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An estimated 15 million Americans (about 6% of the population) have asthma. From 1990 to 1994, the number of asthmatics increased from 10.4 million to 14.6 million. Among people ages 5 to 24, the asthma death rate almost doubled during the period from 1980 to 1993.
What is asthma? Medical authorities admit that, despite the "substantial advances" in understanding the characteristics, origin, and development of the disease, "we do not have a definition of asthma that is applicable to all cases..." There is no single biological marker, no clinical test. There are various symptoms, multiple causal factors, different responses to medical treatment, and different outcomes. Asthma is a growing "medical concern" in industrialized countries and urban settings around the globe with no slowdown in sight. So far, the medical establishment is desperately attempting to find an answer but is still scratching its proverbial head.
Asthma is thought to be "a complex genetic disorder" since family members often share symptoms. However, "genetic markers for asthma remain to be conclusively identified." The search for a genetic connection has, so far, been little more than a "glorious fishing expedition." And, "environmental factors are still likely to be the primary determinants..." Families share the same environment (toxic exposures), eat off the same table (nutritional deficits). and can pass along resultant biochemical alterations or weaknesses to offspring.
Babies with lower birth weights and reduced lung function are more likely to develop asthma. Maternal smoking during pregnancy is a consistent risk factor for childhood asthma. Use of opioids (drugs) in labor, cesarean section, and infant illness (with medical treatment) in the first week of life also up the odds. Breast-feeding is protective whereas formula feeding may prompt asthma.
Atopy (at' o pi - a term used clinically to apply to a group of diseases of an allergic nature) is considered the strongest risk factor for development of asthma. This is a hypersensitivity or allergic reaction for which there is a "genetic predisposition." Thus, exposure to dust mites, pets like cats (dander, hair), cockroaches, molds, pollen, or other air particles may trigger symptoms. But people have been exposed to these and other natural substances throughout history. Asthma cases have burgeoned in recent years and this is not a genetic indicator. The variation in the prevalence of asthma is "striking" between different areas throughout the world. The level of industrialization is the dividing marker. Respiratory disorders are "much more common in polluted and crowded" areas.
"Asthma is a disease of the industrialized 21st century. First described in the mid- 1800s, it may have existed before that time, but was very rare. It is still rare in developing countries. But in the developed world in the last two decades, asthma rates have skyrocketed - doubling in the United States since 1980."
Evidence abounds for environmental determinants. Outdoor air pollution is indicated - urban pollutant concentrations, motor vehicle exhaust, smoke and gases emitted by industrial sources, and more. Tiny fragments of rubber from tires in traffic can trigger severe reactions. Catalytic converters in automobiles explode minute particles of platinum into the atmosphere. Occupational asthma is common with over 250 causative agents reported so far, primarily poisonous chemicals or human altered substances. Painters, bus drivers, beauticians, textile workers, farmers, oil industry workers, printers, plastics workers, pharmaceutical and medical-care workers, and others are among those at risk.
Indoor air pollution seems to be more of a risk than outdoor pollution. Tobacco smoke, dirty ventilation ducts or poor ventilation itself, oxides of nitrogen from gas appliances, heaters, stoves or oil boilers, accumulation of pesticide residues, and other pollutants are all contributors. Exposure to formaldehyde vapors and other volatile compounds, aerosol mists, sulfites, EDTA (preservative), peroxide dyes, artificial colors, detergents, sulfur compounds and other chemicals common around the home cause or worsen asthma. Carpets, cleaning and laundry products, cosmetics, textiles, pressboard, foam, dry cleaning chemicals, paints and finishes, soft plastics, organophosphate insecticides, are among the products that contribute to respiratory irritation and injury, broncospasm, and other ills. Central heat or air conditioning may increase dust mite growth and create an artificial environment by altering temperature and humidity.
The flu vaccine can cause pulmonary complications and exacerbate asthma. About 8% of participants in one study experienced reactions within 72 hours of the flu vaccine. Reactions more than two weeks after injection were not traced, so more complications may have materialized.
