Asthma is a common inflammatory disorder of the lungs, characterised by shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness. Asthma is an immune disorder, often triggered by allergens and characterised by hypersensitivity of the lungs and airways to stimuli. Internally, the airways (bronchioles) are obstructed by a) excessive mucus, b) constricted muscles, c) inflammation of tissues and d) structural changes over time as airways thicken and narrow in response to the disease.
The incidence of childhood asthma in Australia and New Zealand is amongst the highest in the world, with between 16% and 25% of children reporting asthma diagnosis.
Causes / Risk factors
- Hypersensitivity to aeroallergens (including dust mites; cockroaches; dog, cat, or other animal proteins; fungal spores; pollens; dusts; and fumes)
- Respiratory infections
- Exposure to cold or dry air
- Air pollutants, such as tobacco, aerosols, perfumes, fresh newsprint, diesel particles, sulphur dioxide, elevated ozone levels, and fumes from chemical-cleaning agents and gas stoves
- Meteorological changes in temperature and humidity
- Emotional behaviours that alter breathing such as laughing, shouting, or crying
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and beta blockers
Signs and Symptoms
- Shortness of breath or dyspnea
- Chest tightness or constriction
- Cough (can be the only symptom)
- Accessory muscle use
- Flattened diaphragm and hyper inflated chest
- In severe asthma there may be no wheezing due to insufficient air movement
Diet and Lifestyle Considerations for Asthma
- Avoid exposure to environmental tobacco smoke
- Reduce chemical, irritant and pollution exposure
- Avoid damp or mouldy housing conditions
- Reduce exposure to pets and animal dander
- Reduce exposure to dust mites and cockroaches – clean and vacuum regularly, wash bedclothes in very hot water, use mattress covers.
- Aim to breast feed exclusively until 6 months of age
- Use synthetic materials (foam mattresses, acrylics) instead of animal products (wool, horsehair).
- Minimise dust-collecting household items (i.e., carpets, curtains).
- Regularly wash soft toys, cushions, etc.
- Use of an air purifier/dust filter may help
- Exercise: Whilst bursts of exercise may induce asthma, keeping fit and active helps to stretch the lungs and bronchiole tubes, which in turn reduces resistance in breathing. It is shown that with appropriate preventative medication preceding activity, the positive effects of moderate exercise helps to prevent asthmatic symptoms generally. A lack of exercise may contribute to obesity, an inflammatory risk factor for childhood asthma.
Integrative Treatments Overview
In order to obtain optimal results, the patient might consider a holistic approach that integrates several treatments to address biochemical, physiological, energetic, emotional and/or spiritual imbalances. These treatments can include Allopathic Medicine, Complementary Medicine, Biomedicine, Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, Functional Medicine, Orthomolecular Medicine, Energy Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Naturopathy, Ayurvedic, muscular-skeletal support, Psychology and more. It’s important that treatments are overseen by experienced and certified practitioners who are able to work in teams (see below for where to find one).
For Treatment options see Treatments menu at mindd.org
Nutritional & Environmental Medicine Overview
Nutritional & Environmental practitioners focus on cellular health by optimising nutrient uptake while minimising toxic exposure. Biomedicine, Functional Medicine and Orthomolecular Medicine are all subsets. The overall goal is to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress which are key drivers in chronic modern disease (e.g. asthma is inflammation of the lungs, arthritis is inflammation of the joints, eczema is inflammation of the skin, IBS involves inflammation of the gut and ADHD and Autism include inflammation of the brain). A combined approach of diet, lifestyle and natural therapies supports the body’s innate ability to heal and prevent disease by maintaining homeostasis (balance).
It is recommended that a patient consult a certified practitioner to assess their symptoms and case history and explore their individual need to:
- Screen for food sensitivities and allergies
- Implement dietary intervention geared to the individual (e.g. GAPS, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, FodMAPS, Evolutionary, low oxalate/salicylate, Ketogenic)
- Supplement with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and probiotics
- Improve gastro-intestinal health to support the vagus nerve and brain and immune function
- Support neurotransmitter function
- Supply fat soluble nutrients for brain structure and function
- Reduce toxicity and heavy metal accumulation
- Minimise infections (e.g. bacteria, yeast, virus, parasites) to reduce immune response and nutritional deficiencies that can impact on mental and physical health
- Regulate blood glucose and establish healthy eating habits
- Use energy healing (acupuncture, homeopathy, kinesiology, Emotional Freedom Technique)
Where can I find a certified practitioner?
Finding a well-trained Integrative practitioner requires research. You can reference the lists below for one in your area and should consider checking references and interviewing several before you select one.
The World Anti-Aging Academy of Medicine can help you find Integrative practitioners throughout the world.
The American Academy of Anti-Aging has a directory of doctors, spas, clinics and products that support Integrative treatments for all disease.
The American College for the Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) trains practitioners in Complementary and Integrative Medicine.
Generation Rescue has a list of Integrative practitioners who specialise in childhood neurobiological disorders (Autism, ADHD, allergies). If they do not treat adults or your condition, they might be able to refer you to someone in your area who can.
Australia & New Zealand
Mindd Foundation trains Integrative practitioners in Australia and New Zealand and is partnered with the Medical Academy of Paediatric Special Needs (MAPS).
The Australian College of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine (ACNEM) trains in Australia and New Zealand.
The British Society for Ecological Medicine has a list of practitioners in the UK
Mindd Foundation gratefully acknowledges the contribution of Metagenics in supplying the Definition, Causes and Diet & Lifestyle Considerations for this page.