Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the lungs, in which the bronchi (the airways) are reversibly narrowed. About 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma and asthma affects approximately 6-7% of the world’s population. Asthma causes the smooth muscle in the bronchi to constrict, making it more difficult to breathe.
Asthma is considered a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as are emphysema and chronic bronchitis, however the airway obstruction in asthma is reversible. Also, in asthma only the bronchi are affected and not the alveoli. Asthma may interfere with daily activities, such as walking, getting up and down the steps or any activity that requires strength and endurance. Asthma symptoms may be seasonal and be connected to very specific trigger factors, which often differ between patients.
Asthma symptoms vary from patient to patient and fall on a spectrum from mild to severe. There exist two asthma states: chronic asthma (steady-state) and the acute asthma (attack), each state has different signs and symptoms.
Chronic asthma (steady-state) is characterized by these signs and symptoms:
- shortness of breath (only at exertion)
- nighttime coughing
- a frequent throat-clearing cough
- wheezing (not always present)
Acute asthma (attack) symptoms are:
- shortness of breath (sometimes even when resting)
- tightness in chest
Asthma has both genetic and environmental causes (triggers). Many asthma patients have family members who have lung conditions. Environmental trigger factors include bad air quality (often found in urban areas), high ozone levels in the atmosphere, other air pollutants including cigarette smoke, allergens such as pollen, mold, dust, dust mites, pet dander or rapid temperature changes. In addition, asthma can also be triggered by exersise. Recently, some researchers have suggested that the rise in asthma prevalence can be connected to the rise in acetaminophen pain killer use.
Additional Asthma Causes
Some studies have suggested that asthma may be linked to GERD, Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease. It may be possible that the chronic aspiration of gastric acid results in a worsening of inflammation in the lungs. To establish a relationship between GERD and the presence of asthma, pH esophageal monitoring has to be performed.
Natural Remedies That May Help Asthma Symptoms
Although no natural asthma remedy exists, supplements, vitamins and herbal extracts are available that could help reduce the severity of asthma symptoms:
- Vitamin C: low levels of vitamin C have been linked to decreased lung function. Taking vitamin C may improve lung function and protect against exercise-induced asthma
- Vitamin B: In particular vitamin B-complex is able to help the body cope with the effects of stress and could therefore be beneficial to asthma
- Green Lipped Mussel (Perna canaliculus): Endemic to New-Zealand, this bi-valve mollusc (in extract form) is able to inhibit the 5-lipoxygenase pathway, which is responsible for the formation of leukotrienes. This may help curb the inflammatory processes
Eneli, I., Sadri, K., Camargo, C. and Barr, R.G. (2005). Acetaminophen and the risk of asthma: the epidemiologic and pathophysiologic evidence. Chest 127: 604–12.
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