ASTHMA TREATMENT – Nutritional Remedies to Cure Asthma Naturally

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disorder associated with airway inflammation. Asthma is affected by environmental factors and genetic susceptibility that both play a role in asthma pathophysiology. 

Common symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain or tightness. Also healing from the common cold or flu will take longer for asthmatics.

We know that allergens and pollution are common triggers of asthma which can lead to an asthma attack. In an asthma attack, the muscles around the bronchial tubes constrict, inflammation in the lining of the airways occurs, and the airways overproduce mucus leading to difficulty breathing. 

Dietary factors are not commonly associated as triggers or influencing factors in asthma. However, since dietary patterns modify systemic inflammation, having certain dietary patterns producing inflammatory effects and other dietary habits having anti-inflammatory properties, dietary habits do influence asthma pathophysiology and may be triggers to asthma attacks. 

Dietary habits have been shown to influence disease outcomes, such as lung function [1,2,3], and frequency of exacerbations [4,5] and airway inflammation [6,7] in asthmatics.

Also, obese patients do not respond well to inhaled corticosteroids, so dietary intervention could help solve many of these issues [8,9].

In this article I will dive into the dietary habits and supplements that may help relieve asthma symptoms and prevent asthma attacks. But before we talk about these, first lets go into the dietary habits which increase asthma symptoms and attacks:

Dietary habits which have been shown to increase asthma symptoms include regular consumption of:

  1. Convenience and highly processed foods
  2. Refined grains low in nutrients and fiber
  3. Processed and red meats 
  4. Sweets
  5. Fried foods
  6. Dairy products 
  7. Wine with sulfites 

The reason that these dietary habits increase asthma symptoms is because these dietary habits are pro-inflammatory. These dietary habits are rich in saturated fatty acids, salt, sugar, and total energy, and they lack in nutrients which all together lead to immune activation. These foods are also rich in sulfites which can exacerbate asthma symptoms in some patients. Even a single high-fat meal has been shown to negatively influence expiratory volume in adults with asthma [10]. Furthermore, a diet that is high in fats will negatively affect the gut microbiome composition, allowing growth of invasive bacteria, reducing health promoting bacteria, leading to more inflammation. 

Dietary habits which have been shown to decrease asthma symptoms include regular consumption of:

  1. Fruits and Vegetables which are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonoids and carotenoids. Fruits of particular benefit include apples and oranges [11,12,13].
  2. Wholegrain cereals and potatoes which are rich in fiber
  3. Omega-3 and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, found in seeds, walnuts and also fish, which I personally less recommend due to the high levels of toxins found in most fish sold today. 
  4. Legumes of all sorts, which are rich in plant based proteins

Research shows that these dietary habits are beneficial for asthma because they are rich in antioxidants that decrease susceptibility to oxidative stress, and are rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients which decrease C-reactive protein which rises in the blood in response to inflammation and activates the complement system a part of the innate immune system which promotes inflammation.

Also the fiber rich foods on such a diet including whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and seeds are fermented by the gut bacteria and produce short-chain fatty acids which have immunomodulatory effects. These effects have been shown to reduce airway inflammation and protect against airway allergic responses.

If you suffer from asthma, as with any disease based on inflammation, you want to improve your diet based on the guidelines I mentioned above. Furthermore, there are also certain supplements that have been shown to reduce asthma symptoms. However, I do recommend speaking to your doctor or dietician that has all the information about your condition and medications you take before taking any singular mineral or vitamin. The supplements that have been shown to reduce asthma symptoms include:

1. Choline

A study found in Free Radical Biology & Medicine [14] showed that when combined with selenium and vitamin C, a nasal spray of choline helped cure allergic airway disease in mice. Though it has not been tested on humans, taking choline as a supplement or in the form of a nasal spray could reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.

2. Magnesium

Since asthma patients have been shown to have low levels of magnesium, taking magnesium in the form of a spray can open up the bronchial tubes and increase airflow during an asthma attack, according to a study from Drug Design, Development and Therapy. Magnesium is good during an asthma attack because it relaxes the airways, it inhibits muscle spasms, and reduces inflammation by increasing nitric oxide production in the body. Taking oral magnesium supplements 2 times a week may be a good preventative measure. 

3. Pycnogenol

This herbal remedy extracted from the French pine tree has anti-inflammatory potential and could be a possible treatment for asthma, according to a study in Food and Chemical Toxicology. [15]

4. Thymol

A study from the journal Fitoterapia [16] shows that this thyme extract can fight inflammation in mice with allergic asthma.

5. Black Seed 

A study from Planta Medica [17] showed that black seed extract could have anti-inflammatory benefits on the lungs.

6. Vitamin D

Since people with severe asthma usually also have low vitamin D levels, try exposing your skin to at least a few minutes a day of sunlight during the summer months to increase your vitamin D levels. Or supplement regularly. Check out my ultimate guide on vitamin D for all you need to know about this unique vitamin and how you should supplement.