Diet is recognized as an "influence" on asthma. Diets "containing a high proportion of ‘junk food' have been linked to an increase in prevalence of asthma." Excessive consumption of "table salt" - artificial, refined and containing additives - has been linked with increased airway hyperresponsiveness in adult men, but not in women, so the impact of salt is "not clear." Avoiding refined sugars, refined "white" flours, hydrogenated vegetable oils, food additives, colorings, and preservatives brings dramatic improvement. Eating whole, natural foods - with minimal or no pesticide, drug, or hormone residues - is reported to result in dramatic improvement. Alcohol - especially red wine and whisky - can exacerbate asthma. About 25% of patients admitted to one hospital reported asthma flare-ups after ingesting at least one form of alcoholic drink. These beverages cause bronchoconstriction in susceptible individuals.
Hypersensitivities to foods and allergies to food additives, pollutants, or contaminants are prevalent. What a baby is fed can affect future reactions. Refined sugars, refined wheat, pasteurized milk products, sulfites used in processed foods, soy and yeast (often related to antibiotic treatment) are common offenders. Legumes (especially peanuts, a crop heavily treated with pesticides), eggs (from chickens saturated with drugs and pesticides), corn (refined high-fructose corn syrup is widely used in processed foods and beverages also genetically modified corn products), chocolate (laden with refined sugars) are other items frequently causing reactions. Elimination of "offenders" brought almost complete relief for 62% of subjects in one study, while 28% claimed partial relief. And, "there was no correlation between positive food skin tests and subsequent challenge." Skin scratch tests are often wrong. About 75% of children with asthma have food sensitivities or allergies. Many foods to which sensitivities develop are highly acid containing or acid-forming.
Metabolic acidosis (body is too acidic because of a deficiency of alkaline-ash minerals) is common in asthmatics. Raw vegetables and raw fruits (with few exceptions) provide alkaline-ash minerals and should be emphasized in the diet.
Those who favorably respond to elimination of reactive foods may later develop "significant inhalant allergy" (reaction to environmental factors). This indicates the actual cause has not been eliminated. Nutritional deficits, imbalances, toxic chemical exposure, unhealthy respiratory tissues, digestive irritation or inadequacy, endocrine gland imbalance, compromised immune system - any or all may be underlying the respiratory condition.
A large number of asthmatics have hypochlorhydria - insufficient production or secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Other digestive juices may be inadequate as well. Nutritional deficiencies and/or unhealthy mucous membrane tissues (which line both digestive and respiratory tracts) and/or toxic irritation can result in such indigestion, contributing to further deficiencies. This can be a major cause of food sensitivities. Once digestion is improved, food tolerance often improves.
Some women with asthma experience more frequent attacks just before and during their menstrual periods when estrogen is at its lowest ebb. Perhaps hormonal imbalances or inadequate ovarian function contributes to asthma. And, inhaled steroids - increasingly prescribed in "preventive doses" - may disrupt hormonal equilibrium. Further, many people self-administer DHEA, another steroid hormone. Women who took "hormone replacement therapy" at any time had a 49% greater risk of developing asthma than those who never used hormones. Those currently taking estrogen therapy have a 50% increase in risk. The longer the hormones are used, the greater the risk. Evidently, the drugs inhibit airflow through the lungs.
The emotional component of asthma has long been recognized. Whenever the causes that trigger morbidity or mortality of asthma are studied, psychological factors are found to contribute. A "certain sense of calm and confidence" is associated with relief and improvement. Anxiety causes more rapid and, frequently, more shallow breathing. Acute asthma attacks often subside considerably if the sufferer can counter the tension and panic, becoming more composed and tranquil. "Emotional distress," particularly when severe or longstanding, is associated with increased severity of symptoms.
Exercise-induced asthma (EIA) is estimated to affect at least 10% of Americans - about 25 million people. It is thought to occur with strenuous activity because warm moist air in the bronchial tubes is replaced with cold dry air. However, prolonged exercise, especially outdoors (such as walking) protects against wheezing. EIA can "trigger" the release of biochemical substances "similar to" those involved in inflammation, probably as a defense mechanism. Against what? Likely an "air pollutant or some other allergen" - an irritant. Hyperventilation may also contribute since breathing exercises have brought "significant changes" in asthmatic exercisers and athletes.
