Asthma is a common inflammatory disorder of the lungs, characterized by shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness. Asthma is an immune disorder, often triggered by allergens and characterized 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; dust; and fumes)
- Respiratory infections
- Exposure to cold or dry air
- Air pollutants, such as tobacco, aerosols, perfumes, fresh newsprint, diesel particles, sulfur dioxide, elevated ozone levels, and fumes from chemical-cleaning agents and gas stoves
- Meteorological changes in temperature and humidity
- Emotional behaviors that alter breathing such as laughing, shouting, or crying
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and beta blockers
- Nutritional factors: allergies or intolerances to food, food coloring, or additives.
- Environmental exposures: chronic exposure to lead, mercury and other toxic metals have been linked to a variety of neurobehavioral conditions in children.
Signs and Symptoms
- Shortness of breath or dyspnea
- Chest tightness or constriction
- A cough (can be the only symptom)
- Accessory muscle use
- Flattened diaphragm and hyperinflated 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 moldy housing conditions
- Reduce exposure to pets and animal dander
- Reduce exposure to dust mites and cockroaches – clean and vacuum regularly, wash bedclothes in boiling water, use mattress covers.
- Aim to breastfeed 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: while bursts of activity 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
To obtain optimal results, the patient might consider a holistic approach that integrates several treatments to address biochemical, physiological, energetic, emotional and 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 can 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 optimizing nutrient uptake while minimizing toxic exposure. Biomedicine, Functional Medicine and Orthomolecular Medicine are all subsets. The overall goal is to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress which are critical drivers in modern chronic 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 gastrointestinal 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)
Mindd Foundation gratefully acknowledges the contribution of Metagenics in supplying the Definition, Causes and Diet & Lifestyle Considerations for this page.
Where can I find a certified practitioner?Finding a well-trained Integrative and/or Functional practitioner requires research but is a vital step in treating complex and chronic illness.
Below are links to lists of practitioners worldwide. We recommend you research the scope, expertise and experience of any practitioners you are considering.
U.S. & GlobalInstitute of Functional Medicine
Integrative Medicine for Mental Health
Medical Academy of Paediatric Special Needs (MAPS)
Australia & New ZealandMindd Foundation
The Australian College of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine (ACNEM)
UKThe British Society for Ecological Medicine
Disclaimer: Mindd Foundation does not endorse any specific individuals listed and makes no representations, warranties, nor guarantees and assumes no responsibility for any services provided. Mindd Foundation expressly disclaims all liability for damages of any kind as a result of using any products or services provided by those listed.