Asthma is a respiratory condition that leads to difficulty in breathing. It is caused by inflammation of the nasal passage and excess mucus production. The disease is chronic and has no cure. At best, the symptoms can be managed to improve the quality of life. This article discusses the causes, associated risks, symptoms, treatment options, and natural remedies for the effective management of asthma.
What causes asthma?
Exposure to airborne allergens, cold weather, pollutants, irritants, side effects of certain medications, respiratory infections, and even extreme physical activity can trigger asthma-related breathing problems. A family history of the condition, obesity, smoking, and exposure to secondhand smoke or fumes also increases the disease’s risk.
Breathing difficulties aside, asthma attacks can also cause the following discomforts:
- Tightness in the chest and pain
- Wheezing (common among children)
- Cold and cough due to an infection
- Difficulty in sleeping
Types of asthma
- Adult-onset asthma
Some adults may develop asthma symptoms due to an allergy or infection only after a certain age. However, the symptoms are chronic, irrespective of when the condition is diagnosed.
- Allergic asthma
People with allergic asthma experience discomforts when exposed to certain allergens in the environment, such as dust, pollen, or even pet dander.
- Asthma COPD
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) is a group of respiratory diseases, and asthma is one of the known problems associated with the condition.
- Nonallergic asthma
Asthma attacks can also be triggered due to changing weather conditions, leading to sickness or an infection.
- Occupational asthma
Repeated exposure to certain elements at workplaces like mines and factories, where the air is loaded with particulate pollution and chemical fumes, can also trigger an attack.
- Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB)
Some people may experience asthma attacks while performing heavy exercises. Professional athletes who train rigorously for their sport may have breathing difficulties that hinder their performance.
- Eosinophilic asthma
This is one of the most aggressive forms of asthma that affects nearly 50 to 60 percent of people with severe symptoms. It triggers an increase in the level of white blood cells, which can lead to other problems.
Doctors usually recommend quick action nebulizers, breathing exercises, and long-term medications, including anti-inflammatories, anticholinergics, bronchodilators, and biologic therapy medications, for effective relief. They may also prescribe inhaled corticosteroids, oral medications, and intravenous injections to counter inflammation and manage moderate to severe symptoms.
Asthma inhalers have also been proven quite effective for short-term, quick flare-up management. These inhalers can be used with long term medications, but it is advisable to consult a doctor to understand the frequency of use. If asthma attacks are triggered due to an allergic reaction, allergy shots may also help reduce the immune system’s response to the allergen.
Natural remedies and diet for asthma management
Mild to moderate symptoms can be managed with some simple home remedies, such as the ones mentioned below:
- Breathing exercises like pranayama (rhythmic breathing), Buteyko technique (shallow breathing), deep diaphragmatic breathing, and the Papworth method provide short term relief.
- Mindful meditation techniques help relieve stress and enable better control over respiratory functions.
- Tai Chi ( an ancient slow-moving form of martial arts) has been suggested for chronic illnesses.
- Other relaxation techniques include yoga, biofeedback, acupuncture, and biofeedback.
Foods to eat and avoid
Asthma patients must have a diet rich in vitamin D, vitamin A, beta carotene compounds, and magnesium. Some foods that contain these elements include apples, bananas, milk, eggs, leafy greens, salmon, carrots, sweet potatoes, and assorted seeds. At the same time, patients must avoid foods and beverages rich in sulfites, artificial ingredients, and preservatives, such as wine, dried fruits, pickles, shrimp, beans, cabbage, certain dairy products, and nuts.