Natural Asthma Remedies: Using Food as Medicine
Have you been in search of natural asthma remedies? Do you wish you could just fix this breathing mess and move on with life sometimes?
While the frequency and severity of asthma attacks can differ greatly from person to person, the experience is still zero fun, no matter how you slice it.
We have worked with an incredible number of clients over the years who have been able to significantly reduce their symptoms and in some cases, completely eradicate their symptoms of asthma to the point they forgot they had the condition in the first place.
Oddly enough, I discovered this years ago…on accident!! I began creating individualized anti-inflammatory protocols for her clients for reasons such as fatigue and joint pain, and then 4-6 weeks in, I noticed their symptoms of asthma and seasonal allergies often went away- completely!
If you’re ready to reduce your symptoms of asthma, then let’s rock and roll!
At the very least, you will experience a significant decline in symptoms, if not the reversal of your asthma meant faster track to peak performance, wouldn’t it be worth it?!
What is Asthma?
Let’s start with the basics.
Asthma is a medical condition in which the airways narrow and swell. Many asthmatic individuals also experience:
- Excess mucus production
- Shortness of breath
It is believed that asthma cannot be completely cured, but its symptoms can be controlled.
In the world of Functional Medicine, we believe that immunomodulation is the key to effectively treating asthma. The respiratory system is in overdrive and we have to figure out the trigger(s).
So, in other words, an inhaler or prescription medication is great. In fact, life-saving for many, BUT those modalities should be looked at as a bridge to get the individual to a higher state of health.
We must ask WHY the individual has asthma in the first place. Was it related to gut health? Extreme stress? Environment? All of the above?!
Sure, for some there is a genetic component and that definitely plays a role. However, genetics are not everything and environment + diet is almost always underlooked.
Leading experts in the field of respiratory health explain that patients with asthma typically do not have the right microbiome colonization pattern. This usually begins at birth, or shortly after.
Researchers are also noting that undiagnosed food allergies typically precede asthma. This makes complete sense when you put everything together as poor colonization of gut bacteria is the main trigger for an immune response such as food allergies!
Bottom line: The sooner we rebalance the gut and rebuild the immune system at the ROOT, the less severe the asthma will become, or better yet, we may be able to completely prevent asthma in the first place!
Wait, I’m Confused. Food Relates to Asthma?
Is the Pope Catholic?
Ok, well, let’s backtrack just a hair.
Food itself does not cause asthma, BUT it directly contributes to an overactive respiratory system because it places even more of an intense burden on the immune system. Our avid followers know that we like to use the analogy of an immune system “bucket”. When that bucket overflows, symptoms and health conditions develop.[2,3]
The tricky part about asthma (and really, any other chronic condition for that matter), is that everyone’s bucket looks different. Some may have more of a genetic component to their asthma, others may be more predominantly environment driven, etc. but food is the one component that we can all safely change as a way to “unload” the bucket a bit.
Changing diet is absolutely one of the most effective ways to decrease the chronic immune burden AND improve gut bacteria colonization associated with asthma.
Are There Foods that Help with Asthma?
We know for certain that oxidative stress plays a major role in the pathogenesis of asthma so it would only make sense that antioxidants help to fight the condition.[4,5]
Let’s start with glutathione, the mother of all antioxidants! Glutathione is made by the body but when the immune system is compromised via stress, overtraining, environmental exposures etc., our glutathione stores quickly become depleted.
Glutathione is incredibly important when it comes to asthma because this powerful antioxidant guards the lungs against airway stress and tissue damage.
BEST EXAMPLES OF GLUTATHIONE RICH FOODS:
BEST EXAMPLES OF FOODS THAT ENHANCE THE BODY’S ABILITY TO MAKE GLUTATHIONE:
- Cruciferous veggies (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower)
- Sulfer rich foods (onion, garlic, shallots etc.)
- Grass fed whey protein (ONLY if well tolerated!)
Read more: The 13 Best Grass Fed Whey Protein Powders
OMEGA 3 RICH FOODS:
Next in line we have the ever-so-popular omega 3. Omega 3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid known for its ability to fight inflammation in the body. Omega 3 rich foods can counteract bronchial inflammation, a common symptom of asthma attacks. Focus on eating a few of the following omega 3 rich foods 2-3x/week:
- Cold water
- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines, anchovies)
- Ground flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
Finally, let’s finish up with the most well known antioxidants: Vitamins A, C, and E. And hey, we might as well throw in the polyphenol quercetin for good measure.
Antioxidants such as vitamins A (betacarotene), C, and E counteract oxidants and reduce external attacks (bacteria, virus, toxins, xenobiotics) in the lung, thus making them critical when it comes to fighting against asthma attacks.
Antioxidants and polyphenols modulate the development of asthma and the impairment of pulmonary function. Functional dietitians often utilize quercetin in the case of asthma and allergies because of its ability to help reduce the release of histamine.
ANTIOXIDANT AND QUERCETIN RICH FOODS:
Vitamin A: Carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, sweet red pepper, mango, cantaloupe, butternut squash.
Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, pineapple, strawberries, cantaloupe, papaya, guava, kiwi, broccoli, peppers, kale, Brussels sprouts.
