Overview of Severe Asthma
Severe asthma is categorized by doctors as asthma that is not responding to conventional treatments. People who are suffering from severe asthma find it difficult to manage their symptoms with the regular medications that are prescribed for asthma.
Severe and persistent asthma involves symptoms that tend to persist throughout the day and night and is also likely to interfere in your day-to-day activities. (1)
It also makes it difficult to sleep, as nighttime symptoms are usually more aggressive in people with severe asthma.
When the symptoms become harder to control, a person also becomes exposed to a higher risk of asthma-related complications.
Many natural remedies help manage the symptoms of severe asthma. If you find that your regular medications are not proving to be effective in controlling your symptoms, then you may try to include some natural remedies into your treatment plan.
However, it is absolutely essential that you consult your doctor before you start any type of alternative treatment, and also, these natural remedies tend to work best if taken alongside your usual prescribed medications for asthma.
10 Remedies To Manage Severe Asthma Naturally
Let us take a look at some of these natural remedies for severe asthma.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese traditional medicine technique that involves the placing of tiny needles into certain points on the body and to varying depths. (2)
Research has shown that acupuncture helps relieve pain, and it has shown to help in many other conditions as well. (3)
During acupuncture, an acupuncturist inserts needles into the body at specific points with the aim of balancing the energy. The theory of acupuncture is based on the fact that when there is an imbalance of energy within the body, it gives rise to all types of medical conditions. So depending on which medical condition you have, the needles are inserted in the corresponding place on the body to correct the flow of energy.
Research has found that acupuncture is an effective natural remedy for relieving allergic asthma (4), which is a type of asthma that gets triggered by allergens such as mold, pollen, certain foods, and dust mites. While the long-term benefits of acupuncture for asthma is yet to be proven, but acupuncture has shown to help improve the airflow and also control symptoms such as chest pain in patients.
Perhaps the main thing you can do to manage the symptoms of your asthma is to make certain changes in your daily diet. Making some dietary changes will help you with your symptoms.
Furthermore, being overweight is also going to worsen the symptoms of asthma. This is why it is very important to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet. This should include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins C and E, and antioxidants like beta-carotene. They also help in reducing the inflammation around the airways.
Here are some foods that you can consider including in your diet: (5)
- Fortified orange juice
- Sweet potatoes
- Leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, romaine lettuce
- Pumpkin seeds
- Dark chocolate
- Swiss chard
However, if you experience a flare-up of asthma after consuming certain foods, then you should make a note of it and try to avoid eating them in the future. It is also possible that you have a food allergy, and that causes the symptoms to worsen. If you feel that you are allergic to certain food items, then you should discuss this with your doctor so that it can be confirmed.
Here are some foods that you should try to avoid as they are known to aggravate the symptoms: (5)
- Dried fruits
- Bottled lime and lemon juice
- Pickled food
- Maraschino cherries
- Carbonated drinks
- Fried foods
- Dairy products
- Tree nuts
It is a good idea to maintain a food diary to keep track of which foods suit you and which do not.
The Papworth method is a relaxation and breathing technique that helps reduce the symptoms of asthma by a third. The technique has been used since the 1960s, and it has been proven effective to help asthma patients. The method involves using your diaphragm and nose to develop a breathing pattern. (6) You then start applying these breathing patterns to other activities that are likely to cause a flare-up of your symptoms.
The Papworth method also involves relaxation exercises that, coupled together with the breathing technique, is known to help in anxiety and depression as well.
The method was developed at Papworth Hospital in England, and the technique focusses on controlling ‘over-breathing’ which is commonly associated with people who are in stressful conditions. If you want to practice the Papworth method, then it is usually recommended that you take a training course before you start doing any of the exercises.
Buteyko Breathing Technique (BBT)
The Buteyko Breathing Technique (BBT) is a well-known series of breathing exercises that helps decrease your asthma symptoms by focusing on slow and gentle breathing. This alternative breathing technique was developed in Russia by Konstantin Buteyko. (7)
BBT focuses on breathing out of the nose rather than the mouth. The premise behind this is that breathing out of your mouth dries out the airways, making them more sensitive.
