What are you NOT being told about chronic asthma and nutrition? If you are still having symptoms, then there is a lot that you are not being told. Having excellent nutrition in chronic asthma is imperative if you want control of your symptoms. Yet the medical profession has hardly given a passing glance to
asthma and nutrition’s role in the management of this chronic illness.There is much that chronic asthma sufferers can do to reap benefits from this underutilized asthma treatment.
While Chronic asthma is an immune system dysfunction and a genetic disease, it is first and foremost a problem of inflammation. If there were no inflammation, asthma would be nonexistent. This is the reason that western medicine uses potent anti-inflammatory drugs like corticosteroids to treat this Allergic Disease. Unfortunately this is going about the problem of reducing inflammation in a short sighted manner and doesn’t address the CAUSE of the inflammation. That’s why people have to take asthma treatments essentially forever – no one ever addresses the problem of WHY they have asthma in the first place. What if you could still decrease inflammation and improve your chronic asthma and nutrition without using corticosteroids? Nutrition, along with exercise and management of Environmental Toxins, is the answer. These asthma and nutrition treatments will get to the root of your problem instead of just suppressing symptoms.
So what causes asthma at its ROOT? It is activation of the genes that causes allergic disease which in turn activates inflammation and the immune system. Huh?? What does that mean?? Well, most people claim that they have asthma or this or that disease because of genetics. That is only partially true. The genetics that you are expressing at this moment in time are a result of your environment. This is explained in more detail on the Allergic Diseases page, but briefly – genes for diseases can be ‘turned on’ in the presence of certain environmental factors.
Nutrition, and specifically nutritional deficiencies, is a major factor in the turning on of genes that cause inflammation and disease. There are certain nutrients that people with asthma, and other chronic illnesses, tend to either be deficient in or their particular genetics just require them to have more of in order to function well. It makes sense that replenishing the nutrients that you are deficient in can improve your asthma AND nutrition.
While you should always discuss adding any supplementation with your doctor, getting and KEEPING adequate amounts of these nutrients in your body every day could make a big difference in your asthma and nutrition health.
Good fats and Fat Soluble Vitamins are linked together - you can't have one without the other. These seem to be important elements for asthma and nutrition, particularly in children. One study, whose title says it all, 'Childhood asthma is a fat-soluble vitamin deficiency disease' claims that a MINIMUM of 40% of all childhood asthma is caused as a result of Vitamin E and Vitamin D Deficiency!
Other studies show that the Benefits Omega 3 Fatty Acids have on asthma is that it improves exercise induced asthma and steroid-resistant asthma. We've been taught to be so fat phobic in our society that it's no wonder we don't get enough essential fatty acids or the fat soluble Vitamins A, D, E and K.
They aren't called ESSENTIAL for nothing, we need these nutrients. They make up the cell membrane of every single cell in the entire body and are critical in the control of inflammation. While its rare for a US doctor to recommend Omega 3 Fatty Acid Supplements or vitamin supplements to a patient, the evidence that lack of these nutrients contribute to the spread of chronic illness is becoming overwhelming.
I predict that in the future, fatty acid supplementation will be commonplace in order to treat and prevent many chronic illnesses. And that asthma and nutrition therapy will be a first line treatment.
Good Fats for asthma and nutrition
Historically, our ancestors ate MUCH more good fat than we do today. Typically, westerners eat large amounts of saturated animal fats and hydrogenated trans fatty acids that contribute to heart disease and chronic illness. What we SHOULD be eating are varied types of unsaturated fats from plant sources as well as good saturated fats in tropical oils and free range animals and their products. These good fats are proving to be more important to our health than we can imagine. It is at the heart of the interplay of asthma and nutrition.
Omega 3 fatty acids are the most important of these fats and should be eaten more often than other fats, yet we get the LEAST amount of these fats than any others. The body, however, needs a balance of Omega 3,6, and 9 fatty acids for optimal health - although this balance should favor Omega 3's over any others.
Adding natural sources of Omega 3's to your diet is the preferred way to get your good fat:
• Beef, milk and cheese from grass-fed cows
• Eggs from free-range chickens
• Fatty fish like Salmon, Sardines and Anchovies
But since asthma and nutrition are not linked in the minds of most westerners, we eat almost none of these sources on a regular basis it is often more convenient to supplement with:
• Fish oil or Krill Oil – the preferred choices as they have DHA and EPA, two important fatty acids, and they are well studied. Be sure to choose a formulation that is mercury and dioxin free. The American Heart Association states that 1 to 3 grams per day can be taken without being under the care of a physician and studies involving pregnant women safely used 2 grams per day. Cod Liver Oil is NOT a recommended source of Omega Three Fatty Acids. You can get an excellent Omega 3 Fatty Acid Supplement here.
