Posted on by Village Green Nutrition Team
Do you sometimes find it harder to breathe? When you work out, is it difficult for you to catch your breath? Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Asthma is diagnosed using a pulmonary function test and may be managed with medication or by avoiding triggers. There are also natural approaches that can be taken to support the body. For example, physical activity, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, reducing triggers, and taking nutritional supplements are some ways that one can help manage their asthma and improve overall health.
Aside from conventional medicine, there are a number of ways you can support your lungs and manage asthma symptoms. It is always important to discuss with your primary care practitioner the best course of action for your situation.
1. Get Moving
There are many things people with asthma can do to help manage their symptoms. One important step is to exercise regularly. Exercise helps keep the lungs healthy and reduces the risk of flare-ups. It's also a great way to stay fit and healthy. However, people with asthma should take some precautions when exercising. They should always consult their doctor before starting a new exercise program.
It's important to find an activity that is right for the individual, and to start slowly and build up gradually. People with asthma should avoid exercises that trigger their symptoms. This may vary from person to person, but common triggers include the duration or the intensity of the exercise, cold air, allergens, smoke, and dust mites. Using an inhaler or other medications before exercising can help control symptoms.
Exercise is an important part of staying healthy for people with asthma. Asthma sufferers can typically enjoy all the benefits that exercise has to offer while managing their symptoms effectively.
2. Optimize Your Diet
Eating foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, such as wild salmon and raw fruits and vegetables, can be very beneficial for asthmatics. Antioxidant-rich foods such as blueberries, pomegranate or pumpkin can help clean up free radicals causing damage to the lungs. Research has shown that fruit and vegetable consumption has systemic anti-inflammatory properties and is also associated with lower airway inflammation in asthmatics.
It is also helpful to consider decreasing foods that contain sulphites, as these preservatives can trigger asthma symptoms in some asthmatics. Finding out which foods trigger asthma is an important part of managing your condition. An elimination diet can help by excluding certain foods for a short period of time – usually 3 weeks – and then slowly reintroducing specific foods and monitoring for symptoms for possible reactions. Food logs or a diary can also be a great way to find out what foods are aggravating your symptoms.
Food sensitivity tests are another tool that can be used to determine what foods may be triggering symptoms.
3. Reduce Environmental Triggers
Unfortunately, asthmatic triggers can be found both inside and outside. The following tips can help:
- During the summer, levels of some air pollutants rise, creating difficulty for asthma sufferers. In addition, hot weather and thunderstorms may trigger symptoms in some people. It’s a good idea to consider exercising early in the day when air quality is usually better.
- Have vents and air filters in your home cleaned throughout the year. Make sure to change your furnace filter regularly.
- Switch scented candles to pure beeswax candles.
- Opt for natural laundry and dish detergents that do not contain artificial fragrance or colors.
- Use plants to help clean and filter the air.
- If possible, remove carpet and install a hard flooring like tile or wood.
- Vacuum your mattress.
4. Consider Taking Nutritional Supplements
Vitamin C is the primary antioxidant in the lungs and a powerful antihistamine. Vitamin C enhances immunity and reduces the severity of allergic responses. Physical activity increases oxidative stress and therefore, as an antioxidant, vitamin C might have particularly evident effects in people who are participating in vigorous exercise.
Magnesium is a natural bronchodilator, which means it helps relax the bronchial tubes. Magnesium levels are chronically low in asthmatics. In one study, 89 asthmatic children ages 4 to 16 were given 200 to 290 mg of magnesium daily or a placebo. During the 12-week study, children receiving magnesium used their inhalers less than those receiving placebo.
N-acetylcysteine, or NAC, helps thin mucus in the lungs and normalizes its production to prevent clogging of the bronchial tubes. N-acetylcysteine is also a building block for glutathione, the most abundant antioxidant within our cells, and another crucial lung protectant. Working synergistically, glutathione and vitamin C may prevent “runaway” lung inflammation (a condition in which the body’s immune response spins out of control) and bolster lung immunity.
In a small study of adults with exercise-induced asthma, 3 weeks of supplementation with fish oil was shown to significantly improve symptoms. It is believed that omega-3 fatty acid or fish oil helps in reduction of excess immunoglobulin antibodies that cause inflammation of the airways, leading to an asthma attack.
Garlic, ginger and tumeric have natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Research has shown that these herbs may help symptoms of asthma because they help relax the bronchial tubes, similar to magnesium. These are available in supplement form, but can also be consumed as teas.
More Help for Asthma Sufferers
While there is no cure for asthma, there are many approaches that can help you manage your symptoms. In addition to exercise, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, limiting environmental triggers, and taking nutritional supplements, complementary therapies like acupuncture or chiropractic care can also provide benefits for asthma sufferers. These therapies work by helping to relax the muscles and clear the airways so you can breathe easier.
Talk to your healthcare practitioner about whether these approaches might be helpful for you. Village Green’s nutritionists are also available to answer any questions you might have.
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