By Steven Horne, RH (AHG) & Kimberly Balas, ND
See also Adrenal Fatigue
Helplessness. Panic. Fear. These are the feelings invoked
by an asthma attack, both for the sufferer and for parents or other loved ones. During an asthma attack the muscles surrounding the bronchial passages in the lungs constrict. This
interferes with the outflow of stale air and causes a feeling of
suffocation in the victim. Typical symptoms of asthma include a feeling of tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing often coupled with wheezing and coughing.
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Asthma is on the rise, affecting about 18.9 million Americans (as of 2013). The dramatic increase in asthma appears to be linked to the increase in air pollution and other lung
irritants. For instance, in Mexico City, the most heavily air-polluted city in the world, as high as 50% of the children
may have asthma.
This respiratory disorder is often unpredictable; and this
what makes it so intimidating. Those who suffer from it
experience bouts of breathlessness which can come on suddenly during periods of stress, anxiety, exercise, low blood sugar, laughing, changes in temperature, extremes of dryness
or dampness or exposure to allergens such as dust, animal
dander, smoke, mold or food additives. Asthma attacks can
last from minutes to hours and can come daily or annually.
Everyone's lungs will react to irritants by the process of
inflammation, swelling, mucus production and coughing.
Yet, for the person with asthma these reactions appear to be exaggerated or hyperactive. Swelling and inflammation in
the lung tissue triggers spastic reactions in the lungs which
further constrict airways. As air is trapped in the lungs, excess carbon dioxide builds up in the blood creating the suffocating feeling.
Asthma is commonly treated with antihistamines (substances which reduce allergic reactions), anti-inflammatories (substances that reduce swelling and inflammation) and
bronchial dilators (substances that relax the bronchial passages, allowing air to escape). These therapies are effective
for symptomatic relief and can ease attacks and even save
lives. However, they do not help to relieve any of the underlying causes of this disease. Here are some of the underlying
causes to consider:
Food and Respiratory Allergies
Most individuals who experience asthma notice that it is
prompted by substances such as pollen, dander, smoke, cold
air or excessive exercise. Along with the dust, mites, molds
and pet dander that tend to cause an onset of allergies or
asthma, diet has also become a part of the picture.
Dairy and wheat have come to be known as contributing
factors. Most asthma sufferers notice tremendous relief once
these allergens have been eliminated. Dairy, in particular,
contains the protein casein that generates mucus. When a
victim experiences an asthma attack, wouldn't it be better
if his or her body were not insulted with mucus forming
A number of remedies can also be used to reduce allergic
reactions. HistaBlock is very helpful. Other possible remedies include burdock, which stabilizes mast cells, and cordyceps, which will particularly benefit the asthmatic athlete.
Adult asthma tends to be most prevalent in women. Many
physicians believe this to be hormonally related. With the
rising number of asthma cases, this could be due to the influence of xenoestrogens (estrogen-like chemicals such as
pesticides and plastics) present in our environment. Women
who are estrogen dominant (with estrogen too high relative
to progesterone) display signs of asthma more often than
those who are more hormonally balanced.
The balancer for estrogen is progesterone, which can be
applied topically in a progesterone cream such as the Wild Yam Emollient. This has helped to ease symptoms in some
women. Synthetic progestins, conversely, have shown no
Stress and Adrenal Fatigue
The adrenal hormone epinephrine acts as a bronchial dilator. Forms of it can be injected or are used in bronchial
inhalers in order to halt asthma attacks. Epinephrine is an
adrenal hormone and a sympathetic
neurotransmitter. Corticosteroid drugs are also used to treat asthma. These
drugs are mimics of another adrenal hormone, cortisol,
which reduces inflammation in the body.
This suggests a connection between stress and adrenal fatigue in asthma cases. For any of us who have ever been
involved in any type of organized athletics, we are bound to
have met individuals with exercise-induced asthma. These
individuals, as well as others under chronic stress, generally
have exhausted their adrenals and are lacking the naturally
produced steroids necessary to prevent these attacks.
So, rebuilding the adrenals is critical to overcoming
asthma. The difficulty in this is that the drugs usually used
to treat asthma contribute to adrenal fatigue. The best approach, therefore, is to start rebuilding the adrenals while
slowly backing off the medications.
A number of nutrients can help to rebuild the adrenals.
The combination of B-complex and vitamin C in Nutri-Calm has a rebuilding effect on the adrenals. It also contains herbs
to relax tension and ease stress. Pantothenic acid is very important for adrenal function and can also help to rebuild exhausted adrenal glands. Nervous Fatigue Formula is another
great adrenal rebuilding agent.
Licorice root helps preserve cortisol levels (the adrenal
hormone that reduces inflammation) and can help to rebuild exhausted adrenals. Licorice is also anti-inflammatory.
This herb can be taken regularly by many asthmatic children to reduce frequency and severity of attacks.
When rebuilding the adrenals, it is very important to
avoid refined sugar, and foods and beverages containing caffeine, as these substances tax the adrenals. Licorice root or Mineral Chi Tonic can be taken to reduce caffeine and sugar
cravings and maintain energy levels without these addictive
and harmful substances.
Most asthmatics have a hiatal hernia which inhibits free
movement of the diaphragm and contributes to poor digestion of proteins which causes mucus congestion. Food allergies, leaky gut and lymphatic congestion are all common in
Start by correcting the hiatal hernia, if present. Taking digestive enzymes, such as Protease Plus or Proactazyme Plus,
can help reduce allergic reactions to foods that contribute
Cleansing the liver and colon also has tremendous benefits for healing the lungs. Therefore the Tiao He Cleanse or CleanStart may also be beneficial. Blood purifiers like
Enviro-Detox or All Cell Detox have also proved helpful in
It can also be helpful to take remedies that clear mucus
from the lungs. Remedies to consider include ALJ and CC-A with Yerba Santa. As an expectorant and nervine,
yerba santa is beneficial in easing most allergic or asthmatic
Natural Bronchial Dilators
To stop asthma attacks it is necessary to dilate the bronchials to let in more air. Lobelia has been long used to relieve
asthma attacks. It can be rubbed onto the chest in tincture
form or taken orally to relieve feelings of tightness and to
relieve coughing while maintaining expectorant properties.
Lobelia is a very effective bronchial dilator and antispasmodic that can be used as a natural alternative to inhalers.
The extract of lobelia can be administered in doses of about
10-20 drops at one to two minute intervals starting at the
beginning of the attack until it subsides.
Occasionally, this therapy will cause the person to vomit.
However, the attack nearly always subsides as soon as the
person expels the contents of the stomach (which interestingly enough often contains a large quantity of mucus).
Another herb that can help to Stop asthma attacks is black
cohosh. Although not commonly used for this purpose by
modern herbalists, eclectic physicians at the turn of the century used both lobelia and black cohosh for asthma. Distress Remedy taken internally and Tei Fu oil rubbed on
chest have also been used to open the bronchials during an
Asthma is a serious condition, yet one that can be dealt
with effectively by natural means. It will however take some
determination, study and a commitment to a generally healthier lifestyle.
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