Fotolia_7184371_XS (2)Asthma is one disease where the patient can benefit from both traditional medical care and from natural health care. There are about 300 million people suffering from asthma worldwide, with asthma causing 250,000 deaths in 2007 (according to WHO). While medical intervention can save an asthmatic’s life. Nutrition and natural health care can improve the day to day management of the disease. Research has shown that diet can affect the severity of asthma and that certain nutrients may be of value. This is especially important considering that inhaler overuse can increase the chance of dying from an asthma attack. An article appearing in Family Practice News (April 15, 1993;46) stated that deaths from asthma could be cut by 50% if physicians monitored beta agonist inhaler overuse by patients. An inhaler should last one month. Other medications can contribute to asthma attacks. An article in the Annals of Allergy (June 1992;68:453-462) stated that drugs may be responsible for as many as 10% of asthma attacks. NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may be responsible for 2/3 of these drug-induced attacks. Other drugs, like muscle relaxants, beta-blockers, or antibiotics can trigger asthma attacks as well.

Magnesium is nature’s muscle relaxer and can help to open airways. A randomized, placebo-controlled study appearing in the Journal of Asthma (2010; 47(1): 83-92) looked at 55 subjects between the ages of 21 and 55, with mild to moderate asthma. They were randomly divided into two groups and given either a placebo or 340 mg of magnesium per day over a 6 1/2 month period.  The severity of the subjects’ asthma was evaluated using pulmonary function testing, methacoline challenge testing and subjective questionnaires about the severity of asthma and the quality of life. The researchers found that the subjects who received the magnesium were much more resistant to the methacoline challenge and also had great improvements on their pulmonary function tests. The magnesium group scored higher on the quality of life questionnaires as well.

There are many studies that show the benefit of antioxidants for reducing the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. A meta-analysis appearing in the journal Thorax (2009; 64(7): 610-9) found that a high intake of vitamins A and C was associated with a reduced risk for asthma. An article appearing in Clinical and Experimental Allergy (2000;30:615-627) also states that antioxidants can play an important role in keeping asthma under control. It specifically mentions beta carotene and vitamin C playing a role in helping to keep airways open.  Research appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine (1991;325(8):586- 587) found higher levels of free radicals in patients with asthma when compared to normal controls.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also beneficial to asthmatics. They help to reduce overall inflammation and have a protective effect. See the article on the front page for more information about fatty acids and asthma.