The increase in asthma incidence is chiefly attributed to "a more toxic environment" concurrent with "a more westernized lifestyle and urban living." One doctor contends that "asthma is not a disease; it is a protective response to environmental toxicity. Abolishing that response [with drugs] without changing the environment aggravates the underlying process that causes disease... The key to long-term control of asthma is not drugs, but environmental control coupled with intensive support of the protective mechanisms that defend against toxicity." i
Chest tightness, congestion, coughing, shortness of breath, gasping, and wheezing are common in asthma attacks, often preceded by a scratchy throat or dry mouth or other warning signs. Is asthma preventable? "It should be" says the medical establishment, yet there are multiple definitions of the disorder. The many contributing factors, variability of patterns and severity, and the manner in which symptoms change (age, time of day, season, response to treatment, "hormonal and immunologic changes," temperature, humidity or atmospheric pressure changes, etc.) confound the medical community to find a "uniform disease marker." In short, asthma "is not a static condition."
For a long time asthma was viewed primarily as a bronchoconstrictive disorder. The airways (trachea, bronchi and bronchioles) narrow - contract too much and too easily -- causing the wheezing and difficulty in breathing. This is called bronchial hyper-responsiveness (BHR). The constriction or spasm involves the nonstriated (smooth) muscles lining the cartilaginous rings that help form the tracheobronchial tree. Medical treatment used to consist mostly of bronchodilators - drugs that force open the airways.
Though allergic reactions to environmental substances are considered the main cause of asthma, there is more to the story. Another pathway, "often also found in people with allergic reactions" is an "upset in the balance of the autonomic nervous system." The result is constriction of the smooth muscles in the breathing tubes. "Abnormalities" exist in the function of the autonomic nervous system with bronchial smooth muscle spasm "significantly" contributing to airway obstruction. In an asthma attack, "lung muscles can't relax" -- the smooth muscles lining the lungs contract, interfering with the passage of air, leaving the victim gasping for breath.
Asthma is now considered "mainly an inflammatory disorder" in which airway constriction "is just a symptom of underlying inflammation." Bronchial mucosal biopsy specimens show an increase in various white blood cells (e.g. lymphocytes, mast cells, eosinophils). However, inflammation may not always accompany an asthma attack. And, if there is inflammation, it does not always a respond to steroid drugs.
Inflammation is the response to tissue insult or injury to which unhealthy tissues are more susceptible. One group of researchers concluded that "a general defect of the whole mucosal system is present as a cause or a consequence of bronchial asthma." The respiratory tract is lined with mucous membrane. Asthmatics may have or develop unhealthy mucosa due to nutritional deficits, injuries and/or toxic insults, interference with repair, etc., which predisposes and perpetuates their plight. Thus, supporting the repair and health of the mucous membrane linings is paramount.
Inflammation is a natural biochemical process by which the body attempts to repair damaged tissue. Lymphocytes "respond to the noxious substances" (that injure or insult) by sending out various chemical signals (cytokines) which attract inflammatory cells to the areas affected. Phagocytes engulf and digest dead and damaged cells or foreign particles. White blood cell "warriors" (eosinophils particularly) release their own "chemical weapons," a second wave of signals (including histamine and leukotrienes) which cause congestion and swelling. This is due to release from blood vessels of needed nutrients, cells, and other substances for tasks of waste disposal (dead cells, used white blood cells, foreign irritants, etc.), and laying a repair matrix. Excess mucus - a protective "garbage disposal" secretion -- rids the area of debris and protects the tissues from further irritation, necessarily adding to the congestion.
It is like a cut on a finger. The tissue around the wound becomes warm, red, and swollen as special blood cells and substances at that site clear away foreign materials and dead tissue as well as promote healing. In the respiratory tract of an asthmatic, a similar process goes on but, rather than a cut, airborne particles or environmental poisons aggravate or irritate the predisposed tissues.
Interference with the inflammation process (with anti-inflammatory drugs such as antibiotics or corticosteroids, antihistamines, decongestants, ascorbic acid - a synthetic isolate of vitamin C which acts as an antihistamine, etc.) can result in incomplete repair and unresolved (chronic) inflammation. Medications may "control" symptoms, but adequate tissue repair may not occur, leaving the tissues "open" to further repeated injury. Continuous inflammation - repeated injury, repeated interference and /or non-resolution, and tissue remodeling - leads to deterioration of the mucous membrane and epithelial lining of the respiratory tract. Thick, sticky mucus is secreted which plugs areas of the bronchi and bronchioles, "so breathing during an asthma attack is like sucking mud through a straw." There is collagen deposition beneath the membrane causing tissue thickening or hardening.
