Asthma is on the rise, afflicting one in 10 children and one in 12 adults in the United States, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Among children, it is the most common chronic disease.
Although there is no known cure, some contributing factors have been identified. Not surprisingly, air pollutants increase risk for asthma. And food additives can be major triggers. In a British school, a month after TV chef Jamie Oliver introduced additive-free meals, teachers noticed many asthmatic children no longer needed their medications during the school day.
Sulfites are a common culprit, in dried fruit, trail mixes, many kids' drinks, wine, balsamic and some wine-based vinegars, cured meats, and other processed foods. However, sulfite-free versions are available in most cases.
Food intolerance, which causes a delayed reaction to a food that may be difficult to connect, can be another factor. Common offending foods include dairy, eggs, soy, gluten or other components of wheat, sugar and artificial sweeteners, peanuts, and corn. Nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, and chili peppers, as well as paprika and cayenne pepper, can also trigger symptoms in some highly sensitive people.
The trick is to identify offending foods by a process of elimination. Avoiding food additives, for example, may be a starting point. And, try preparing fresh, organic foods rather than eating packaged ones.
Magnesium is Basic Therapy
"Magnesium is an excellent treatment for asthma because it is a bronchodilator and an antihistamine, naturally reducing histamine levels in the body," says Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, and author of The Magnesium Miracle. "It has a calming effect on the muscles of the bronchial tubes and the whole body." Some research highlights:
- In a study published in the Journal of Asthma, researchers found that 170 mg of magnesium, twice daily for six months, improved lung function among asthmatic men and women between the ages of 21 and 55.
- A study of more than 800 children, published in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, found that low levels of vitamin D and magnesium correlated with asthma. Dean points out that magnesium is essential for converting vitamin D into an active form, so both vitamins are essential.
Magnesium: Needs vary among individuals. Excess amounts will cause loose stools but are not toxic. To increase levels of the mineral, look for a supplement containing only magnesium, either in pills or as a powder that can be mixed with water or juice.
Pycnogenol: Studies have used 100 mg daily for adults or 1 mg per pound of body weight, up to 200 mg daily.
Herbal and homeopathic formulas: Follow product directions.
More Natural Remedies
Many natural products for lung health can help with asthma, including:
- Pycnogenol: A special extract of French maritime pine bark, Pycnogenol has reduced symptoms and dependency on medication in studies of both children and adults.
- Bee propolis: A protective substance made by honey bees from tree sap, propolis can improve breathing and reduce nighttime attacks. (A proprietary propolis water extract, PWE, found in NaturaNectar Throat Guardian spray, has been tested in a study of adults.)
- Herbal formulas: Mullein is a traditional bronchial soother and may be combined with boswellia, other herbs, and nutrients with antihistamine properties, such as quercetin.
Natural Care Lung-Saver features an herbal blend including boswellia to promote normal respiratory function and efficiency.
Red Remedies Lung Care supports the respiratory system and breathing capacity with key ingredients including magnesium.
Nature's Answer Mullein Leaf helps to soothe bronchial passages with a full-spectrum of key herbal constituents in a concentrated capsule.