Asthma is a lung disease in which your airways become inflamed and narrow. Its symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, and chest tightness. Asthma symptoms affect around 27 million Americans and are one of the leading causes of school and work absences. Although asthma medication can help ease the symptoms and prevent asthma attacks, they can burn a hole in your pocket. According to the American Lung Association, asthma medications cost around $ 6 billion a year in the US. In addition to the expense, asthma medication can also cause side effects.
This is the reason why many people seek alternative treatments to control their asthma symptoms. Read on to learn how home remedies can reduce the severity and the frequency of asthma attacks and manage the symptoms.
What is asthma?
Asthma a chronic condition that causes a person’s airways to become inflamed, and this makes the airways sensitive to things that you are exposed to in the environments every day or asthma triggers. When you breathe in an asthma trigger, the insides of your airways swell up and narrow. The muscles that wrap around the airways also tighten and make breathing harder. This is known as an asthma flare-up, asthma episode, or asthma “attack.”
There are two types of asthma –
- Allergic – Allergic asthma is triggered by exposure to an allergen, such as mold or pet dander.
- Non-allergic – This type of asthma is caused by factors such as stress, exercise, illness, extreme weather, irritants in the air, and certain medications.
Conventional treatment for asthma
The traditional treatment for asthma includes breathing exercises, first-aid treatment, and long-term medications. The doctors prescribe a combination of these treatments depending on your symptoms, age, type of asthma you have, and the triggers.
- Breathing exercises – These exercises help you to get more air in and out of your lungs. Over time, these exercises also improve your lung capacity.
- First aid treatment – These medications are taken when you have an asthma attack as they provide quick relief. These include rescue inhalers, nebulizers, bronchodilators, and anti-inflammatories.
- Long-term medications – These medicines are taken daily to prevent the symptoms of asthma.
Home remedies for asthma
1. Foods to eat
Eating the right foods keeps your body and mind healthy. Eating the right foods boosts our energy, and even improves our lung health. While there is no specific diet recommendation for asthma, certain foods can help improve lung function and lower the symptoms. These include –
1. Foods that contain carotenoids –
Carotenoids are potent dietary antioxidants that may protect against asthma by reducing oxidative damage. According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming a carotenoid-rich diet can lead to increased lung capacity (1). Foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, root veggies, leafy greens, and berries are rich in carotenoids.
Vitamin E has antioxidant properties, so it has therapeutic benefits for people with asthma. To increase vitamin E intake in your diet, eat more avocados, almonds, broccoli, fish, olive oil, spinach, and squash.
Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that make it highly beneficial for people with asthma. Studies have shown that asthmatics with low levels of vitamin C have more severe symptoms. Belly peppers, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, lemons, oranges, strawberries, and tomatoes are rich in vitamin C.
Magnesium is a bronchodilator, which means it helps to open up the airways. Some of the magnesium-rich foods include avocado, banana, dark leafy vegetables, dried fruits, lentils, and beans.
5. Onion and garlic
Onions and garlic contain a variety of anti-inflammatory compounds that help improve the symptoms of asthma. They contain quercetin, which is known to decrease the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.
A diet high in omega-3 can lower inflammation, which is the key component in asthma. According to research published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, health care providers can protect children from the harmful effects of indoor air pollution by making them eat food rich in omega-3 fatty acids like sardines trout, and salmon (2).
Foods to avoid
Eating processed or refined foods can make asthma symptoms worse. The lack of nutrients in this diet can lead to deficiencies and lead to inflammation. Some of the other foods to avoid are –
1. Food high in calories
When you eat more calories than you burn, it leads to weight gain. People who are more obese have more severe asthma symptoms.
2. Omega-6 fatty acids
Omega-6 fatty acids and trans fats found in foods like processed foods and margarine can worsen asthma.
3. Food preservatives
Food preservatives and food colors can also trigger asthma attacks. Avoid consuming MSG, tetrazine, sulfites, and sulfur dioxide.
