Are you one of the 20 million Americans affected by asthma – a chronic condition that has seen a 300% increase in prevalence over the last 20 years? If so, you’ve probably tried various drugs to avoid its symptoms, which include difficulty breathing, chest tightness and attacks of coughing or wheezing.
While many asthmatics can’t live without their prescribed medications, they’re not necessary for every sufferer – especially since one additive in commonly prescribed asthma drugs may contribute to 5,000 asthma-related deaths every year…in the US alone!
These 21 natural tips may help to lessen the recurrence or severity of your asthma symptoms (although you should always consult your doctor before implementing any new regimen).
Try some of the following tips to get your symptoms under control.
1. Keep an Asthma Diary
Every day, track your asthma symptoms to get a better grasp on your condition. This can help you discover your triggers and see patterns in your attacks. Your diary might include information like any asthma symptoms you experienced that day, what you were doing and where you were at the time of an attack, your medication, your diet, exercise etc.
Keeping all of this valuable data in one place will help you and your doctor lessen or prevent future attacks.
2. Get Some Sun
Despite its name, Vitamin D is actually a steroid hormone that our bodies produce when we get enough sunshine. And a whole body of research highlights Vitamin D’s important role in treating asthma.
After all, Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones, muscles, heart, brain and lungs. And what is asthma but a lung disease?
Research has found that a lack of Vitamin D is linked with a 50% increase in the risk of severe asthma attacks in children. Further studies show that Vitamin D from sun exposure during pregnancy significantly reduces the incidence of asthma in children.
Find out more about meeting your Vitamin D needs here.
3. Avoid Smoke
Even if you don’t smoke (and nobody should!) steer clear of those who do. Tobacco smoke is a powerful trigger of asthma symptoms. Not only does the smoke irritate the airways, but it damages tiny hair-like structures in the airways which remove dust and mucus, and prompts the lungs to make more mucus. All this leads to an accumulation of mucus in the airways, which could trigger an attack.
Shockingly, environmental tobacco smoke maybe even more harmful than actually smoking as the smoke that burns off the end of a cigar or cigarette contains more harmful substances than that inhaled by the smoker!
Likewise, the smoke from a fireplace or wood burning stove can set you up for an asthma attack. When the temperatures drop, dial up the thermostat or try one of these natural ways to stay warm instead.
4. Know Your Triggers
Knowing your triggers is a hugely important part of avoiding asthma attacks. It’s also one of the reasons why keeping an asthma diary is imperative. Anything from strongly scented foods to cold air or air fresheners can cause a flare-up so take note and take steps to avoid them in future.
5. Remove Home Allergens
Many people with asthma have allergies: dust mites, animal dander, mold, pollen and pests can all bring on an attack.
While no home can be 100% allergen free, eliminating as many of these potential triggers as possible can go a long way to ensuring you are in better control of your asthma symptoms.
Here are 13 ways to reduce home allergens.
6. Reduce Stress
While chronic stress isn’t healthy for anyone, it can be especially worrying for those with asthma. 69% of people with the condition consider stress to be an asthma trigger. That’s unsurprising, given that stress releases hormones in the body that send us into ‘fight or flight’ mode. They do this by increasing our heart rate and altering out breathing.
Learning how to cope with stress is an important strategy for asthmatics. Try exercise, massage, meditation, hydrotherapy or relaxing salt baths. Breathing techniques can be especially helpful in reducing stress and aiding asthma sufferers, as controlling breathing is key to managing an attack.
7. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Much research has found that obese people are more likely to experience more severe asthma symptoms than those with a normal body weight.
Since maintaining a healthy body weight is so important for asthma management, exercise plays an important role in any asthmatic’s treatment plan.
However, exercise can be a trigger for many so it’s important to discuss an exercise regimen with your doctor before trying anything new. As a general guideline, anything that involves short, intermittent periods of exertion – like gymnastics, interval running and golf – are well tolerated by people with asthma.
Activities that involve long periods of exertion – such as long distance running, basketball or soccer – can be problematic. Cold-weather sports can also trigger symptoms, whereas swimming can be very beneficial as it involves breathing in warm, moist air.
When participating in exercise, it can be helpful to warm up very slowly, and practice controlling your breathing – yoga can offer useful techniques in this respect.
As challenging as it can be to workout with asthma, it can be done! More than 20% of the US Olympic team competing in the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games reportedly had asthma, while 70% of top UK swimmers and 33% of professional British cyclists suffer from some form of condition.
Because yoga doesn’t involve long periods of exertion, and teaches methods to control breathing, it can be a fantastic workout for asthmatics.
In a study of adults with asthma, those undertaking yoga showed better lung function and less asthma symptoms when compared with a control group.
If you can’t join a class, why not try these yoga poses for asthma relief?
By applying manual pressure to certain points in the body, proponents of acupressure believe that the body’s lines of energy are stimulated, which promotes healing.
Here are 8 acupressure points that are said to alleviate the symptoms of asthma.
What we eat plays a huge role in determining our overall health so it’s not surprising that researchers now believe asthma is linked with diet. In addition to eating a well-rounded diet comprising fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fats and predominantly plant-based protein, the following dietary changes may help manage and prevent asthma symptoms in sufferers:
11. Eat Smaller Meals More Regularly
Because approximately 75% of people with asthma also suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), learning to manage one can help to manage the other, particularly as they can exacerbate and potentially trigger one another.
