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Asthma


Asthma is a chronic lung condition that causes occasional or frequent difficulty in breathing. The airways of the lungs (bronchii) become constricted, chest muscles tighten and mucus is produced, all of which both of which further narrow the airways. Asthma sufferers tend to have more difficulty exhaling than inhaling, because the air passages of the small bronchi become clogged and constricted with mucus, thus making it difficult for the patient to breathe out. All asthmatics have more difficulty at night, especially during sleep.

The onset of asthma may be either gradual or sudden. Sudden onsets are often preceded by a spell of coughing which may be associated with itching of the chin, the back of the neck or chest. When the onset is gradual, the attack is usually brought on by respiratory infection.

Asthma symptoms can range from occasional wheezing or slight shortage of breath, to chronic coughing and wheezing, and shortage of breath verging on suffocation during severe attacks. A severe attack also causes an increase in heartbeat and respiratory rates and even when the attack has subsided, the sufferer may be left feeling restless, weak and fatigued. Very severe asthma is potentially fatal and must be treated medically.

For many asthma sufferers, the condition is bought on by an allergic reaction resulting from exposure to pollen, certain foods, drugs, perfumes and other irritants which vary from person to person. Allergies to house dust are among the most common, but other sensitivities can include dust from cotton fabrics, wheat, paper, animal skin and hair sheddings, fungi and insects, especially cockroaches. Foods which may cause allergic reactions are wheat, eggs, milk, chocolates, beans, potato, pork and beef. Stress is also a common contributing factor.

The root cause of asthma is thought to involve inappropriate auto-immune responses to triggers such as those listed above. One theory is that our ultra-hygienic lives mean that sometimes our immune systems never mature fully because we are not exposed to sufficient bacterial and fungal challenges when young, although other environmental factors such as exposure to mercury (for example in dental fillings) may be involved. Allergies in general are an indication of lowered resistance and metabolic problems which may be caused by poor nutrition.

The pharmaceutical industry has not been able to find an effective cure for this crippling disorder. The most commonly employed medications are bronchodilators such as Ventolin, usually taken by means of inhalers. These may temporarily relieve some of the symptoms of asthma, but have no effect on underlying causes. Most of these drugs gradually lose their effect, and the dose has to be increased from time to time to provide the same degree of relief. The frequent use of such drugs therefore tends to lead to dependency, severely increasing the difficulty of treatment by other means. There are also a number of common side-effects of commonly used corticosteroid inhalers, including reduced bone density, palpitations and anxiety, and puffiness of the face (‘moon face’).

Alternative Treatments

Some effective alternative therapies are available, but with the possible exception of yamoa (see below) are generally useful only for mild asthma symptoms. They are listed below in decreasing order of effectiveness when taken on their own (depending on personal factors, various combinations may exhibit increased effectiveness).

Please refer to linked pages (blue, underlined) for further information on specific supplements:

Yamoa

Yamoa is a herbal extract which offers real promise for the management of asthma, and may possibly offer a real remedy in many cases. It is derived from the bark of an African gum tree and is available both as a loose powder or as a refined extract which is normally packaged in capsules.

There is good research evidence that indicates that yamoa may not only reduce the severity of symptoms of asthma in around 70% of cases but may even effect a permanent cure in about a third of those treated.

Dosage

Raw powder: Approximately ¼ teaspoon of the raw powder taken twice a day for one month. Because yamoa is bitter tasting it is usually taken with honey, fruit juice or tea. A simple way to manage this is to thoroughly mix about 30g of yamoa powder into a 1lb/500g jar of honey, and keep the mixture refrigerated. Take one teaspoonful twice a day for at least one month, stirring well before use.

Capsules: If you use the refined capsule form, usually one capsule, twice a day is recommended.

The company linked through the graphic below can supply yamoa powder to UK and US customers.

 

Other herbs

These herbs are grouped together as they are said to be effective for preventing the progression of early-stage asthma, but no formal research appears to be available.

Garlic

A small clove of garlic, minced and incorporated in other food twice a day, or a couple of garlic ‘pearls’ taken twice daily.

Ginger tea

Ginger tea should be taken twice daily, preferably morning and evening.

Turmeric

A spoonful (2-3 g) of turmeric powder with a glass of milk two or three times daily. It acts best when taken on an empty stomach.

Boswellia

Boswellia is an anti-inflammatory which many people have reported, can reduce the severity of asthma attacks. Recommended dose is 150mg taken three times a day.

Omega 3 oils

Regular supplementation with omega 3 oils derived from fish appear to considerably reduce both the progression of asthma and the severity of asthmatic attacks, probably due to their role in modulating the immune system. A shortage of these essential nutrients is widespread in the Western diet, and may be a significant factor in the steady rise of auto-immune diseases including asthma.

It should be noted however that plant-derived omega 6 oils have been observed to have inflammatory properties that could initiate or intensify asthma attacks, and should be avoided.

Butterbur

Research carried out at the University of Dundee found that butterbur added to the anti-inflammatory effect of inhalers. Another study showed that the number, duration, and severity of asthma attacks decreased, and symptoms improved after using butterbur. More than 40 percent of people taking part in this trial had reduced their use of inhalers by the end of the study.

Caution: The raw herb, or teas, extracts, and capsules made from the raw herb contain substances called pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can be toxic to the liver and kidneys and may cause cancer. Only commercial standardised extracts that have been treated to remove these alkaloids should be taken. Intake of pyrrolizidine alkaloids must not exceed one microgram per day.

MSM and molybdenum

MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) has also proven useful for treating asthma. Start with 2000mg of MSM per day and also take a multivitamin containing 50 to 150 micrograms of molybdenum as this is a cofactor required to ensure it is metabolised.

Antioxidants

It is also important for asthma sufferers to take antioxidants - especially vitamins A, C, and E, carotenoids, and selenium. This helps to reduce the irritating effects of airborne free radicals, which can provoke an asthma attack.

Magnesium

Magnesium has been shown to reduce the risk of developing asthma and might also be helpful in reducing severity of symptoms as it helps to dilate the bronchioles. The recommended dosage of magnesium is 200-600 mg/day.

 

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