Note: Please seek professional medical or naturopathic advice to discuss if these options are suitable for you and your body before changing your current asthma management plan.
Asthma is a potentially life-threatening health condition, and it is not surprising that people who suffer from asthma are very cautious about which course of treatment to take. In this article, we’re going to have a look at a quick overview of what asthma is about and what naturopathic treatment options are available to help you. We’ll look at both modern medicine and naturopathic approaches to asthma treatment to help you make the right decision for you.
Asthma is an immune response to an allergen
It means that your immune system overreacts and inflammation kicks in to “protect” the body.
Conventional medicine tends to focus on the respiratory organs when it comes to an asthmatic reaction. The immune overreaction does happen in the respiratory system: the airways narrow down, mucous is released in copious amounts, which makes breathing even more difficult.
Most often a person with asthma finds it hard to exhale rather than inhale. The reason is that the diaphragm can force the air out, but not in. And when you’re out of breath, when your body is in panic, fight or flight mode, inhalations are more rapid and forceful, often through the mouth, and exhalations are shorter and faster as well, but because of the congestion and narrowed bronchi, one gets the feeling of suffocation.
So it makes sense to open up the bronchi and to reduce the inflammatory response (mucous formation). And conventional western medicine can do it quite effectively with the use of steroids and bronchodilators.
Some doctors do some further investigations to see what the triggers are – pollen, dust, pets’ dander, etc.
And here I always ask the questions:
- What does that information give us?
- How does it help you to get better?
- Can you avoid the pollen, that is all around us on an annual basis?
- How thorough can one get with house cleaning?
And common sense tells us:
“Yes, it is good to know one’s asthma trigger, if it is possible at all to identify it, but sometimes it does not help to manage the condition.”
Some naturopathic approaches to asthma treatment
Naturopathically, we look at an immune system response holistically, which means no system or organ in the body works separately.
This is one of the most definitive features of naturopathic medicine.
If we take asthma as an example, the weakest link in the body – the respiratory organs – is affected when the immune system overreacts to a trigger.
But WHY there is an immune response in the first place?
WHY doesn’t everyone reacts to pollen, dust, dander, certain foods?
A naturopath looks for the root cause of your asthma
Most often, it is the integrity of the gut that needs to be addressed. You might have heard of the term “leaky gut”. It is a condition when the intestinal wall permeability is compromised, and allergens can enter the bloodstream in their whole form, and they are met by the body as foreign invaders. How do we develop “leaky gut”?
Many possible scenarios, but all comes down to nutrition (and maintaining healthy microbiome in the gut) and stress.
The root cause MUST be addressed with any health condition. And this is where I feel that mainstream medicine fails us.
Going back to pathophysiology and management of asthma, once the condition is established, the body goes into the pattern of dysfunctional breathing.
A dysfunctional breathing pattern is all or some of the following:
- Mouth breathing (frequent or rare)
- Chest breathing (engaging the muscles of the chest more than the diaphragm)
- Shallow breathing (which is another way to describe chest or vertical breathing)
- High respiration rate (breaths per minute)
- Inhalation is longer than exhalation
Once you have those signs, the following symptoms develop:
- Lack of energy
- Not feeling refreshed even after a prolonged night sleep
- Dry mouth/lips
Breathing is our vital force
Once it is out of balance, it throws many body systems out of balance as well:
- Respiratory alkalosis (when you do not accumulate enough CO2) leads to systemic acidosis (acidic environment in the body)
- Digestive complaints due to over-breathing/ hyperventilation
- The heart works harder when breathing is affected, hence more risk for cardiovascular diseases, especially hypertension
- Sleep issues, anxiety and other nervous system disorders as breathing and our nervous system affect each other
Do you recognise any of those signs, symptoms and effects from asthmatic breathing?
So, what is on offer to manage asthma in modern medical science?
- Various types of medication. If you are curious, sign up to my FREE webinar about asthma and learn all about it.
- Physiotherapy through breathing exercises. I only know of one place where it is offered in Melbourne, Victoria. The waiting list is as long as an ancient scroll and you might need to go through a qualification process (i.e. be a severe asthmatic)
That’s from conventional medicine.
It doesn’t cure asthma, asthma is considered a life-long condition (unless it “spontaneously” doesn’t go away). It also does not prevent (only through hormonal anti-inflammatory medication) asthma episodes either.
What do naturopathic approaches to asthma treatment offer?
These are the main naturopathic approaches for asthma treatment:
- Herbal medicine to reduce the inflammatory response, to boost the immune function, to minimise mucous formation and keep the tissues healthy in general, to regulate sleep if it has been affected, to improve digestive function.
- Nutrition – this is our first port of call to address the immunity and wellbeing. We review the diet, set goals, utilise nutraceuticals when needed.
- Functional breathing re-training program – an absolute must for any asthmatic person. Re-training the receptors in the respiratory centre of the brain to a healthy O2/CO2 levels, re-training the primary breathing muscles, working on 360° breathing. Based on the Buteyko breathing method, which has been trialled even here in Australia in early 90-s at Mater Hospital in Brisbane with great results, the program offers a long-lasting solution to dysfunctional breathing pattern for asthma sufferers.
As always, I encourage you to ask questions, to exercise curiosity.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to health, diet, exercise. But there is common sense and I urge you to apply in in all areas of your life.
Remember the rule of 3: on average, we can survive 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water and only 3 minutes without AIR.
Breathing is the cornerstone of health and you must address your health priorities in the order of importance – air, water, food.
Naturopathic Support & Advice for Asthmatics
To better understand Asthma and the naturopathic treatment options available to asthmatics, watch this free video series.
For personalised advice on naturopathic treatment options that would benefit you, please book a consultation with Naturopath Julia Rudakova or consider the Functional Breathing Program.