Many people have also reported experiencing less respiratory infection from using BBT. Some people who practice BBT also believe that it might increase carbon dioxide levels. Nevertheless, there is a lack of any conclusive studies that support this theory. (8)
Garlic is known for the many health benefits it has. These include powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Since asthma is an inflammatory disease, garlic helps relieve the symptoms of the disease. One nutrient, in particular, present in garlic that is known to help in asthma is vitamin C. What is interesting to note is that fresh garlic actually provides more than twice as much vitamin C as compared to tomatoes. Vitamin C helps neutralize free radicals in the body, which are unstable molecules that cause contraction of the airway and smooth muscles in asthma patients.
Research also suggests that vitamin C in raw garlic helps promote histamine breakdown and also reduces histamine release in the body. Histamine, which is a natural chemical that your body produces, has a role to play in many allergic reactions and is also responsible for promoting inflammation in asthma patients. (9)
Nevertheless, there is no conclusive proof that garlic is effective against preventing flare-ups of asthma.
Speleotherapy is a radical proposed treatment for asthma and other allergic conditions. Speleotherapy involves spending time inside a salt room or cave in order to introduce the tiny particles of salt into your respiratory system. (10)
However, there is presently no proper scientific evidence that shows that speleotherapy can be an effective treatment against asthma. There is, so far, only one study that shows that speleotherapy had a beneficial effect on lung function, but in the short term. (11) (12)
Another alternative treatment for asthma is hypnotherapy. In this type of therapy, the method of hypnosis is used to make a person become more relaxed and allows them to open up to some new ways to feel, think, and behave. Hypnotherapy is known to help facilitate muscle relaxation, which is known to benefit people with asthma, especially with symptoms like chest tightness.
Hypnotherapy is also known to reduce the number of hospital visits by asthma patients by nearly 70 percent. The duration of hospital stay, as well as the amount of drugs they were taking before trying hypnotherapy, were also dramatically decreased. (13)
Furthermore, hypnosis is also helpful in lowering stress, which is another common trigger of asthma. It also improves immune function and helps in anesthetizing the pain.
Relaxation training during hypnotherapy has also shown to have benefits for asthma patients as it helps you feel more relaxed and makes you feel more comfortable during the typical asthma attack. It works by re-training the unconscious mind to minimize asthma episodes and gets you feeling freer from your asthma symptoms. (14)
Yoga is known to benefit asthma patients significantly. Yoga has gained popularity all over the world today as being a form of exercise that has many far-reaching lifestyle benefits. And several new studies have shown that yoga has the potential to relieve asthma-related problems as well. (15)
The fact is that people with asthma are like to find many forms of physical activity challenges, especially if they experience exercise-induced asthma and bronchoconstriction. Yoga helps relieve stress as the gentle stretches, and slower pace also allows you to get a full-body exercise.
Here are some yoga poses that are ideal for people who have asthma: (16)
- Savasana: Ideal for asthma because it focuses on breath and stress management.
- Sukasana: This relaxing pose is perfect for natural asthma relief as it focuses on stress control and breathing and also helps with lung function.
- Forward Bend Pose: This pose opens up the lungs to provide relief in asthma symptoms.
- Butterfly Pose: This popular relaxing yoga pose provides full stretching to the key muscles of your body.
- Straddled Splits: This yoga pose helps stretch out the upper body and opens up the lungs.
- Bridge Pose: The bridge is a great yoga pose for asthma relief because it helps in opening up the lungs.
- Supportive Fish Pose: This pose is excellent for the health of the bronchial tube.
- Pranayama: Finish up your yoga routine with this pose, which is a simple breathing exercise that helps you gain control over your breathing.
It surprises many to see caffeine on this list. After all, usually you hear recommendations on cutting down on your caffeine intake, instead of increasing it. Caffeine is a bronchodilator that helps reduce respiratory muscle fatigue.
A study carried out by the St George’s Hospital Medical School in the United Kingdom in 2010 found that caffeine is beneficial for asthma patients. In fact, it is able to improve the functioning of your airways for nearly four hours after consumption. (17)
In fact, caffeine is also chemically related to the drug theophylline, which is commonly prescribed for the treatment of asthma. (18)
Honey has been used as a natural medicine for centuries now. Honey has strong antioxidant properties and helps fight inflammation in the body and also boosts your immunity. Many people routinely take honey for soothing a sore throat and also help in a cough. Honey is also a popular remedy for allergy symptoms.
In fact, asthma and allergies are related conditions, but with certain differences. This is because many triggers that cause an allergic reaction are also responsible for triggering an asthma attack, But, unlike an allergic reaction, asthma is a condition that is experienced in the upper airways and deep in the lungs. It is also a more serious health concern than common allergies.
