It’s allergy season, and I’ve seen quite a few patients recently with difficulty breathing. I’ve also had several whose asthma has been triggered by acute URIs (upper respiratory infections). Here’s what I tell those patients.
Why You Have Asthma
Asthma is a hyper-reactivity of your airways due to inflammation. Inflammation is your immune system’s non-specific response to anything it doesn’t like, which may be a real threat (like a pathogen or a toxin), or it may be something otherwise harmless in and of itself, like food or pollen or your dog (i.e. allergies). But there’s always an underlying reason for it. The trick is to identify what it is.
- Toxicity: If you developed asthma after an acute exposure to some sort of toxin (such as a moldy building, getting new carpets or otherwise breathing in a lot of solvents), then this is likely the culprit. If that’s the case, liver cleansing is probably in order.
- Acute infections: If you tend to get asthma only when you get sick, chances are that you actually do have environmental and/or food allergens (below), but your body is usually able to handle them just fine. It’s only when your immune system is compromised or otherwise occupied that these threats are suddenly able to wreak some havoc. Sometimes patients whose adrenals have been weakened by acute or prolonged stress also experience an asthma flare for the same reason (their “threshold” for insults is lower than it used to be). In this case, we’d have to do two things: treat either the acute infection or the adrenal fatigue, and also address the environmental and/or food allergens.
- Environmental allergies: For patients with seasonal allergies, this is the obvious culprit— at which point I run a blood test to identify which of the local flora and fauna trigger your symptoms. Then I ship off an order to a compounding pharmacy to create a sublingual allergy spray quite similar to allergy shots in its efficacy (but a lot more convenient, and without the needles). This trains your immune system not to overreact to these triggers.
- Food allergies: This is unbelievably common, and there’s almost always at least some element of this at play in chronic asthma cases. There are several possible reasons for why food allergies are so common nowadays; I wrote an article about them here. This also may include an allergy to food additives, by the way.
- Exercise-induced: This one is probably most perplexing, because it seems like the trigger is exertion. However, often exertion is just another mechanism for lowering the body’s threshold to cope with a burden it can otherwise handle; usually, this is also a hidden toxicity, environmental or food allergy.
Treatment for Asthma
This is one of those situations where I’m not opposed to prescribing medications. I will give rescue inhalers for acute episodes of asthma, and for severe chronic cases I may even do a short round of corticosteroids to decrease inflammation and patient distress, while addressing some of the root issues mentioned above.
Whether or not pharmaceuticals are necessary in the short-term, there are also a few other treatments that help minimize acute distress.
- Pound the antioxidants. In more acute or severe cases I will nebulize them, but regardless, you should be getting them in your diet. (Actually you should be doing this no matter what.) A good rule of thumb: the more colorful your diet in fruits and veggies, the more antioxidants you’re eating, and the healthier you’re going to be.
- Take your essential fatty acids. A very effective natural anti-inflammatory, this one is a must for just about everybody. (Read the linked article to see why.)
- Homeopathy. Works like a charm, if you get the right remedy for your particular kind of asthma, and does absolutely nothing if you get the wrong one. It’s cheap, safe, and therefore one of my favorite treatments. I add this in to the protocol for asthma almost every time.
- Identify and remove the cause. Do you need liver cleansing? Do you need food allergy testing? Do you need environmental allergy testing? Other treatments may help to get you out of the acute episode, but they won’t prevent the next one. As always, it’s critical to identify and remove the root cause.