• Flaxseed oil – Choose if you are a vegetarian or can’t tolerate fish oil. Buy only cold pressed flax oil that is in the refrigerated section as it goes rancid quickly. Keep it in the refrigerator at home and NEVER cook with flax oil.
Other Unsaturated Good Fats these contain Omega 6 and Omega 9 fatty acids as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These are still a MUCH better choice than animal derived saturated fats, but are a poorer choice than Omega 3's.
The best dietary sources are:
• Free range chicken
• Eggs from free range chickens
• Whole grains
• Nuts and seeds
• Olive oil
While coconut oil and other tropical oils are saturated fats, they are still 'good fats' and contain a special type of fat called Medium Chain Triglycerides that are digested quickly and easily.
Coconut oil is an excellent dietary addition and is probably the ONLY OIL THAT YOU SHOULD COOK WITH. Vegetable oils RAPIDLY oxidize, or go rancid, in the presence of heat. Cooking may completely destroy the beneficial effects of most unsaturated fats. Coconut Oil is the exception to this rule and can be left out in warm weather or used in cooking without any problems. And it tastes good too.
Vitamin D deficiency seems to be rampant throughout industrialized countries. Dozens of studies have tested levels in healthy and ill people and show a high percentage of deficiency.
Recent studies are showing that not only is is important for bone health, but that it is a potent stimulator of the immune system and controls the inflammatory response in disease.
Vitamin D Levels in pregnancy are linked to asthma in their offspring.
Moderate and careful sunlight exposure is the best way to get some of your Vitamin D, but unless you work outdoors regularly, your exposure is probably inadequate.
While most recommendations on Vitamin D Dosagesstate a conservative 400-800 IU daily for adults, new research is showing that higher doses are needed to promote optimal blood levels in most people.
The third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey suggests 3800 IU - 5000 IU a day!!! This is 10 times the US RDA of 400 IU !!! If you choose to supplement with Vitamin D, look for it in the form of Vitamin D3 Supplements. This form is MUCH easier for the body to convert than the more common Vitamin D2.
Vitamin D and Vitamin E are linked in many ways so researchers find in difficult to determine which vitamin influenced the results in studies. While few studies have specifically looked at the role of Vitamin E in adults, asthma and nutrition are definitely connected.
A recent study concluded, "Higher concentrations of vitamin E intake were associated with... lower frequency of allergen sensitization [in asthma and allergic diseases]."
However, of interest to asthmatics is a study done on the elderly in nursing homes that showed improved immune function and fewer colds with supplementation of 200 IU per day. As always, it's best to get Vitamin E from natural food sources that include
• Green leafy vegetables
• Nuts and seeds
• Whole grain breads and cereals
• Vegetable and Nut oils
The US RDA of Vitamin E is 15 mg/22.5 IU. While most Americans are not clinically deficient, most of us do not get this RDA- and even if you do, asthmatics may very well have a much higher need for this nutrient than non-asthmatics.
If you choose to take supplements, look for high quality Vitamin E Supplements in the form of 'mixed tocopherols' as this form is the most 'bioavailable' and identical to the Vitamin E in foods. 'Synthetic' vitamin e labeled 'Vitamin E' is NOT recommended. Most clinical studies that showed benefits from vitamin e use between 200 to 400 IU per day without toxicity.
Vitamin A is the last of the fat soluble vitamins that we will discuss in relation to asthma and nutrition. Levels of Vitamin A are significantly lower in children and adults with asthma, and the severity of their asthma was worse with lower levels of this fat soluble vitamin.
It's best to get your Vitamin A in foods as they also contain the antioxidant carotenes that are also found lacking in asthmatics. It is found in animal sources such as liver and egg yolks. In vegetables, look for foods that are brightly colored orange or yellow such as carrots, mangoes and sweet potatoes.
Oxidation is a chemical process that occurs in the body constantly. While necessary, it is damaging and is probably the cause of aging and degenerative diseases.
Oxidation occurs rapidly in the airways of asthmatics in the presence of an allergy trigger, causing a resulting immune response and inflammation.
Antioxidants are the body's answer to combat oxidants and slow this process. Asthma and nutrition are linked once again. The best source of antioxidants is in fresh fruits and vegetables as well as supplements. Which is why asthma nutrition is so important.
Vitamin C is one of the most well-known antioxidants and its easy to get in fresh foods and supplement form.
Vitamin C has been studied fairly extensively in asthma nutrition with conflicting results. Studies do show low levels of Vitamin C in those with asthma, however supplementing does not seem to improve symptoms. However, increased Vitamin C intake did improve lung FUNCTION even if it did not improve symptoms.
There are many different antioxidants in many different classes. Different antioxidants are found in different foods in many combinations. Most are found in fruits and vegetables, but coffee, tea and chocolate have significant amounts as well.
While no one antioxidant has come out as a clear winner in reducing asthma symptoms, researchers recognize a definite link between asthma and antioxidants.