Honey is known to be extremely helpful as a suppressant for nighttime cough. This is why it helps in a type of asthma known as nighttime asthma or nocturnal asthma.
Nocturnal asthma causes wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. These symptoms cause disruption in your sleep.
A research team at UCLA (19) found that taking two teaspoons of honey at bedtime helps lubricate your airways, thus easing your cough. Honey also helps decrease inflammation in the bronchial tubes, which are airways within the lungs. This helps break down the excess mucus that makes it difficult to breathe.
You can either have honey directly, or you can also mix it in a hot beverage such as herbal tea to get relief from your asthma symptoms.
While these natural remedies are known to help alleviate the symptoms of asthma, but you still need to follow the medications that your doctor has prescribed. Besides, keep in mind that many of these remedies have either limited or no evidence to show that they help in asthma.
You should always check with your doctor once before you start out any new alternative therapy. If, after beginning a new therapy, you notice any new side effects, you should stop it right away and let your doctor know.
- Asthma UK. (2019). What is severe asthma? | Asthma UK. [online] Available at: https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/severe-asthma/what-is-severe-asthma/ [Accessed 25 Aug. 2019].
- nhs.uk. (2019). Acupuncture. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/acupuncture/ [Accessed 25 Aug. 2019].
- NCCIH. (2019). Acupuncture: In Depth. [online] Available at: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/introduction [Accessed 25 Aug. 2019].
- Li, M., Zhang, X., Bao, H., Li, C. and Zhang, P., 2017. Acupuncture for asthma: protocol for a systematic review. Medicine, 96(26).
- Health. (2019). https://www.health.com. [online] Available at: https://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20672020,00.html [Accessed 25 Aug. 2019].
- Holloway, E.A. and West, R.J., 2007. Integrated breathing and relaxation training (the Papworth method) for adults with asthma in primary care: a randomised controlled trial. Thorax, 62(12), pp.1039-1042.
- McHugh, P., Aitcheson, F., Duncan, B. and Houghton, F., 2003. Buteyko Breathing Technique for asthma: an effective intervention. Journal of the New Zealand medical association, 116(1187).
- Bruton, A. and Lewith, G.T., 2005. The Buteyko breathing technique for asthma: a review. Complementary therapies in medicine, 13(1), pp.41-46.
- Healwithfood.org. (2019). Garlic and Asthma: Is Garlic Good for Asthma Sufferers?. [online] Available at: https://www.healwithfood.org/asthma/garlic-good-treatment.php [Accessed 25 Aug. 2019].
- Beamon, S.P., Falkenbach, A., Fainburg, G. and Linde, K., 2001. Speleotherapy for asthma. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (2).
- Lăzărescu, H., Simionca, I., Hoteteu, M. and Mirescu, L., 2014. Speleotherapy–modern bio-medical perspectives. Journal of medicine and life, 7(Spec Iss 2), p.76.
- Karakoca, Y., Demir, A.U., Kisacik, G., Kalyoncu, A.F. and Findik, S., 1995. Speleotherapy in asthma and allergic diseases. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 25(7), pp.666-669.
PubMed Central (PMC). (2019). Hypnosis for Asthma—a Controlled Trial: A Report to the Research Committee of the British Tuberculosis Association*. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1912142/ [Accessed 25 Aug. 2019].
- Hackman, R.M., Stern, J.S. and Gershwin, M.E., 2000. Hypnosis and asthma: a critical review. Journal of Asthma, 37(1), pp.1-15.
- Mekonnen, D. and Andualem, M., 2010. Clinical Effects of Yoga on Asthmatic Patients: A Preliminary Clinical Trial, Jimma, Southwest Ethiopia. Ethiopian journal of health sciences, 20(2).
- ScienceDaily. (2019). Yoga may have health benefits for people with asthma. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160426215441.htm [Accessed 25 Aug. 2019].
- Bara, A. and Barley, E., 2001. Caffeine for asthma. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (4).
- Welsh, E.J., Bara, A., Barley, E. and Cates, C.J., 2010. Caffeine for asthma. Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (1).
- Healthinfo.uclahealth.org. (2019). Cough | UCLA Health Library, Los Angeles, CA. [online] Available at: http://healthinfo.uclahealth.org/Search/122,cough [Accessed 25 Aug. 2019].
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