoue, H et al., Inhibitory effect of glycyrrhetinic acid derivatives on lipoxygenase and prostaglanding synthetase. Chem. & Pharm. Bull. 1986, 34:901.

Walji, H: Asthma & Allergies. Kian Press, 1997.

Aromatherapy - Essential Oils

Clary Sage EssenceHyssop Essence
Laurel EssencePine Essence
Sage EssenceThyme Essence



Related Health Conditions

Allergy
Bronchitis
Cough
Respiratory infections
Smoking
Stress

Abstracts

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