Asthma: Symptoms, Causes and Natural Support Strategies
Asthma is one of the most common inflammatory conditions of the lung. It is characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, bronchial spasm and reversible airflow obstructions. In this article, I will go over the major symptoms and root causes of asthma as well as some natural support strategies to improve immune and respiratory health.
Asthma is more of an immune imbalance than it is a lung disease (1, 2). When the immune system gets triggered it causes an inflammatory reaction to occur within the lung epithelial tissue. The bronchial tubes swell with fluid and mucous in order to isolate the insulting allergen. This swelling irritates the airways even further which results in an increased level of sensitivity.
Common environmental allergens that trigger the inflammatory immune response include mold, mites, dust, dander, chemicals & pollutants. It is critical to keep the home clean by using natural cleaning products with grape seed extract which is a potent anti-fungal that keeps mold down. Dust and vacuum the house regularly and use high quality air filters.
The most common food allergens include processed and refined foods of all kinds. Food additives and preservatives like sodium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, and sulfur dioxide have caused severe attacks in asthmatics (3, 4). Pasteurized dairy products, gluten containing grains, soy products, & peanuts are also highly inflammatory and mucous forming foods.
The MicroBiome and Asthma:
The gut microflora is responsible for 70% of our bodies innate immune response (5, 6, 7). The natural makeup should help the body recognize between safe environmental particles (pollen, dust, weeds, etc) and unsafe environmental particles (bad bacteria, fungal/yeast overgrowth and viruses).
When the gut microflora is altered early in life it can create an immune malcoordiation where the immune system is oversensitive to safe environmental particles. This may lead to seasonal allergies in some and auto-immunity and/or chronic inflammatory conditions such as asthma in others (8, 9, 10).
Asthmatics also have an altered lung microbiota. Asthmatic patients are found to have a much higher level of proteobacteria and streptococci bacteria. They had reduced levels of both bacteroidetes and firmicutes (11, 12).
Improve the Microbiome:
Asthmatic individuals need to really focus on improving their microbiome. This begins by reducing intake of anti-biotics and NSAID’s. These have a negative effect on the microbiome (13). An anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle is key for improving the microbiome and reducing inflammatory activity.
Anti-inflammatory foods help to modulate the immune system and give it a more accurate pair of eyes so as to not over-inflame when stimulated. To effectively de-inflame it is key to completely avoiding man-made foods, sugars and food allergens as listed above. The long chain omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA powerfully de-inflame the body by restoring natural balance to the lipid wall of the cell membrane (14).
Stabilizing the gut with high quality fermented foods such as red cabbage sauerkraut, kimchee, coconut water kefir, coconut milk kefir, coconut yogurt, raw milk kefir and amasai is very important. Apple Cider vinegar is very useful for providing useful enzymes and reducing mucous formation. Drink a glass of clean water with 1-2 Tsp of ACV throughout the day to reduce mucous and provide beneficial enzymes to help reduce inflammation.
Some individuals with asthma have a histamine intolerance and may not do well with fermented foods. Be careful to notice if you have challenges with fermented foods and they flare up your asthma symptoms or give you hives and allergy symptoms.
Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition Plan:
Other great anti-inflammatory foods include coconut products, berries and bone broth protein poweder. This protein source is also loaded with L-glutamine and enhances cellular glutathione stores which are both necessary for rebuilding the gut and de-inflaming the body. If the individual has a food sensitivity to whey they can use a high quality bone broth protein.
Red onions and garlic contain sulfur compounds and the anti-oxidant flavonoid quercetin. These components have been shown to inhibit an inflammatory enzyme associated with asthma and other inflammatory disorders. Anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric, ginger, boswellia, cinnamon, rosemary & oregano among others should be used as much as possible.
Good fibers called arbinogalactans from carrots, onions, radishes & jicama help to feed the gut microbiome and improve the diversity of beneficial species. Other good fibers include those found in seeds like pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and flax seeds.
