Recent statistics show that only one in five asthmatic children
in the U.S. has their asthma symptoms under "good control". Nearly 3% of
Americans are affected by this breath-robbing disease, children
under ten more commonly than other age groups. The article
(Associated Press) goes on that
asthma causes 2 million
emergency room visits, half a million hospitalizations and over
4,000 deaths a year. And the rate is rising.
other hand, children on the Mediterranean island Crete barely need any
asthma related medical assistance. What makes the difference?
New federal guidelines expected this summer see the solution
in "focusing" on more frequent, low-level symptoms, which should result
in more effective medicating. Typically, there is no mention of the
possibility to address the actual causes, or support body's own asthma-fighting ability.
While no one disputes that minimizing exposure to confirmed and
possible asthma triggers is the main priority, this is where the
official medical approach already falls short from addressing the
problem. It is limited mainly to some of
airborne allergens like
smoke, mold, dander or dust mite particles and, in general,
external factors like cold, physical activity and stress
(even that is rather halfhearted, since doctors routinely do not
systematically examine asthma sufferers for these possible
particular sensitivities, nor do they have developed efficient
methods for detecting them).
Consequently, the usual follow-up to
diagnosis is a symptom-suppressing medication followed with a set of
What is routinely overlooked and ignored when addressing asthma symptoms are underlying
health conditions, environmental factors and nutritional deficiencies, often time a major asthma factor.
allergies (most often to eggs, fish, shellfish, nuts, milk, chocolate, wheat
and citrus fruit), as well as
low gastric acid,
(Candida), leaky gut and compromised
are among conditions that predispose people to asthma.
Some offending foods tend to cause immediate response (i.e.
asthma symptoms and/or attack), while
others tend to cause delayed reaction7.
Other asthma triggers are similarly divided in this respect,
showing again that asthma is a complex disease, most often with multiple causes,
contributing factors and
mechanisms of action.
Low level of antioxidants, especially
vitamin C, exposes
lungs to more tissue damage by oxidation, which directly contributes
to asthma vulnerability. Infusion of
magnesium can stop an acute asthma
attack; its deficiency can make it happen.
Vitamin B12 has
also shown preventive capability, especially for sulfite-induced
Vitamin B6 is usually beneficial when compromised tryptophan
metabolism is a factor (but not in those using steroids for symptom
An asthma aggravating factor is also the elevated
level of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins (2-series
prostaglandins) and leukotriens, hormone-like substances produced by the
body from arachidonic acid,
unsaturated fatty acid found in meat, eggs and dairy. Arachidonic
acid is also the end product of metabolism of Omega-6 polyunsaturated
fatty acids, particularly in the absence of Omega-3 fatty acids (which
compete for the enzyme needed for conversion to arachidonic acid).
diet low in foods of animal origin is generally beneficial for asthma
sufferers, and so is moderation in consumption of oils high in Omega-6,
with no Omega-3 fatty acids (safflower, sunflower, corn).
Just as much important is avoiding triggers like aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- to which those with nasal polyps are frequently sensitive - as well as
food additives (dyes, benzoates, sulfites). Both, NAID and food
additive yellow dye #5 (tartrazine) stimulate production of
inflammatory leukotriens that can cause or worsen asthma symptoms in
sensitive individuals. The latter also inhibits vitamin B6 use, thus
aggravating asthma symptoms through at least two different mechanisms.
- and so the frequency and severity of asthma attacks - increases with
salt intake, probably due to reduced water availability in
environmental sensitivities, such as those to
formaldehyde, also can be the major factor in triggering asthma
attacks. Chlorinated tap water can also be an aggravating factor,
particularly during hot shower, when chlorine inhalation is combined
with skin absorption.
The above is still only a partial list of the possible
factors directly related to asthma attacks. Considering how seldom, if
ever, these factors are a part of systematic
asthma therapy, it comes as no surprise that in the cited study nearly
half of the children had persistent symptoms despite being
prescribed preventive medications.
In fact, it has been shown over and over again, that
over-reliance on drugs alone actually leads to more problems. It is only
logical, since the underlying causes are not addressed, and condition is
likely to worsen. One day your medication simply
doesn't help anymore, and you rely on how fast you can get to the
My mother wasn't lucky enough. Her asthma was "treated" with
progressively stronger medications, to end up with periodic
corticosteroid injections, just to keep her symptoms "under control".
Yet all it took was a preservative vapor (potassium-metabisulphite)
that found its way into her lungs as she was seasoning vegetables for the winter. The inhalator
wouldn't help. Nothing did. She died in the car, as my father was
rushing her to a hospital.
The bottom line is that identifying and avoiding
triggers, combined with correcting health conditions,
environmental intolerances and
nutritional deficiencies predisposing for asthma symptoms,
should be in the forefront of asthma treatments. Medications
should be used only for temporary, emergency or infrequent assistance.
Unfortunately, the official view of medical profession is still
turned upside down.
The good news is that times are changing, slowly but surely.
A recent UK/Greece/Spain joint study was designed to find out why is
incidence of asthma much lower for children in rural areas of Crete,
compared to ~10% asthma incidence among children in the U.K. (BBC).
The study conclusion is that children on Crete are resistant to asthma
mainly due to their better, nutrient rich diet, particularly in
antioxidants and magnesium (although not mentioned in the article,
less polluted environment is certainly a factor, since it lowers
demands for nutrients the body needs for detox). About 80% of the
children ate fresh fruit, and over two-thirds of them ate fresh
vegetables, at least twice a day.
However, higher intake of margarine alone - known for its high
trans-fatty acid contents,
inhibiting synthesis of beneficial, anti-inflammatory 3-series
prostaglandins - doubled the chances of asthma and
An interesting finding is that skin allergies,
relatively common on Crete, seldom are accompanied with respiratory
symptoms. Apparently, it is not the allergic sensitivity itself
causing asthma symptoms, rather
oxidative damage to the lungs,
causing inflammation, combined with insufficient nutrient level to control
the immune and neuro-muscular function.
The importance of
nutrition in avoiding asthma - and other diseases -
extends to the very beginning of everyone's life: mother's diet while expecting.
Researchers from Netherlands and Scotland have recently found out
that eating apples alone significantly reduces chances that
newborn develop childhood asthma.
Why apples? They happened to be an excellent source of
that not only exerts potent antioxidant effect, but also suppresses
production of pro-inflammatory leukotriens and histamine, thus having
stabilizing influence on mast cell
This indicates that oxidative/inflammatory damage to
the lungs, predisposing for asthma symptoms, can take place as early as
in mother's womb.
Adequate intake of vitamins
D, as well as zinc also has shown beneficial effect.
Is it really that hard to
put all the pieces together, and finally come up with a safe and
effective set of guidelines for comprehensive, individually based, cause-oriented treatment of asthma?
It isn't. But there is something in the way - a big, mighty
pharmaceutical industry that wants to continue selling thousands of tons
of medications for astronomical profits, and steers the official medicine in