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Asthma is a growing epidemic even though it isn’t contagious. Asthma affects 12-15 million Americans, including approximately 10%-12% of children under age 18. Asthma occurs at any age even though it seems to occur more often in people under the age of 40. There are strong links to family history and an increased prevalence in those who smoke, exposed to smoke or have allergies.  Asthma is usually caused or triggered by a reaction to something your respiratory system is sensitive to. The more frequent the contact or the severity of the exposure will often determine the severity of the attack. Triggers like Infections (cold, flu), tobacco smoke, weather changes, allergens (pollen, mold, etc.), strong emotions like anxiety or stress, exercise and even strong odors like perfumes and cleaning supplies may lead to an asthma attack.

People with asthma experience symptoms when their airways tighten, swell up, or fill with mucus. Common symptoms include: Coughing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest (pressure or pain) and wheezing.  Not every person with asthma has the same symptoms and the asthma attack symptoms can vary from one attack to the next.

Modern medicine usually treats this condition with anti-inflammatory drugs and bronchodilators (relax the smooth muscle that surrounds the bronchioles). It always amazed me as a pharmacist why more physicians didn’t address the root cause of the Asthma. Instead they prescribed symptom masking “treatments” addressed the issue. For example, I have seen a strong emotional tie to asthma in children. It is if they are barking like a dog to get attention or to say something they are afraid to say-Instead they cough. Or, what about allergies? We know now that the immune system can handle most of what you throw at it, but when the last straw ends up on the camels back, it breaks. I believe in dietary changes such as removing potentially offending foods like dairy and gluten containing foods. Removal of these food groups alone may be all you need to do so your body can handle the airborne allergens.

Beyond the dietary changes, I also like to look at the emotional link. Perhaps a fear of being able to cry out or feeling stifled can be the underlying cause of your asthma symptoms. I know may people may think that I just flaked out by saying there is an emotional tie, but even modern medicine is acknowledging this to be true. Again, this all goes along with my 4 Pillars of Great health. You need to take care of the whole person-not just the part you want to. Diet, Exercise, Emotional/Spiritual and Supplements all play a CRITICAL roll in your health.

With regards to supplements that will help you with asthma, the list is potential large. We will break it down into categories to best aid you in making the selection(s) that is right for you. The categories are Preventative such as Antioxidants, Anti-inflammatory supplements and Acute Needs such as bronchodilating and Anti-inflammatory. I realize that anti-inflammatory is listed twice, but these supplements can be effective at preventing an episode as well as help the body recover more quickly.

First let’s discuss Prevention. This should be the major objective of anyone with Asthma yet only seems to be important to those with more severe cases. It has been shown that people with low blood levels of selenium have a higher risk of developing Asthma. Selenium is an antioxidant and should be part of your Dietary Supplement Pyramid (DSP) if you have Asthma. In addition, other antioxidants like Lycopene (from tomatoes), and Vitamin C have also shown to be helpful for those with Asthma. Supporting the body’s ability to fight inflammation-a trigger for asthma-is just as important as using antioxidants. These supplements would fall into the special needs of your Supplement Pyramid. Herbs like Boswellia have shown to significantly reduce the number of asthma attacks and increase breathing capacity when taken on a regular basis. Quercetin has a duel action acting as an antioxidant and as an anti-inflammatory in the body. There still isn’t enough science to prove it works, yet I have seen it work great especially in those with asthma due to allergies.  Lastly, Fish Oil (Coromega ®-is my favorite) has so many positive actions in the body and proven benefits for those with Asthma.  As little as 300mg per day in children can help improve their asthma symptoms.

If you are one of those pay me later type of people and wait until you are having an asthma episode, Mother Nature can still help. Herbs like lobelia have shown to help relax the smooth muscle that surrounds your bronchioles and therefore can make breathing easier. Lobelia is also acts like an expectorant which is helpful at reducing inflammation and decrease coughing. Other expectorant herbs like marshmallow, slippery elm and mullein can also provide similar benefits-without the bronchial relaxing benefits. Boswellia is another herb that is effective in acute cases of asthma. Yes it was mentioned as part of a prevention program, but studies have also shown that it is helpful in acute cases of asthma.

Whatever your needs acute or chronic, the 4 Pillars of Great Health will provide you with the solutions to your respiratory woes. In “treating” asthma, all pillars are essential in ridding your body of this horrible condition. Some may say that diet is the most important, or perhaps the emotional link is critical. I say, that without supplementing, dietary changes, emotional changes and increased activity (when permitted) will be the only way to reach the goal of no more asthma attacks.