All of these consequences make breathing more difficult. The immune system mechanisms are increasingly stressed and may begin to fail. Prescribed medications can provide temporary relief of symptoms, but "it appears they also accelerate the damage done to the airways."
In sum, the wheezing of asthma is a result of: (1) reduced lumina space in the respiratory tubes from swollen and congested mucous membrane linings, and (2) a further reduction of the lumen as a consequence of smooth muscle contraction of the muscular component of the trachea and/or bronchial tubes. ii
Conventional medicine usually treats asthma with two types of drugs: (1) bronchodilators (pills, liquids or inhalers) and (2) anti-inflammatory drugs (pills or inhalers). Allergy shots and other medications may also be administered.
Bronchodilators open the airways by suppressing the smooth muscle spasm - relaxing the muscles in the bronchial passage. "Bronchodilators relieve but do not control symptoms... They also do not affect peak expiratory flow variability, or airway hyperresponsiveness." They do not alleviate the triggers, reactions, and consequences of asthma. Such treatment should be "kept to a minimum." In addition to the usual side effects (i.e. unwanted effects - such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, palpitation, increased pulse rate, circulatory failure, arrhythmia, low blood sugar, hair loss, rash), bronchodilators may stimulate the nervous system (headache, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, muscle twitching, convulsions) and produce signs of nutrient deficiencies such as vitamin B6. Regular use of bronchodilators is associated with increased risk of death and near death from asthma. Studies find this treatment makes patients worse, not better, with diminished control of asthma. As one doctor explains, these drugs hasten the process by which asthma kills.
Anti-inflammatory drugs, primarily corticosteroids, interfere with the inflammation process. Long-term use of steroids can cause elevated blood pressure, bone diseases (fractures, osteoporosis), "moon" face, alterations in carbohydrate (glucose) metabolism (e.g., diabetes), behavioral changes, immune system compromises, and other adverse effects including death due to adrenal insufficiency which has occurred in patients during and after switching from oral steroids to inhaler steroids.
"Inhaled steroid treatment offers no clinically significant benefit in school age children suffering from asthma..." Normal growth rate of children may be reduced when the inhaler is used. At any age there may be suppression of pituitary and adrenal gland function, increased risk of glaucoma, and increased risk of cataracts. "If most patients with acute severe asthma will recover without systemic steroids, what does the addition of steroids achieve?" Use of steroids is, at best, "a symptomatic band aid" with serious drawbacks.
Synthetic ephedrine or an "extract" of ephedra sinica (ma huang) is used in many prescription and over-the-counter medications as well as in "supplements." Used for asthma, allergies, hay fever, colds, and inflammatory conditions, the action of ephedra extracts is "similar to epinephrine or adrenalin" The effects include "temporary relief" of nasal and sinus congestion, relaxation of smooth bronchial muscles, opening of sinus, nasal and bronchial passages, relief from swelling of the mucous membranes - in other words, interference with inflammation. These "temporary" dilating and anti-inflammatory properties are pharmacological - not nutritional - actions. Adverse effects include increased pulse rate, increased blood pressure, decreased appetite, stimulation of the nervous system (nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, etc.), and placing an extra burden on the adrenal glands. Traditionally, when the whole plant was used, no such undesirable effects were noted.
Allergy shots (immunotherapy) are a popular treatment for asthmatics, particularly children. However, there is "no discernible benefit" from such treatment in reducing symptoms or the "need" for medication. In a group of 22 adult asthmatics given allergy shots, "70% experienced a large local reaction and 100% had episodes of asthma during dose increase phase."
Pharmacological treatment is not an answer for asthma. "Many patients continue to have considerable morbidity [illness] nevertheless and these patients require a new addition to current treatment. How might this happen?" Perhaps nutrition should be considered. iii
Richard N. Firshein, D.O., Director of the New York Center for Comprehensive Medicine, suffered from asthma since childhood. After it worsened - finding himself in the emergency room fighting for his life - he decided to make changes. Previously, he ate "anything they served in the hospital cafeteria - fried fish, coffee, candy bars..." He cut out the refined sugar, white breads, hydrogenated vegetable oils, preservatives, additives, artificial colorings, and other chemicals, along with other refined, processed and chemical-laden items from his diet. Incredible improvement followed.