Vitamin D Deficiency and Asthma:
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased rates of asthma. In over 60 years of research, scientists have found vitamin D deficiency linked to lower lung functions, increased airway reactivity and worse asthmatic control (15, 16).
Vitamin D plays a strong role in modulating the inflammatory immune response by blocking pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin 10. Asthma typically worsens in the winter and early spring when vitamin D is at its lowest.
5 Key Supplements for Respiratory and Immune Health:
These 5 nutrients are important for helping to improve the inflammatory response and support respiratory health. It is important to know that these strategies are not at this time FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure asthma and should not be confused as such.
1. Vitamin D3: Vitamin D3 is crucial for immune coordination in the body. Low levels of vitamin D3 are associated with chronic inflammation, asthma & allergies (17). I recommend getting high quality sun exposure on a regular basis or supplementing with 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 with 4.5 mcg of K2 per 25 lbs of body weight daily.
2. Probiotics: Probiotics play an important role in the gut microbiome and immune coordination. Studies have shown that supplemental probiotics are very effective at reducing allergy and asthma symptoms (18).
3. Quercetin & BioFlavonoids: Quercetin, dihydroquercetin (DHQ) and rutin are active bioflavonoids that modulate an exaggerated immune response. Bioflavonoids work synergistically with other antioxidants to protect tissues from the negative effects of oxidation and inflammation often observed during hyperimmune reactions (19).
4. Bromelein: Bromelain is an enzyme complex extracted from the stem and fruit of the pineapple. Its modulation of the inflammatory response is thought to exert a beneficial effect in combating hypersensitive immune reactions (20) Studies identified its positive effects on controlling edema, tissue permeability and vasodilation (21). Bromelain is also found to enhance the absorption of quercetin (22).
5. Stinging Nettle: Stinging nettle leaf has been found to regulate a variety of inflammatory activities associated with hyperimmune response, including mast-cell degranulation, prostaglandin formation, and histamine action (23, 24)
Chiropractic Care and Asthma:
Physical trauma to the upper cervical spine can impact the developing immune system of an infant or child. This form of trauma could include a slip or fall, a car accident, bad sleeping habits, or poor posture. This leads to an upper cervical (neck) subluxation that puts pressure on the brain stem.
Upper cervical subluxations lead to malcoordinated immunity which can lead to asthmatic reactions in many individuals (25, 26, 27). Chiropractic adjustments help to restore normal motion to the spine and optimal function to the neurological system. This modulates the immune system and reduces inflammation throughout the body.
Respiratory Health Support Strategies:
Here is a list of action steps to take to begin the process of improving respiratory and immune health. These strategies are not currently FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure asthma and should not be confused as such.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it is the first 10 steps to take and most people will see a significant improvement in overall respiratory health. You should always discuss any lifestyle change with your physician and this is especially important if you are taking medications.
1. Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition Plan: Follow an anti-inflammatory nutrition plan here
2. Boost Your Vitamin D3 Levels: You can do this by getting more whole body sun exposure and/or using a high quality supplement. I recommend a D3 with vitamin K2.
3. Heal Your Gut: Restore harmony to your gut through diet and proper supplementation.
5. Practice Deep Breathing: Take time to practice deep diaphragmatic breathing on a regular basis.
6. Regular Exercise: Get quality exercise on a regular basis.
7. Sleep Well: Prioritize sleeping and aim to get 8 hours with ideal hours being something along the lines of 10-6 or 11-7.
8. Chiropractic Care: Find a great chiropractor in your area for a complete spine and nervous system evaluation and follow the recommended treatment protocols.
9. Mental Imagery: Visualize yourself healthy and well – full of life, breathing deep and easy. What you picture and hold to strong enough in your mind, you will begin to manifest in your life. This is simple to do, empowering and FREE!!
10. Specific Supplementation: Use a high quality, immune support supplement with quercetin, vitamin C, rutin, N-Acetyl Cysteine, stinging nettle and bromlein. After much research, I helped to formulate Allergy Defense here