So you have asthma? Congratulations: you’re stuck with a chronic non- curable inflammatory disease!
Reason to despair? No!
Asthma and other inflammatory diseases can be controlled without the need for medication.
I know this is a bold statement, but I’m talking from experience. Aged 15 I was diagnosed with allergic asthma and an exotic immune disorder. After taking antibiotics and corticosteroids on a daily basis for more than 12 years, I’m now 100% medication free.
In this blog post I’ll share the 6 key interventions that helped me to get rid of my medication, so you can benefit from them as well!
Asthma = inflammation
When you say asthma, you say inflammation. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease, which means that at all times there’s a little fire smouldering in your lungs.
Anti-inflammatory medication is one of the most important treatment options for people with asthma. Inflammation causes the inner lining of the airways to swell and mucus to be produced. It makes the airways more sensitive to asthma triggers.
You need a bit of inflammation in your body, because it acts as a natural defence force in response to infections and injuries. But you don’t want that army or fire to grow too big, because then the bad cops take over from the cood cops.
Because of that smouldering fire in your lungs, you’re constantly at risk from wildfire. Anti-inflammatory medicines help to prevent wildfire from breaking out, hence prevent asthma attacks. However, prednisone and other corticosteroids that control inflammation come with loads of unwanted side effects. Ranging from high blood pressure, weight gain, and mood swings on the short term to thinning bones, thin skin and an increased risk of infections when you use them longer term -which is the case when you have a chronic disease such as asthma.
Control inflammation naturally
There are accessible and natural ways to control inflammation though. And you have all of them already at your disposal.
Confine the inflammation in your lungs to a cosy campfire
Just like there are ways to reduce the risk of an actual wildfire breaking out (don’t throw away a smoking sigarette in a forrest that hasn’t seen rain for months) there are things to refrain from and things you can actively do to avoid infections and to confine the inflammation in your lungs to a cosy campfire.
1. Air pollution and smoking
Air pollution and smoking are the equivalent of dropping a smoking sigarette in a dry forrest. Everybody and their dog know by now that smoking is bad for your lungs, so I’m not going to elaborate on that. If you’re not convinced yet: read more here and throw away you sigarettes today. Air pollution can be a bit more difficult to avoid. There are things you can do though to offset the negative effects of air pollution. In this blog post I’ve described the actions you can take to mitigate the effects of air pollution on the inflammation in your lungs.
Another option is to move. I traded the beautiful, but polluted city of Amsterdam for the Austrian mountains 3 years ago and it helped improve my lung health profoundly. Mountain as well as sea air provide beneficial circumstances for people with a respiratory disease such as asthma. You can read more about those benefits here.
2. Inflaming foods & alcohol
This might well be the hardest one to avoid! But, it could also be the most rewarding lifestyle change. At least, it is for me! After I moved to the clean mountain air three years ago I had a set back after a few months. Bed-bound by an infection I watched the documentary ‘Forks over Knives‘. It opened my eyes and I decided to experiment with a plant-based lifestyle. This means: no animal products. So no dairy, no meat. I was seriously lost in the supermarket at first, but after as short as two weeks I started to experience amazing results. You can read more about that here.
What’s the deal with alcohol? Although there is research out there claiming that moderate alcohol consumption has a positive effect on inflammation and bronchodilation I personally limit my intake to a minimum. My lungs give me immediate -negative- feedback after having an alcoholic drink (coughing). That being said, I do have some beer or wine occasionally, but only when I’m in good shape, so I know my body will be able to bounce back from it.
Like inflammation, stress is beneficial. We need the energy that comes with stress to grow. Human kind has evolved through the fight or flight response, which has provided us with the mental focus and physical energy to move away from dangerous situations.
The fight or flight response helped us to survive immediate threats – such as an attack from a wild creature- but these days a lot of people are subconciously in fight-flight mode all the time. Chronic stress can cause immune cells to promote inflammation. If you are exposed to a certain stressor every day, such as a loud colleague, chronic inflammation can develop and ultimately lead to chronic illnesses.
Research about the correlation between chronic stress and inflammation is ongoing, but it is quite clear by now that these two factors contribute greatly to reduced immunity.
Antidote for stress
I realize it’s too easy to say ‘avoid stress’. That’s virtually impossible today. Even if you would stay home all day, you would still receive an immense load of possibly stressful information by means of your cell phone alone.
However, there is a very potent antidote for stress and the inflammation that comes with it: meditation! In this blog post I go into the benefits of meditation in relation to asthma and how it reduces stress induced inflammation.
But there are more things you can actively do to tame your asthma! Read about them below…
4. Cold exposure against asthma
Most of us are familiar with the use of ice packs when dealing with an injury. Using ice can help decrease swelling and inflammation. When you take this a bit further and immerse yourself in cold water or ice your whole body gets to benefit from the anti-inflammatory ‘properties’ of the ice. Cold exposure is also at the core the Wim Hof Method. I started experimenting with cold exposure (cold showers and bathing in frozen lakes) about 2,5 years ago and it proved to be one of the most important contributors to my health transformation. You can read more about my personal experience with it here.
5. Exercise… a trigger for asthma?
Yes, exercise is a known trigger for asthma. BUT… that doesn’t mean you should stay away from it. Just as little as 20 minutes of exercise already acts as anti-inflammatory. There are loads of elite athletes with asthma (David Beckham and Justine Henin for example). Just be careful picking the right sport. In this blogpost I go into the subject with more detail, but let me already mention two suitable ways to exercise if you have asthma:
- Walking: when you have asthma, walking is one of the best ways to exercise, because you can easily dose your pace. Also, there are studies indicating that walking is a great way to decrease inflammation.
- Yoga: key to yoga is breathing. Asthma and dysfunctional breathing often go together. By way of practicing yoga you don’t just check the ‘exercise box’, you also learn to focus on your breathing in the process.
The latter brings me to my last intervention.
Mind your breathing
6. Nose breathing at all times
Nose breathing might seem like nothing special, but it makes all the difference to me and many others dealing with asthma! The idea of nose breathing (at all times) has been heavily promoted by Konstantin Buteyko who’s made it his life work to get people to breathe through their noses instead of their mouths.
The list of benefits of nose breathing over mouth breathing is long. In fact, too long to mention all of them in this blogpost. So let me limit myself to three here:
- Less stress: Nose breathing drives oxygen more efficiently into the lower lobes of the lungs rather than staying in the upper lobes, as with mouth breathing. The upper lobes have more sympathetic (fight or flight) stress receptors that are activated during mouth breathing whereas the lower lobes of the lungs have more parasympathetic, calming and repairing nerve receptors, which are activated during nose breathing.
- Nitric oxide: Nose breathing has been shown to increase the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is involved with everything from the binding and release of oxygen and hemoglobin, to inhibiting inflammation.
- Exercise: when you exhale through your mouth instead of your nose you send signals to your brain indicating carbon dioxide is lost too rapidly. This causes goblet cells to produce mucous, slowing our breathing and causing constriction of our arteries and blood vessels. Constriction limits the amount of oxygen our body uses during strenuous exercise and reduces our energy.
You can find the full ‘list’ and more info here.
Let me finish on this note: since I breathe in and out through my nose all the time (even during exercise) I overtake sporty guys my junior walking up the mountain. That’s enough evidence for me 😉
This is the magic mix that helped me get rid of all my asthma medication. Do you have experience with succesful home remedies in relation to asthma: please share!