Children with "common allergies" (hay fever, sinusitis, colds) whose diet is high in altered fats and refined sugars are more susceptible to asthma. Children with asthma symptoms have diets 23% higher in refined sugar and 25% higher in trans fatty foods than other children.
Improved respiratory function is associated with consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables - from bananas and melons to romaine and turnips. Children who regularly ate fresh fruit more than once a day had "significantly better lung function" than those who did not eat fruit. The difference was particularly striking for chronic wheezing. Salads and other fresh (especially green) vegetables also had beneficial effects. It is thought that antioxidants provide the protection, yet there is much more to the story.
Adults with diets low in vitamin C complex (fresh produce),or fish, or a low zinc-to-copper ratio, as well as diets with a high sodium-to potassium ratio, had an increased risk of bronchitis and wheezing, regardless of age, gender, smoking history or residence. Low levels of niacinamide (and no doubt other interrelated vitamin B factors) increased the risk of wheezing.
Thirty-five patients with established bronchial asthma were placed on a vegetarian diet without meat, fish, eggs, or milk products. Chlorinated water, coffee, tea, chocolate, and ordinary table salt (refined and additive-laden) were not allowed. Herbs and spices were allowed. Vegetable products were grown pesticide free. Grains were restricted or forbidden; buckwheat, millet, and lentils were permitted. Patients were encouraged to get into fresh, unpolluted air and participate in physical activities. Improvement of or freedom from symptoms occurred in 71% of the participants after 4 months and 92% after one year. Asthma attacks were reduced in both number and severity. Medications were drastically reduced or discontinued in all but 2 patients.
High intakes of refined salt (an adulterated food with additives) and sodium citrate are both associated with more frequent asthma attacks and increased use of inhaled drugs.
Although the above studies may seem diverse and confounding, a few points tie them together. Eliminating refined, altered, and processed foods brings benefits to any health condition since such items not only provide little if any nutritive value, they also tend to deplete the body of nutrients, can supply toxic byproducts, and many - such as refined sugars - are known irritants to mucous membrane tissues. Further, these ‘non-foods' may interfere with stages of inflammation and repair. Refined sugars have been shown to adversely affect phagocytosis (engulfing and digesting of dead or foreign particles by white blood cells) and they have an acid-forming effect on the body, diminishing alkaline-ash minerals.
An imbalance of the autonomic nervous system can result from "severe fluctuations of systemic pH," the degrees of acidity or alkalinity. In metabolic acidosis - a deficit of alkaline-ash minerals - smooth muscles are prone to constrict. When muscles of the trachea and bronchial tubes constrict, wheezing occurs. An abundance of alkaline-ash minerals and their natural cofactors must be supplied. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the primary source of these nutrients. Meats, fish, eggs, and unpasteurized milk products - though rich in many nutrients - are "acid forming." Grains and legumes are also acid-forming, though millet, buckwheat and lentils are less so.
Potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and selenium are important alkaline-ash minerals. Excess copper ingestion - often from nonfood sources such as tap water (copper pipes) - results in zinc deficiency and zinc/copper imbalance. Refined or excess salt can have an adverse effect on potassium levels and balance. There may be "an increase in intracellular sodium resulting in hyper-contractility of smooth muscle" and similar disrupting effects on other tissues. Max Gerson, M.D., found that, in many disease states - from arthritis to asthma and from tuberculosis to cancer - the normally higher level of potassium and lower level of sodium inside tissue cells is reversed. In disease states, there is more sodium and less potassium inside the cells. He stressed the need for increased potassium intake. Here is where the medical profession has it backwards. They try to restrict the intake of sodium (table salt) to reduce sodium levels down to potassium levels instead of increasing potassium to balance the sodium levels.
