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  • Dr. Mercola

Asthma, Control it Naturally

Asthma has increasingly become a very common affliction. In fact, it now affects some 20 million Americans, as it has increased by more than 300 percent over the last 20 years.

Asthma is an inflammatory condition, typically of your upper airways, that can cause:

  • Chest tightness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Wheezing

  • Coughing

Coughing is frequently overlooked, however it is one of the hidden symptoms, so if you suffer from unexplained bouts of coughing, you should consider getting yourself checked for asthma.

The Dangers of Conventional Asthma Treatments

The conventional asthma treatment typically consists of a non-steroidal bronchodilator – an anti-inflammatory agent that you inhale. It causes the smooth muscle cells in your lungs to relax, which opens up your airways.

If that doesn’t work, the next level is typically an inhaled steroid, which is a very potent anti-inflammatory agent. The reason these aggressive types of intervention are performed is because asthma is indeed a serious condition. It can be fatal, so you need to be serious about treating it.

Unfortunately, the conventional approaches are not without side effects.

In addition to local side effects, the most common side effect -- which is typically not appreciated -- is that non-steroidal bronchodilators will double your risk of a heart attack. And steroids, even though they can help reduce the inflammation in your lungs, are fraught with serious side effects, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Impaired growth of your body and internal organs (including your brain)

  • Infections

  • Cataracts

  • Osteoporosis

  • Diabetes

  • Weight gain

  • High blood pressure, and a variety of other disease conditions

These aggressive drug approaches clearly do not treat the cause of your asthma, and they can be quite dangerous, even lethal. Clearly you’ll want to avoid having to resort to such measures. Fortunately there are simple strategies you can use that will virtually eliminate your need for these medications.

Safe and Effective Strategies to Treat Your Asthma

Although asthma is a serious disease, safely treating your asthma is not a complicated affair. Here are some basic, simple strategies that can help treat the root of your problem:

Optimize your vitamin D levels – We now know that there’s a very strong connection between vitamin D levels and asthma, as vitamin D can be a very powerful immune modulator. However, I don’t suggest just taking the recommended daily allowance, which is a mere 400 units a day. You really need to make sure you’re getting therapeutic levels. This is ideally obtained from exposing a significant amount of your skin -- not just your hands and face -- to appropriate amounts of sunlight.

What is an appropriate amount of sun exposure?

Enough, from either the sun or a safe tanning bed, to turn your skin the very lightest shade of pink. Once you reach that shade of pink, your body is not going to produce any more vitamin D. In fact, you’re only going to cause damage to your skin if you increase your exposure past that point.

You can actually produce up to 20,000 units of vitamin D per day through this kind of exposure. However, you don’t need to be concerned with how much you’re producing, as your skin has a feedback loop that will shut down the production of vitamin D past a certain point. As you get sufficient levels in your body you’ll automatically produce less accordingly, so there’s never any risk of overdosing when getting your vitamin D from the sun.

When you swallow vitamin D however, this feedback loop does not exist so you need to be careful if you chose to take an oral vitamin D supplement as overdosing can be just as bad as being severely deficient.

I do recommend oral supplements if you don’t have regular access to the sun or a safe tanning bed. But if you do, make sure you monitor your blood with an accurate test . The one caution here in the US is to be certain your test is performed at a lab like Labcorp, that uses the gold standard Diasorin test for checking vitamin D levels. Due to information published by the New York Times about Quest labs, where they admitted to inaccurate results, I no longer recommend using them.

If you get your levels to about 60 ng/ml, there’s a strong likelihood -- especially if you combine it with exercise and balancing out your omega 3 and omega 6 fats as described below -- that you will not experience the symptoms of asthma anymore.

Increase your intake of animal-based omega 3 fats – I can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting sufficient amounts of high quality animal-based omega 3 fats in your diet.

Because although I strongly believe we all need plant-based omega 3 fats (and I consume some virtually every day myself, like hemp seed or flax seed), the difference is that most of us do not possess the metabolic machinery to rapidly convert the ALA in these plants to the higher order fats DHA and EPA, which are potent anti-inflammatories.

Although I still recommend fish oil in some instances, I believe krill oil is an even better source of omega 3 fats for most people.

Reduce your intake of omega 6 fats – In addition to adding omega 3 fats to your diet, you also want to reduce the amount of omega 6 fats you consume because the ratio between these two fats is very important.

Many don’t realize that about a century ago, people only consumed 1-2 pounds of plant-based omega 6 fats per year. Today, the average American is consuming about 75-80 pounds a year of these vegetable oils, such as corn oil, soy- and safflower oil.

When you eat lots of them, which you will if you use a lot of processed foods, the balance between omega 3 and omega 6 fats will become distorted, which can cause the type of inflammation that leads to asthma.

Consider the hygiene hypothesis – There’s a tendency in our modern culture to be obsessive about cleanliness, especially in children. However, this may not be as healthy as initially thought. It appears that being exposed to common bacterial and viral infections as a child can be instrumental in providing the stimulus to your immune system to prevent asthma naturally.

Get regular exercise – Exercise (especially out in fresh air if you’re an asthmatic) is actually crucial as it helps to moderate your insulin levels. It increases your insulin receptor sensitivity, and as a result your body produces less insulin, which tends to optimize it. Research has also shown that asthmatics who exercise tend to show improvement in:

  • Maximum ventilation

  • Maximal oxygen uptake

  • Work capacity, and

  • Maximum heart rate

You can also use allergy testing to build up your immune system. My experience is that conventional testing does not work very effectively and there is a fair amount of risk. A far better intradermal skin test would be provocation neutralization testing.

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