4. Allergy-triggering foods
Allergic food reactions can cause asthma. Gluten, soy, eggs, and nuts are some of the foods that commonly cause allergic reactions.
Asthma often gets worse when you are tense. Aromatherapy can provide relief in such instances. Some essential oils also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help treat asthma symptoms. These include –
Peppermint oil, when used in a diffuser, can lower the symptoms of asthma. It appears to reduce the effect of asthma on bronchial smooth muscles (3).
Lavender essential oil has anti-inflammatory properties. Research shows that it inhibits allergic inflammation (4).
According to a 2018 study, rosemary extract can significantly improve wheezing, cough, and sputum. It is useful in the treatment of resistant asthma (5).
Frankincense essential oil lowers inflammation and swelling in lymph nodes.
Some dietary supplements can help alleviate asthma symptoms.
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D impacts the levels of specific immune cells and decreases the inflammatory response caused by a viral respiratory infection.
A recent study tested 435 children and 658 adults with mild to moderate asthma. The results showed that the people who took vitamin D supplements experienced fewer asthma attacks (6).
Antioxidants like vitamin C and E can have a beneficial impact on children with asthma.
People with asthma have lower levels of magnesium. Giving them a breathable spray form of magnesium can open up their bronchial tubes and improve airflow.
Supplementation of zinc to asthmatics can control the immune response and lower allergic airway inflammation (7).
Drinking hot coffee is one of the easiest and simplest ways of dealing with asthma. Coffee opens up constricted airways as it contains caffeine, which is similar to theophylline.
Turmeric contains curcumin, which has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities. Researchers believe turmeric can relieve the airway obstruction and suppress allergic reactions by stabilizing the immune system response (8).
Ginseng is a herb that is commonly used for the treatment of asthma. Studies show that ginseng can suppress inflammatory cytokine production (9).
8. Black seed
Black seed (Nigella Sativa) is a traditional herbal medicine used to treat bronchial asthma. Studies show that black seed can be beneficial in alleviating airway inflammation and thus control asthma symptoms (10).
Consuming honey can increase saliva production, which then lubricates the airways to reduce irritation and coughing. The anti-inflammatory properties of honey also help to reduce the swelling in the airways, which helps reduce asthma symptoms.
10. Chinese herb combinations
Several herbal medicine combinations are used to treat asthma in traditional Chinese medicine. One such combination is ASHMI (anti-asthma herbal medicine intervention), which includes lingzhi(mushroom), gan cao(licorice root), and shen (sophora root). This combination is known to reduce airway constriction and inflammation and keep cortisol levels up.
A 2010 study from Mount Sinai School of medicine found ASHMI effective in treating ASHMI (11). Other combinations of Chinese medicine like Mai Men Dong Tang are also useful in treating asthma.
11. Avoid irritants inside your home
Reducing irritants inside our homes can significantly help reduce asthma attacks. These are some ways in which you can eliminate irritants –
- Keeps windows open to bring in the fresh air.
- Replace chemical-based cleaners with natural cleaners inside your home.
- Avoid aerosol and petroleum-based beauty products.
- Vacuum regularly to reduce dust mites.
- Use non-allergenic sheets and pillows.
- Keep pets out of the bedroom.
- Cockroaches can trigger asthma. If you suspect an infestation, talk to an exterminator.
Asthma is a chronic condition in which your airways become narrow and produce extra mucus. This leads to difficulty in breathing and triggers coughing, wheezing, and shortness in breath. The conventional treatment for asthma includes breathing exercises, first-aid treatment, and long term medications. The doctors prescribe a combination of these treatments depending on your symptoms, age, type of asthma you have, and the triggers.
Some alternative natural remedies can also help with asthma symptoms. These include eating foods that contain carotenoids, vitamin C, and magnesium and eliminating others that may trigger asthma symptoms. These are several herbs and supplements that can help lower asthma symptoms.
However, you must remember that these treatments are not a replacement for asthma medical treatment. You must consult with your doctor before taking any herbs and supplements.