Asthma is a respiratory disease that causes episodes of airway constriction and difficulty breathing, stimulated by an allergic reaction. Chronic asthma is the persistent and long-lasting condition of inflammation and restriction of the lungs and airways. Acute asthma is an asthma attack — an episode of increased breathing difficulty. Heredity, foods and environmental factors, including dairy products, cigarette smoke and respiratory infections, can affect asthma.
People with asthma look for ways to treat their condition — which generally fluctuates between attacks and periods of normalcy — hoping to avoid more asthma attacks. Asthma treatments include both medications and natural remedies.
According to the Mayo Clinic, asthma medications are divided into three main categories: long-term, quick-relief and allergy-induced.
Long-term asthma medications are administered every day to keep asthma under control. These include long-acting beta-2 agonists, inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, cromolyn and nedocromil, and theophylline. Some are inhaled; others are pills. Some work to reduce the inflammation and open up the respiratory airways, some reduce mucus production and others relax the muscles that support airways.
Quick-relief asthma medications are used during difficulty-breathing episodes, which occur during exercise or an asthma attack. These include short-acting beta-2 agonists, oral corticosteroids, IV corticosteroids and ipratropium. Doctors assess the frequency with which these medications are used to determine if long-term medications need to be adjusted. Some quick-relief asthma medications quickly relax the muscles supporting the airways, while others reduce the inflammation.
Allergy-induced asthma medications work by helping the body block the immune response to the allergen. Long-term immunotherapy treatments lessen the body’s sensitivity to the allergen that causes the asthma. Anti-IgE monoclonal antibodies medication is another therapy that helps to lessen the immune response.
Over-the-counter asthma medications are limited to epinephrine or ephedrine, which work by relaxing the constricted muscles that support the airways to allow air to enter the lungs. They are available as inhalers, as oral medications and as nasal sprays. These are used when asthma symptoms are mild and not frequent, and are taken according instructions. Over-the-counter medications are affordable and easily accessible, but should taken for a prolonged time.
Natural remedies offer immune and respiratory support through foods and herbs. These are not known to have any side effects as they help to improve breathing, break down and expel mucus, and fight respiratory infections. Some beneficial natural remedies include, honey, safflower, Bishop’s Weed, garlic, ginger, lemon and figs. Many herbs are available in dry bulk form and as teas, as herbal extracts, and as tablets or capsules.
Food-based natural remedies for asthma are merely incorporated into the diet and consumed several times in a week. The dosage of herbal remedies for asthma is recommended by a health care professional, who assesses the herb’s compatibility with any existing asthma prescriptions and factors in the overall health and size of the person with asthma.
Some remedies may be recommended as a daily tea or as a mixture taken orally several times a day, over a period of time. Herbal remedies for asthma are found at health food stores, natural health practices and online herbal stores.
Discuss with your health care provider the effectiveness of your medications and the use of them in combination with natural remedies. Some of your medications may be gradually reduced over time if you are making progress.
Health care providers will advise you about the benefits of foods that support respiratory health; exercise that may increase your lung capacity, breathing strength and overall health; and avoid an asthma attack by reducing your exposure to stress, and to environmental and dietary allergens.