Vitamin E: Sunflower seeds, avocado, spinach, butternut squash, almonds, wheat germ oil, peanuts, brazil nuts, mango, kiwi, raspberries, blackberries, olives, broccoli
Quercetin: Elderberries, onions, apples, grapes, berries, citrus fruits, pears, cherries, tea, capers, spinach, asparagus, broccoli.
Check out our article on anti-inflammatory foods if you’d like to know more about the most powerful immune boosting foods.
What are the Worst Foods for Asthma?
As you might guess, the “trigger food(s)” from person to person might vary, although, from a clinical standpoint, you will typically see asthma patients react to top allergens such as dairy, wheat, corn, peanuts, eggs, and soy. These are the foods most heavily processed and most commonly consumed.
Would we remove these foods for life? No, certainly not, but a basic elimination diet for 3-6 weeks could be a complete game changer for someone who suffers from severe asthma.
If we speak strictly from anecdotal experience, dairy and asthma are not friends more often than not. In fact, before I (Kylene) left the Cleveland Clinic, there was a study that had just begun regarding dairy and asthma since it was such a prevalent issue.
Does that mean everyone with asthma should avoid dairy (or the top allergens for that matter)? No, certainly not. However, it would be worth a brief 2 week elimination as it could potentially save you from a lifetime of misery.
One thing we know for certain is that sulfite containing foods are usually problematic.
Sulfite is another term for sulfur dioxide. Sulfites are used as preservatives when added to food and when they occur naturally, they serve as antioxidants. Sulfites are typically added to processed foods like dips, boxed gravies, and fermented fruits and vegetables. Small amounts can occur naturally in certain foods such as grapes.
Lastly, some asthmatic patients find that they feel best when they are mindful of foods prone to mold (coffee, peanuts, certain cheeses, fruit juice etc.)
What are the Best Herbs for Asthma?
“Best herbs for asthma” is actually one of the most searched terms of all when it comes to natural asthma remedies. Unfortunately, it is the area that has the least amount of research.
And to be quite honest, it is the one area of natural remedies that we feel we do not have enough training in to make appropriate recommendations. However, you know we would never leave you hanging so here is a brief summary of the research findings:
Commonly Used Plants:
- Turmeric may significantly reduce airway obstruction.
- Gingseng and garlic may reduce inflammation and fight toxins that invade the lungs.
- Black seed may reduce asthmatic symptoms.
- Mai Men Dong Tang may lessen the severity of symptoms without side effects.
- Anti-asthma herbal medicine intervention (ASHMI): A blend that includes lingzhi (a mushroom), gan cao (licorice root), and ku shen (sophora root) can be very effective.
- The claim? This combination of herbs can reduce airway constriction and inflammation while keeping your cortisol levels up (unlike steroid medications).
Natural Asthma Remedies Bonus Round: Dry Salt Therapy
Go ahead and say hello to one of the best kept secrets in the business of reversing asthma: Salt Caves!!!
The proper terminology is actually dry salt therapy or halotherapy. Over the years, halotherapy has repeatedly demonstrated its dramatic effects on chronic health conditions such as asthma.
And really quickly before we dive in, please note that although there are plenty of scientific studies on dry salt therapy, the FDA has not evaluated any of the medical statements or claims made around its use as it relates to the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of disease.
While dry salt therapy may help act as a bridge for you to stop or reduce the use of medications, dry salt therapy is not intended to replace your medications from the start. It is always best to work with a licensed healthcare provider.
Here’s how it works:
The client sits in a relaxing cave made of sea salt. This is a great time to breathe deeply while meditating, reflecting on life or taking a nap! Focusing on deep inhalation over a series of visits is incredibly important as this allows for the dry salt aerosol to help::
- Improve mucociliary clearance
- Decrease of bronchial inflammation
- Decrease or eliminate pathogenic microorganisms
- Reduce bronchial hyper-responsiveness 
The anti-bacterial and ant-inflammatory microscopic sodium chloride particles are able to reach deep into the cavities of the bronchial system. This is made possible by a unique aerosol dispersal system. All you have to do is breathe deep and take a brief rest! Most cave sessions are appropriately 45 minutes.
What does this mean in the long run? Better bronchial function, fewer asthma attacks, and ultimately, very clear air passages. We can vouch, you definitely can breath dealer and clearer after just one session.
And yes, believe it or not, there is research to support this theory. In fact, in controlled studies, the majority of subjects experienced reduced bronchial obstruction, better drain function of the airways, and improved viscosity of bronchial secretion.[12.13]
Also worth noting, the frequency and intensity of asthma attacks were reduced and respiratory discomfort decreased and in many cases, completely disappeared. We bet you can guess the end result: a big reduction/elimination in medications prescribed!
For more information, check out salttherapyassociation.org.
Looking to dive even deeper into natural asthma remedies? Ready to finally rid yourself of asthma for good?. Stay tuned because in the coming months we will be coming out with an Ultimate Asthma Elimination course with the highly talented physical therapists from Bold Base Performance in Minnesota. This is the first program of its kind, an all-natural, multi-organ system approach that addresses stopping and reversing asthma at the root!!