Recent studies show that antioxidant levels in airways are used up rapidly in response to allergy triggers, so the airway levels are what is important.
It makes sense that eating a wide variety of foods high in antioxidants and/or regular supplementation would encourage airway levels to stay higher.
There is also some evidence that asthmatics have higher requirements for antioxidants than those without chronic illness. So supplementation may be especially important.
If you choose to supplement, then a professional quality Daily Vitamin and Mineral Supplement should be chosen and not a worthless 'drug store brand'.
For example, Vitamin C that is from powdered acerola cherry will also contain other antioxidants in the form of flavenoids and polyphenols as well as small amounts of vitamins and trace minerals that may help the body to absorb the primary nutrient and that may be just as important as the Vitamin itself.
While there is no minimum dose of most antioxidants that are required for good health, they are obviously an important part of asthma nutrition. There are many high quality supplements to choose from. Vitamin C is the exception to this. The Linus Pauling Institute "recommends a vitamin C intake of at least 400 mg daily — the amount that has been found to fully saturate plasma and circulating cells with vitamin C in young, healthy nonsmokers".
However, they go on to state, "...individuals suffering from certain diseases may require substantially larger amounts of vitamin C to... derive therapeutic benefits." They give a "Tolerable Upper Intake Level" of 2000 mg per day for adults.
Magnesium is the 11th most abundant element in the body and it's critical in over 300 different enzymatic reactions in the body. Magnesium is so important that it has become the FIRST treatment in several life threatening emergency medical conditions. Studies have been done showing that diabetes, migraine headaches, high blood pressure, stroke, gallstones, constipation cardiovascular disease - and asthma could all simply be
Signs of Magnesium Deficiency and can all improve greatly with some extra magnesium supplementation!!
Since is found mainly in green leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fish, and these are eaten rarely in a standard western diet, it makes sense that most first world nations are magnesium deficient. Magnesium deficiency is found in up to 60% of people with chronic illness and one study of magnesium supplementation in children showed significant improvements in asthma symptoms.
Supplements can be easily and inexpensively found in health food stores. It water soluble so it is generally safe to take as directed unless you have kidney problems.
There HAVE been cases of Magnesium Overdose, however, but for the vast majority of people, the risk is one of being deficient and not of taking too much.
B vitamins, Selenium and Zinc
These nutrients have also been shown to be lowered in people with asthma. Although no studies have shown that supplementation improves asthma, it makes sense to get adequate amounts of these essential nutrients as they play important roles in immune system functioning.
Asthma and nutrition deficiencies seem to be a major problem.
Coffee has been shown to reduce the symptoms of asthma by a significant amount due to certain components called methylxanthines that act as bronchodilators.
While this may be true, coffee is not necessarily the best way to control symptoms. There are a lot of other good health reasons NOT to drink coffee. If you don't drink coffee, asthma symptom control is not a good reason to start. But if you already drink coffee and are unwilling to stop, cutting down and/or drinking organic coffee that does not have pesticides or other toxic chemicals in it is probably a good idea.
One study showed a strong link between children who drank apple juice every day and reduction of asthma symptoms.
This is probably due to the antioxidants in apple juice and the daily drinking of it acting to keep the antioxidant levels high in the body. This is a super easy and cheap way to keep symptoms at bay and a great addition to any asthma and nutrition program.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet has been shown to generally be a terrific way to improve general health, extend your life and to prevent asthma symptoms.
Studies on populations that adhere to this type of diet show very low amounts of asthma and other allergic conditions. Essentially, the Mediterranean Diet has low amounts of saturated fats and sugar with high amounts of whole grains, fruit and vegetables. It makes an excellent model diet for asthma and nutrition.
Milk allergy is a well known phenomenon in western medicine. But less well accepted is that cow's milk is a contributing factor in asthma.
In western medicine, delayed reactions to foods are generally not recognized even though delayed hypersensitivities to other allergens, such as poison oak, is well accepted.
There are thousands of people who claim to have received relief from asthma once cow's milk was eliminated from the diet, but there are few studies linking cow's milk and asthma. One study, however, recognized significant reactions to cow's milk up to 26 days after reintroducing milk after a year long abstinence and some of these reactions were asthma symptoms.
It's also well recognized that a high number of children with cow's milk allergy go on to develop asthma. While a doctor will probably not diagnose your asthma as being related to a cow's milk allergy, if you have asthma and have tried to get relief without results, an elimination diet is easy.
Simply do not eat or drink any products with cow's milk for a period of time. Usually several months and see if your symptoms improve. If they do, then see what happens when you start eating the foods again - or maybe you'll just want to eliminate cow's milk forever. Incidentally, it is usually only PASTEURIZED cow's milk that is the problem, raw milk products are often tolerated well by those who have cow's milk allergy or delayed reactions to cow's milk.
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