This week marked World Asthma Day on May 1, focusing on a condition that affects more than 17 million Americans. If you suffer from asthma, you know how easily and quickly an asthma attack can occur, making prevention a necessity.
Here's a look at this condition and what home remedies are available for those living with asthma.
An asthma attack occurs when an irritant enters the bronchi and bronchioles -- the set of tubes that carry air from the windpipe to the lungs. These airways then swell and become narrow, making breathing difficult. These irritants, or "triggers," are found ether in the environment or related to physical activity. If you're someone with allergies, or have a family history of asthma, you're more prone to developing asthma yourself.
Symptoms of an asthma attack include:
Tightening of the chest
Shortness of breath
Raised heart rate
The most common triggers are pollen, mold, dust mites and pet dander, which are all common allergens. If allergens are not the cause of the asthma, air conditions, exercise, smoke, stress and other strong emotions can bring on an attack. Certain medications, like aspirin, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can also play a role.
Once someone is diagnosed with asthma, the first step is to get their symptoms under control. A control medication, like corticosteroids and/or long-acting beta-agonist inhaler may be prescribed. These medications prevent the swelling of the airways. In the event of an attack, an asthma patient will also use a short-acting bronchodilator or an oral steroid. The bronchodilator is usually an inhaler, while steroids are available as pills, capsules or in liquid form.
If you're still looking for relief from your respiratory symptoms, there are natural, steroid-free treatments you can try:
Recommended by Dr. Mehmet Oz on the May 1 episode of "Dr. Oz," these devices can be used to remedy a number of respiratory conditions. Breathing salt air can help with asthma as well as allergies and congestion brought on by the common cold (rhinovirus). This process is called halotherapy (salt therapy) and works to eliminate mucus and toxins within the sinuses, lungs, nasal passages and throat. Sea salt or Himalayan sea salt crystals are placed within the device (usually ceramic), between filters in the base. The top has a curved spout for inhalation. Just place the spout in your mouth, like you would a drinking straw, and inhale. As you inhale, the moisture then passes through your respiratory system, cleaning out impurities. The crystals can last up to three months.
Ivy Leaf Extract:
Available in capsule or liquid form, ivy has been a trusted herbal remedy in Europe for years to help improve respiratory health. The glycosidic saponins in ivy leaves are the most important component, helping to reduce airway resistance. This effect was observed in children with chronic bronchial asthma in a 2003 study published in Phytomedicine. Ivy leaf extract can help improve the strength of the lungs and the bronchial passageway for improved function and easier breathing.
Vitamin C is a great source of antioxidants that helps protect the bronchi and bronchioles. Taking vitamin C regularly also boosts your immune system, which can be lowered with an attack, and can prevent sickness. The daily recommended amount for adult men is 90 mg a day and 75 mg a day for women. Vitamin B12 is also recommended to protect against future attacks. Adults are supposed to consume 2.4 mcg of B12 daily.
Essential Fatty Acids:
Consuming a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids (found in foods like salmon and tuna) helps make the lungs more resilient when exposed to a trigger. Making omega-3s a main part of your diet can also prevent future asthma attacks. You can also take fish oil supplements for the same benefit.
Activities like yoga and treatments like acupuncture have been credited with helping to relieve asthma symptoms, but none of the mentioned treatments have been named a cure. Limit your exposure to triggers as much as possible by keeping your home clean and free of dust and pet dander and pay attention to changes in the weather.
If you're currently on prescription medication for managing your asthma, do not stop taking your medication without first speaking with your doctor.
With so many options available, getting control of your asthma symptoms is possible. Try some of these home remedies to keep you breathin' easy.