7. Vitamin E

Vitamin E supplementation has been shown to effects lung function, especially on expiratory volume and vital capacity which improved significantly after supplementation with vitamin E (50 mg/day). But since this is a fat soluble vitamin, I do not recommend regular and constant supplementation. You may supplement 2-3 times week to ensure you maintain sufficient levels for health. [18,19]

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Dr. Galit Goldfarb

References:

  1. Allam M.H., Said A.F., El Samie Omran A.A., Abd El-Reheim D.M., Kasem A.H. High sensitivity C-reactive protein: Its correlation with sputum cell counts in bronchial asthma. Respir. Med. 2009;103:1878–1884. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2009.06.020.
  2. Takemura M., Matsumoto H., Niimi A., Ueda T., Matsuoka H., Yamaguchi M., Jinnai M., Muro S., Hirai T., Ito Y., et al. High sensitivity C-reactive protein in asthma. Eur. Respir. J. 2006;27:908–912. doi: 10.1183/09031936.06.00114405
  3. Fujita M., Ueki S., Ito W., Chiba T., Takeda M., Saito N., Kayaba H., Chihara J. C-reactive protein levels in the serum of asthmatic patients. Ann. Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2007;99:48–53. doi: 10.1016/S1081-1206(10)60620-5.
  4. Peters M.C., McGrath K.W., Hawkins G.A., Hastie A.T., Levy B.D., Israel E., Phillips B.R., Mauger D.T., Comhair S.A., Erzurum S.C., et al. Plasma interleukin-6 concentrations, metabolic dysfunction, and asthma severity: A cross-sectional analysis of two cohorts. Lancet Respir. Med. 2016;4:574–584. doi: 10.1016/S2213-2600(16)30048-0 
  5. Fu J.J., McDonald V.M., Baines K.J., Gibson P.G. Airway IL-1beta and systemic inflammation as predictors of future exacerbation risk in asthma and COPD. Chest. 2015;148:618–629. doi: 10.1378/chest.14-2337.
  6. Fu J.J., McDonald V.M., Baines K.J., Gibson P.G. Airway IL-1beta and systemic inflammation as predictors of future exacerbation risk in asthma and COPD. Chest. 2015;148:618–629. doi: 10.1378/chest.14-2337. 
  7. Fu J.J., Baines K.J., Wood L.G., Gibson P.G. Systemic inflammation is associated with differential gene expression and airway neutrophilia in asthma. OMICS. 2013;17:187–199. doi: 10.1089/omi.2012.0104.
  8. Forno E., Lescher R., Strunk R., Weiss S., Fuhlbrigge A., Celedon J.C. Childhood Asthma Management Program Research Group. Decreased response to inhaled steroids in overweight and obese asthmatic children. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 2011;127:741–749. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2010.12.010. 
  9. Farah C.S., Kermode J.A., Downie S.R., Brown N.J., Hardaker K.M., Berend N., King G.G., Salome C.M. Obesity is a determinant of asthma control independent of inflammation and lung mechanics. Chest. 2011;140:659–666. doi: 10.1378/chest.11-0027. 
  10. Wood L.G., Garg M.L., Gibson P.G. A high-fat challenge increases airway inflammation and impairs bronchodilator recovery in asthma. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 2011;127:1133–1140. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2011.01.036.
  11. Uddenfeldt M., Janson C., Lampa E., Leander M., Norback D., Larsson L., Rask-Andersen A. High BMI is related to higher incidence of asthma, while a fish and fruit diet is related to a lower- Results from a long-term follow-up study of three age groups in Sweden. Respir. Med. 2010;104:972–980. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2009.12.013.
  12. Knekt P., Kumpulainen J., Jarvinen R., Rissanen H., Heliovaara M., Reunanen A., Hakulinen T., Aromaa A. Flavonoid intake and risk of chronic diseases. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2002;76:560–568. 
  13. Butland B.K., Strachan D.P., Anderson H.R. Fresh fruit intake and asthma symptoms in young British adults: Confounding or effect modification by smoking? Eur. Respir. J. 1999;13:744–750. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-3003.1999.13d08.x. 
  14. Bansal P, Saw S, Govindaraj D, Arora N. Intranasal administration of a combination of choline chloride, vitamin C, and selenium attenuates the allergic effect in a mouse model of airway disease. Free Radic Biol Med. 2014;73:358-365. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2014.05.018
  15. Shin IS, Shin NR, Jeon CM, et al. Inhibitory effects of Pycnogenol® (French maritime pine bark extract) on airway inflammation in ovalbumin-induced allergic asthma. Food Chem Toxicol. 2013;62:681-686. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2013.09.032
  16. Zhou E, Fu Y, Wei Z, Yu Y, Zhang X, Yang Z. Thymol attenuates allergic airway inflammation in ovalbumin (OVA)-induced mouse asthma. Fitoterapia. 2014;96:131-137. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2014.04.016
  17. Amin B, Hosseinzadeh H. Black Cumin (Nigella sativa) and Its Active Constituent, Thymoquinone: An Overview on the Analgesic and Anti-inflammatory Effects. Planta Med. 2016;82(1-2):8-16. doi:10.1055/s-0035-1557838
  18. Ghaffari J., Farid Hossiani R., Khalilian A., Nahanmoghadam N., Salehifar E., Rafatpanah H. Vitamin E supplementation, lung functions and clinical manifestations in children with moderate asthma: A randomized double blind placebo- controlled trial. Iran. J. Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2014;13:98–103.
  19. Volker BÃ. Vitamin E, Antioxidants 2018, 7(3), 44; https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox7030044

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