A diet for the asthmatic, then, must emphasize fresh produce and food supplements rich in alkaline-ash minerals, nutrients also essential to the biochemistry of inflammation and repair. Refined salt, refined and processed ‘non-foods,' and altered foods (such as hydrogenated fats, and fried foods) much be avoided. The "increased dietary intake of polyunsaturated oils and margarines" - heated, refined, altered, chemically-treated fats - "may be responsible, at least in part, for the increase in childhood asthma." Natural, unaltered foods high in fatty acids will be very helpful.
Onions, garlic, ginger, and cayenne may benefit the breathing of asthmatics. Animals fed onion extract experienced a decrease in induced asthmatic symptoms. Empirical evidence points to the relief provided by onions and garlic. Onions contain bioflavonoids (a natural constituent of vitamin C complex) such as quercetin. Anti-spasmodic substances are found in fennel, bell pepper, cabbage, carrot, cranberry, currant, eggplant, grapefruit, orange, tomato, sage, and oregano. Many of these items are a good source of carotenes and vitamin C complex.
Stinging nettle, anise, ginkgo, skullcap, coltsfoot-leaf, lobelia, mullein, and licorice have been used successfully in respiratory disorders including asthma. Herbs should be used in small amounts for short periods of time. For example, long-term use of excessive amounts of licorice can produce weakness, swelling of the face and limbs, headache, sodium and fluid retention, excessive potassium loss, and hypertension.
About 50% of patients with acute asthma attacks had low serum magnesium. Administration of pharmacological doses of magnesium sulfate does not "work" for all patients. But "high dietary magnesium [organic form with all natural synergists intact] is associated with better lung function, and a reduced risk of airway hyper-reactivity and wheezing..." Magnesium relaxes the constricted muscles of the lung bronchioles, alleviating the wheezing and severity of asthma attacks. In its diverse roles, magnesium "might protect against the development of asthma and chronic airflow obstruction." Low magnesium intake - along with low intake of other alkaline-ash minerals -- may therefore be involved in the cause and severity of asthma and other respiratory problems. Foods rich in chlorophyll such as dark green leafy vegetables are excellent sources of magnesium as well as other alkaline-ash minerals.
Deficiency of dietary selenium - which also lowers the selenium-dependent enzyme, glutathione peroxidase - is associated with increased risk for asthma. Increasing serum selenium levels and platelet glutathione peroxidase activity improves symptoms. Supplementation results in "significant clinical improvement." Selenium is the trace mineral activator for the vitamin E complex, which is protective of the mucous membrane lining of the respiratory tract. Increased vitamin E and selenium intake has benefited asthma victims.
There is an inverse association between intake of vitamin A complex and the degree of lung airway obstruction. Low serum retinol (vitamin A) levels are related to low values on respiratory function tests. Vitamin A complex is important to inflammation and repair, and is known to play an essential role in the health and resilience of mucous membrane. Vitamins A and E complex are needed for proper cellular differentiation.
Also protective of mucous membranes are natural fatty acids including the omega-3 group. Increased dietary ingestion of omega-3 fatty acids (such as flaxseed, oily fish) reduce the risk of developing childhood asthma and reduce current asthmatic symptoms including airway hyperresponsiveness. On the other hand, heated, refined fish oil supplementation brings "contradictory" results. Ingesting high amounts of refined and altered vegetable oils can increase the severity of asthma. One consequence "may be an increased production of compounds that exacerbate mucus secretion [a defensive and protective reaction] and muscle contraction during an asthma attack." Ingestion of "more fast foods" - deep fried in trans fats or containing hydrogenated and other altered fats - is thought to be one of the causes of increased asthma incidence.
Dietary intake of foods high in vitamin C complex was "significantly related" to a protective effect on lung function. High intake and high blood levels of vitamin C complex have been shown to protect against the development of chronic respiratory symptoms. Lower intakes of vitamin C complex were "significantly associated" with lower values on pulmonary function tests and increased wheezing. Plasma, serum and leukocyte (white blood cell) levels of vitamin C complex are often reduced in persons with bronchial asthma. Sometimes ascorbic acid administration brings pharmacological "improvement" but often no changes are found. Taking large doses of ascorbic acid (so-called "vitamin C" - a synthetic fraction) before exercising "helps" some people prevent or postpone exercise-induced asthma - a temporary pharmacological response. Ascorbic acid acts as an antihistamine (interfering with one of the first stages of inflammation), thus exerting a "mild antibronchospastic action," an inhibition of bronchial responsiveness. And it contributes to metabolic acidosis. Ingesting whole, complex, nutritional sources of vitamin C would, instead, be supportive of inflammation and repair, as well as to mucous membrane and smooth muscle health and function. And it works with alkaline-ash minerals to relax the constrictive tendencies of smooth muscle. Increased dietary vitamin C complex intake is associated with lower incidence of active bronchitis and wheezing. There are no ‘quick fixes' with the natural food complex. Rather, food concentrates work slowly to get to the underlying cause, to balance biochemistry, not stimulate or suppress an effect.
