By Dr. Loreen Dawson, BSc ND
Recently, on our Coast Cable community TV show, Health Matters, we filmed an entire episode on the topic of asthma. This prompted me to write this article about this common and serious condition.
If you are one of the 2.5 million Canadians with asthma, you know that sometimes it can be hard to just breathe. Wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and tightness in your chest can range from mild to moderate to life threatening. A fast acting puffer can be lifesaving during an acute attack, but did you know that naturopathic medicine can be extremely effective at reducing the frequency and severity of asthma attacks using safe and natural methods?
If you have asthma, there are several things going wrong in your lungs. Your airways become inflamed. Your bronchial passages get tight or constricted. And, often, there is too much sticky mucus in your breathing tubes. This can make it difficult for air to easily move in and out of your lungs. Without enough air flow, you feel short of breath, anxious or even panicky. These symptoms can get better or worse day to day, or minute to minute, which creates unpredictability and stress.
One challenge in treating asthma is that symptoms can have many triggers. There are dozens of known triggers, and these vary a lot between individuals. It is important to understand that the vast majority of things that trigger asthma symptoms in you do not trigger asthma symptoms in other people. Most of the time asthma symptoms happen because your lungs are overreacting to something that doesn’t bother most other people. Once we discover what you are reacting to, we are well on our way to asthma relief.
The first step is to know what your triggers are. Keeping an asthma diary is one way to learn your triggers. Some people are triggered by pets, dust or strong odours. While it is a great idea to minimize dust and eliminate perfumes and strong scents in your home, getting rid of your pet isn’t a step that most people want to take. One patient’s asthma was triggered by cats, but she didn’t want to get rid of her cats. By working with her to reduce overall inflammation and constriction in her lungs, and improve how her immune system works, she stopped being triggered by her cats, was able to greatly reduce her asthma symptoms, minimize use of her puffers, and keep her cats. She was relieved, and her cats were able to stay in their home.
The naturopathic approach to asthma also addresses the underlying symptoms of inflammation, constriction and mucus by looking at the potential causes of these symptoms. For example inflammation can be caused by a wide variety of factors including food sensitivities, nutritional deficiencies, stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, chronic infection and environmental irritants. Identifying and addressing each of these helps reduce inflammation, which reduces asthma symptoms. Similarly, we look at and address the causes of constriction and excess mucus. In one patient with quite severe asthma we discovered she was sensitive to dairy products. Addressing her triggers, strengthening her body, and eliminating dairy products reduced the inflammation, relaxed the constrictions, and decreased the excess mucus. She was able to reduce her medications AND have better lung function. This allowed her to be more active, less anxious and enjoy her life without worrying so much about her asthma.
Reducing or eliminating asthma symptoms is not as easy as just taking this herb or that vitamin. As with all chronic conditions, the naturopathic approach to asthma is individualized. We take a long, deep look at you and your specific situation and work with you to identify and eliminate the root causes of your asthma symptoms.
If you are ready to get relief from your asthma symptoms using naturopathic medicine, please call to book an appointment. Still not sure if naturopathic medicine can help you? Please call the clinic and schedule a 20 minute, complimentary Asthma Discovery Session to explore if and how we can help you.
I look forward to working with you.
PS. The Coast Cable community TV show, Health Matters, can be viewed on the community channel on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 12:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.. The current episode is on asthma.