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Asthma is an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of the upper airways that is commonly accompanied by chest tightness, wheezing, difficulty breathing and coughing. Over the past 20 years the incidence of Asthma has increased by 300 percent. Let’s take a closer look at the condition and what may be triggering this staggering increase.
The jury’s still out when it comes to the causes of Asthma but there is a growing body of research suggesting that diet is one of the key culprits. There is also evidence pointing towards an increase in exposure to chemicals and even evidence pointing towards a lack of natural sunlight.
The potential triggers for asthma vary from person to person. They include physical activity, respiratory infections, cold air, air pollutants, stress, additives and preservatives in processed food, menstrual cycle, airborne allergens (pollen, animal hair, etc.) and food allergens.
The most common conventional treatment for Asthma is inhaling an anti-inflammatory agent to help relax and open up the airways. In severe cases steroid based medicines are prescribed. In emergencies there is no doubt that these strong medications are necessary but they do come with a number of serious side effects (increased risk of heart attack, cardiovascular disease, infections & cataracts). Furthermore these medications only treat the symptoms and do nothing whatsoever in regards to eliminating the illness.
Luckily for Asthma sufferers there is an enormous amount one can do through changing diet and lifestyle to reduce the likelihood and severity of an attack. Let’s take a look.
For starters a diet high in whole foods is very important. One study comparing children raised in rural areas who consumed lots of fruits and vegetables with children raised in urban areas who ate little showed that even after making concessions for pollution there was three times as much Asthma amongst the children in urban areas. This is thought to be because of the increased intake of important antioxidants. In other studies it has been shown that children who eat more whole grains and less meat enjoy far greater protection from Asthma.
Another important dietary consideration is Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. In general most people eat too few omega-3s and far too many omega-6s. When omega-6s become to numerous in the body an increase of inflammation of the airways and the lungs become more sensitive to irritants. Omega-6s are commonly found in sunflower oil, corn oil, safflower oil and processed snacks. Omega-3s on the other hand help reduce inflammation and also help nourish cell walls. Some good sources of omega-3 include walnuts, canola oil, flaxseed oil, hemp oil & fish oils. Although still very healthy, plant based omega-3s have been shown to have a less pronounced anti-inflammatory effect than animal based omega-3s. Some studies have shown that children who eat fish regularly are 75 % less likely to develop asthma.
There are also findings that suggest an increased intake of calcium and magnesium may reduce incidence of asthma. A great source of both of these is tahini. Other general foods to consider including in your diet include bell pepper, apple, yam, Jerusalem artichoke, walnuts, onion, chili peppers, orange, coffee, pumpkin, cabbage, honey, kava, olives, apricot, guava, blackcurrants, green chili pepper, strawberries, brussel sprouts, kiwi, papaya, snow peas, baby corn and red cabbage
Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to be common amongst asthma sufferers. Helping alleviate your asthma may be as simple as working on your tan. When sun bathing try to expose large areas of skin to the sun’s rays, allowing skin to start taking on some colour but avoiding getting burnt (be particularly careful in countries with little ozone). If living somewhere that’s not so convenient for sunbathing oral supplementation is possible but be sure not exceed amounts prescribed by a professional as too much Vitamin D can have strong side effects.
Cleanliness is close to godliness… perhaps not! Getting down and dirty with the microbes has been shown to be beneficial for the immune system. Man’s separation from the natural world and our obsession with its destruction both outside the house and in is also having detrimental effects on our health. As we are becoming exposed to bacteria and viruses less and less our immune systems seem to be suffering more and more. Exposure to bacteria and viruses at a young age plays an important role in boosting immunity and helping prevent asthma and other autoimmune diseases.
Last of all getting regular exercise plays an important role in overall health and has been shown to improve asthmatic symptoms. Avoid intensive cardio as this may in fact trigger an asthmatic attack and instead opt for low intensity cardio (i.e.; walking, relaxed swimming), resistance training and exercise aimed at relaxing the body and increasing suppleness are also beneficial. Aim for regular sessions of short length and low intensity.
• Poor nutrition
• Exposure to pollution & chemicals
• Lack of exposure to sunlight, bacteria and viruses
• Physical activity
• Respiratory infections
• Cold air
• Air pollutants
• Additives and preservatives
• Airborne allergens
• Food allergens
• Organic Whole Foods
• More vegetables and fruits
• More whole Grains
• Getting down & dirty
• Regular low intensity exercise
• Too much meat
• Processed sugars
• White flower
• Excessive omega-6 consumption
• Preservatives & additives
• Being neurotic about cleanliness
• Intense cardio workouts