Asthmatics characteristically show low levels of pyridoxine (vitamin B6) which is needed to convert the amino acid tryptophan to niacinamide (vitamin B3). Environmental chemicals can interfere with the body's ability to utilize vitamin B6. Other B complex factors are affected and also needed for respiratory health. For example, the vitamin B complex is involved in the production of nitric oxide, a needed vasodilator and inflammation mediator.
Increased dietary niacinamide is associated with a reduced rate of wheezing; 83% of asthmatics are deficient in this nutrient. Plasma and red blood cell levels of pyridoxine are often reduced. All the B vitamins and their co-workers are functionally inseparable, so this whole complex would assist in asthma particularly in relation to the autonomic nervous system. Synthetic vitamin B12 injections - another pharmacologic approach - have been used to decrease shortness of breath and control wheezing. The B12 appears to be especially helpful to sulfite-sensitive individuals.
One reason B12 may be deficient is that the majority (an estimated 80%) of asthmatics have inadequate amounts of hydrochloric acid and pepsin in their stomach. (Insufficient hydrochloric acid, pepsin, and/or pancreatic enzymes are a frequently overlooked cause of food sensitivities, with incomplete digestion causing reactions. Proper digestion is important to nutrient absorption and utilization.) The vitamin B12 must combine with the intrinsic factor normally present in the gastric juice in order to be absorbed into the bloodstream. When the stomach fails to secrete sufficient intrinsic factor, vitamin B12 deficiency results. Inadequate hydrochloric acid and pepsin may also explain why asthmatics fare better on vegetarian-type diets with limited or no meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
Persons with sulfite sensitivity are usually deficient in molybdenum, the trace mineral needed in the enzyme, sulfite oxidase, which detoxifies sulfite to the inert and harmless sulfate.
Supporting the health and repair (including the process of inflammation) of the mucous membrane lining and other tissues of the respiratory tract as well as supporting the adrenal glands, thymus gland, lymphatic system, and other participating aspects of the immune response is imperative. Glandular supplements should be used, including lung substance (supportive to all mucous membranes and respiratory tissues), adrenal substance, and thymus substance. Ionizable calcium (calcium bicarbonate) is imperative to white blood cell function. Actually, all the vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and enzymes - in natural food form - are needed for optimal inflammation and repair action.
A constant blood supply and nerve supply to involved areas is also required. Imbalance of the autonomic nervous system with resultant smooth muscle spasm can be a result of encroachment of the cervical, upper thoracic or mid-thoracic spinal nerves. "Vertebral subluxation with spinal nerve root pressure can and will block efferent and afferent nerve impulses by compression of the Rami Communicantes - ramification of the craniosacral "parasympathetic" fibers and/or the thoracolumbar "sympathetic" fibers. Chiropractors and osteopaths who still give spinal manipulation are very familiar with the immediate relief (to some degree) for most all sufferers of asthma..." Patients coming to the emergency room of hospitals with acute asthma attacks were treated by "osteopathic" manipulation. Often, after treatment, there is 25% to 70% improvement in peak flow measurements, decrease in anxiety, and less "work of breathing."
Therefore, asthma victims may benefit from spinal manipulation and adjunctive nutritional support. Additionally, avoidance of poison and toxic exposures as much as possible will be of concomitant service. Individuals who have taken antihistamines, bronchodilators, and steroid drugs or other anti-inflammatories over a period of years will probably require "many months of corrective therapy along with adjunctive nutrients to enjoy easy, noiseless breathing." The comforting ability to breathe well is worth the time and effort. iv
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Originally published as an issue of Nutrition News and Views, reproduced with permission by the author, Judith A. DeCava, CNC, LNC.