In addition to limiting foods that trigger your reflux, try to eat smaller, lighter meals more often and avoid lying down for two to three hours after eating.
12. Boost Vitamin C Intake
In a study of Japanese schoolchildren, researchers found that those with the highest intake of Vitamin C were less likely to suffer from asthma than those with lower intakes.
Vitamin C rich foods include bell peppers, broccoli, kale, kiwifruit, berries, tomatoes and papayas. Learn more about Vitamin C here.
13. Have a Coffee
Along with its other health benefits, caffeinated coffee acts as a mild natural antihistamine.
Research shows that drinking coffee can help open up the airways in asthmatics for up to four hours after consumption. Further research has found, when taken during an asthma attack, two cups of strong coffee can significantly reduce symptoms.
Of course, while this highlights caffeine’s ability to alleviate asthma symptoms, it’s not a suggested treatment to replace your doctor’s orders. If you are suffering an asthma attack, head straight for the nearest hospital without making a detour to Starbucks!
14. Cut Out Salt
Salt not only elevates blood pressure, and increases the risk of heart attack, but it has also been linked with an increased risk of death.
Men with asthma who have a high salt diet have been found to suffer physical deterioration and increased risk of death. Salt has also been linked in other studies to a higher risk of death in both men and children. Surprisingly, the research did not show an increased risk among adult women with the condition
And, researchers at Indiana University found that people with exercise-induced asthma experience improved lung function, fewer markers of inflammation and less constricted airways when following a low-sodium diet.
15. Use Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices have fantastic healing powers – they can even kill pain and fight inflammation. They’re also the ideal seasoning for your food instead of heart-unhealthy sodium.
In particular, ginger, turmeric and garlic are great for asthmatics:
- Adding ginger compounds to the asthma medication isoproterenol enhanced the drug’s ability to open up the airways.
- Garlic’s high allicin content may help improve asthma conditions. Learn more about garlic and allicin here.
- The Ayurvedic spice turmeric improves air flow, relaxes muscle spasms, restores normal breathing patterns, thins the blood and relieves asthmatic inflammation.
16. Eat Healthy Fats
Healthy fats, particularly those rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids, can help fight inflammation in the airways, and throughout the body. As the Standard American Diet (SAD) contains several times more omega 6 than omega 3, it sets us up for a whole range of illnesses.
To restore the balance of omega 3 to omega 6, eat omega 3 rich foods such as oily fish, seeds and nuts, especially walnuts. Avoid processed and fast foods and vegetable oils.
When it comes to omega 3s and asthma, several studies have found that fish and fish oil may be especially helpful in both preventing and treating the condition. For example:
- Teenage children of women who took fish oil during pregnancy were less likely to have developed asthma.
- Children who supplemented with fish oil for ten months were found to have fewer symptoms than those that didn’t.
17. An Apple a Day
There may be some truth in the old saying ‘an apple a day can keep the doctor away’.
Particularly if you choose red apples, which have powerful antioxidants in their skin that can act as a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory.
People who eat two to five apples a week have a 32% lower risk of asthma than people who eat less.
What’s more, pregnant women who eat four apples a week produce children who are 37% less likely to have a history of wheezing and 53% less likely to have doctor-confirmed asthma, compared with children whose mothers eat one or less apples per week while expecting.
18. Probiotics for Your Gut
Healing your gut is the most important thing you can do for your health – regardless of what condition you may have.
That’s because the gut houses 80% of your immune system. Eating probiotic foods, rich in friendly bacteria, is one of the first steps you should take on the road to better gut health.
Research shows that infants can be protected from getting asthma if they acquire certain types of gut bacteria. Those who already struggle with asthma will benefit from a good dose of probiotics as they fight inflammation.
Here are 12 of the best probiotic foods for your gut.
19. Increase Intake of Magnesium Rich Foods
Magnesium is by far the most important mineral for overall health, with research showing that it is a safe and effective adjunct treatment for moderate to severe asthma in adults. A magnesium deficiency is associated with smaller lung capacity and decreased airway flow.
Eat a varied diet filled with nuts (particularly almonds), seeds, tofu, leafy green vegetables, beans, potatoes and oatmeal to meet your magnesium needs. Consider supplementing with oral or topical magnesium, or take regular Epsom salt baths to boost your intake.
You can find out more about magnesium deficiency here.
20. Avoid Processed and Fast Foods
Because processed and fast foods contain omega 6 fatty acids – which promote inflammation and throw off the omega balance – they are best avoided by asthma sufferers.
These foods also contain questionable chemical colorings, flavorings and other additives like aspartame, some of which have been shown to trigger asthma attacks.
One study found that children who ate one or more hamburgers a week had a 75% higher risk of asthma and were almost 100% more likely to suffer wheezing problems.
21. Reduce Alcohol Intake
Consuming red wine in moderation offers cardio-protective effects, but asthma sufferers should be wary before imbibing.
33% of participants in one research study found that alcohol triggered their asthma symptoms, with red wine proving the most problematic. And these symptoms are twice as frequent in women than men according to another study.
Asthma is a very serious and potentially fatal condition. If you experience asthma symptoms for the first time, consult your doctor immediately. Those who are already being treated should follow their doctor’s orders and discuss with them any new lifestyle or dietary changes