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ASTHMA: A Complex Respiratory Condition

FeaturesASTHMA: A Complex Respiratory Condition

Hello everyone. ASTHMA -a respiratory condition, is, hands down, the leading cause of disability and disease in children and teens—ages 2 to 17—according to the American Medical Association (AMA). In the United States, alone, one out of 40 people are asthma sufferers, with 65% of sufferers developing asthmatic symptoms before the age of 5. This is our discussion today: Asthma, its symptoms, naturopathic interpretations, and recommended treatments.

SPRINGTIME IS HERE, plenty of warm, balmy winds and rain in California, everything is beautiful, love is in the air, colorful flowers are blooming, and pollen is blowing everywhere . . . but, pollen in the air also means: difficult, obstructed breathing for asthma sufferers and those who suffer from hay fever. So, let’s talk “Asthma.” Asthma generally manifests itself in the form of an “asthma attack.” Between these attacks, an asthmatic will usually seem perfectly healthy. An attack may be characterized by a narrowing of the bronchial passages which makes it difficult to breathe. An attack may begin with an unproductive cough, followed by rapidly progressing difficulty in breathing. Breathing becomes prolonged and labored, resulting in wheezing. Respiration may not increase; however, expiration is what is prolonged (inhaling and exhaling). Wheezing may be heard from a distance, across the room where the asthmatic person is. If the asthmatic has excessive mucous, then a “rattling” sound along with the wheezing may also be heard in the chest area.

(AS A SIDEBAR: During my childhood, I too was an asthma sufferer? I developed asthma when I was about 6 years of age. I had the worst allergic reaction to cat dander. I am still a cat lover. However, I have outgrown and fully rid myself of asthma since I was 12 years old. This was accomplished with the utilization of a strict, daily Naturopathic regimen—building up my immune system—that my mother initially engendered, and I continued to follow through, coupled with special daily exercises, as an adult. I built up my exercise stamina over many years, from childhood and later into adulthood. Now, my exercise workouts include weight-bearing exercises, abdominals, cardiovascular exercises, i.e., walking, gardening, and deep breathing Yoga exercises. These are good exercises not just for asthmatics, but for anyone.)


A number of allergic and environmental agents can bring on asthma attacks, including pollen, cat dander, dust or dust mites, mold, animal dander, feathers, textiles such as cotton and flax, detergents, petrochemicals, air pollution, and smoke (I still cannot tolerate the smell of cigarette smoke). According to my research at the University of Southern California (my alma mater), James Braly, M.D., Medical Director of the Immuno Labs in Fort Lauderdale, Florida stated: “Wheat, milk, and eggs [for some asthmatics; not necessarily all] may be among the most likely foods that may trigger an asthma attack.” According to Dr. Braly, “Chemical additives such as food coloring and food preservatives can also be at fault. Sensitivity to aspirin, exposure to cold air,” and for some people, even physical over-exertion could prompt an asthmatic reaction. Respiratory problems may be caused by any number of factors, including viral and bacterial infections, pollen, environmental pollution, and smoking. Even a poor quality diet, food toxins, allergies, a stressful and inactive lifestyle, and the misuse of antibiotics may manifest in a variety of symptoms related to any of a number of respiratory conditions. These conditions include bronchial asthma, bronchitis, hay fever, pneumonia, sinusitis, emphysema, and lung cancer. People who have allergic reactions to pollen are only a subgroup of a larger group of respiratory sufferers who have sensitivities commonly associated to all kinds of environmental aggravations, such as dust, cat and dog dander, mold spores, foods, medications, insect bites, even perfume. These allergens can cause a host of symptoms, including hives, eczema, digestive disorders, breathing difficulties, headaches and even chronic fatigue syndrome.


My research indicates that respiratory conditions, such as, asthma, hay fever, and so on, are really disorders of the immune system. Just as your immune system is activated by a virus or bacteria, it also interprets a grain of pollen or dust particle as an intruder. Therefore, whenever a person already has a weakened immune system, from dealing with chronic food allergies or a vitamin deficiency, such as vitamin C, it tends to create a more severe reaction to pollen and other allergens. Your immune system may also be weakened by other sources of environmental pollution such as cigarette smoke, auto exhaust, or dust—that is, house dust or outside dust. (NOTE: We’ll discuss the hazards of smoking in a later column.)

A variety of naturopathic/alternative treatments exist for respiratory conditions, including diet and nutrition, herbal medicine, hydrotherapy (very warm to hot water therapies), and homeopathy. Even though I am a naturopathic doctor, I do not discount orthodox medical remedies, if they work, then by all means use them. The ultimate result of all medicinal treatments should promote the healing of humanity. Traditional medicine usually utilizes remedies with antihistamines, oral drugs, certain nose drops/sprays, or albuterol sulfate aerosol inhalers. Also, prednisone—a cortisone derivative, may cause severe adverse reactions, including fluid and electrolyte disturbances, muscle weakness, peptic ulcers, headaches and dizziness, to name a few side effects.


ON THE OTHER HAND: Naturopathic medicine recommends a diet of high-fiber, whole foods including generous amounts of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and raw seeds may be helpful in combating mucous production in the sinuses. It is also helpful to drink lots of fluids. Raw juices, in particular, are beneficial—especially juices made from carrot, celery, beet, cucumber, spinach, and parsley. I highly recommend getting a juicer and juicing up: carrots, parsley, garlic, beets and celery, and drink this concoction once a day. One to two teaspoons of cod liver oil (or extra virgin olive oil) taken first thing in the morning, every day will eliminate mucous buildup (a problem for asthmatics), and build the immunity. This is also a good way to clean and nourish your colon. Hot ginger and cinnamon bark tea (brewed at home) and drunk at night is especially great for eliminating mucous, aid relaxed breathing, and gives calm, deep sleep. Please work on building your immune system with a good tonic, as well. Fresh fish or hot fish tea/soup steamed with onions, lots of garlic, and parsley is recommended. Increase your vitamin C intake (hot rose hips tea or fresh mint tea are also good).

Naturopathic medicine dictates that when a person has a strong immune system and a clean colon, disease and illness will have no room to survive. For asthmatics, while you’re working on building immunity, do avoid those allergens that may trigger asthmatic attacks (i.e., food allergens like: milk and milk-based products, for some of you—always check with your doctor, first, if you’re not sure). Walking is great exercise, and inhaling clean air (at the beach, cays, or even in the countryside areas where it’s green and clean). Hope these recommendations will help you because the advantages of using natural methods and treatments bear no side effects or adverse reactions, and nature’s way does work. Have a healthful, stress-free week. In the meantime, take a walk on the beach or in the countryside and inhale deeply.

Dr. Pam Reyes is Chairwoman of Caribbean Educational Media, a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, dispersing information on health, educational & legal issues, and exploring the information & communication highway of the present and future, via the media of the Internet, print journalism, nonprofit public radio & television, and nonprofit public participation.

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