Q: I'm a 47-year-old male with asthma, which I've had since I was a kid. I'm looking for natural alternatives to prescription drugs. Can you help me? -Paul M., Lincroft, N.J.
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A: Asthma is on the rise because we live in an increasingly polluted world, which greatly increases stress on the immune system. Drug-based approaches to asthma focus on steroidal inhalers, which can increase the risk of developing diabetes or other endocrine problems when used long-term.
The good news is that while asthma cannot always be cured, it can be managed without drugs by a committed patient. Here is my natural prescription for asthma relief:
Calm Inflammation and Open Your Airways: There are two components to promoting lung health. The first is reducing inflammation, and the second is promoting bronchodilation, which means keeping your airways open. These are related, but distinct issues.
In an emergency situation where breathing is becoming labored, a general rule to remember is that substances that cause vasoconstriction-such as caffeine-typically promote broncho-dilation. A shot of espresso, in a pinch, will open your airways. Similarly, dipping your face into ice cold water also promotes the opening of airways. This is called the “drowning reflex.”
Use Kitchen Cures: For long-term management of asthma, regular use of the spice turmeric is one of my favorite ways to reduce inflammation systemically, as well as specifically in the lungs. Take ½ tsp. daily in a smoothie or just mixed with ¼ cup water before a meal. Turmeric is best absorbed with fat, and absorption is enhanced by black pepper. So, take it with food.
Another excellent kitchen remedy for healthy lungs is green tea. If you love green tea and can sip on 6-10 cups a day, that’s fantastic. If not, try adding ½-1 tsp. of matcha powder (ground green tea leaves) to a daily smoothie. The epicatechins in green tea are anti-inflammatory.
Contain Airborne Irritants: For the most part, asthma is caused by airborne irritants, so reducing this burden on the lungs is an important treatment strategy. People spend a large portion of their day in the bedroom. To that end, it’s important to use hypoallergenic bedding. Change your pillow frequently. Invest in a good air filter for the bedroom, and maybe your workspace as well.
Food Allergies May Be a Factor: Food allergies will further compromise the immune system, and these can be identified and more readily avoided than airborne irritants. For example, preservatives in packaged foods and processed meats, including food colorings, sulfites, and flavoring agents, are a potential trigger for asthma attacks. Work with a naturopathic doctor to identify and eliminate, your food allergens. To find a licensed naturopath in your area, go to naturopathic.org, the website of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.
Create an Anti-Asthma Supplement Plan: Vitamin B6 supplements (100 mg daily, ideally in the active pyridoxal-56-phosphate form) have been found in numerous studies to dramatically reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. Magnesium is another important nutrient for asthma sufferers. This mineral appears to work by improving bronchodilation and providing a natural antihistamine effect. Magnesium is also known as a muscle relaxant, and this benefit can extend to the lung’s bronchial tubes.
Some asthmatics also have difficulty coughing up mucous. In this case, effective herbal expectorants, including lobelia, licorice, and grindelia (a lesser-known herb that is often used in combination formulas for lung health), can help.
Did you know …
Suffering from asthma? A shot of espresso, in a pinch, will open your airways.