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Asthma: Complementary or Alternative Medicine (CAM)

by icontrolmyhealth
Asthma: Complementary or Alternative Medicine ~ Control Health

Most people who suffer from asthma are able to control their symptoms, such as wheezing, nasal congestion, chest tightness, and breathing problems with the help of conventional therapies or by avoiding the triggers, which can induce an asthma attack. However, more and more people are turning towards various complementary and alternative therapies for better asthma control and to improve their quality of life.

Therefore, to educate consumers, IControlMyHealth scientific team, in collaboration with leading clinicians and thought leaders has developed a proprietary methodology to rate these CAM approaches. Therefore, you take a sigh of relief and decide (after discussion with your health care provider) whether to use or not use a non-conventional approach.

The 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) includes a comprehensive study on the use of complementary health approaches by Americans. According to the survey, asthma was ranked eighth among various conditions; prompting the use of complementary and alternative approaches by children.

Non-Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) for Asthma

Summary Table of Mind Body Approaches, Dietary, and Herbal Supplements for Asthma

Mind-Body Approaches

1. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a characteristic therapy of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and has been practiced in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years. It is done with the aid of hair-thin needles, which are penetrated through the skin and stimulate specific points (acupoints) in the body.

Effect on Asthma

Few studies suggest that acupuncture helps in relieving asthma symptoms and improves the quality of life of patients suffering from asthma.

How does it work?

It’s still unclear about the possible mechanism of acupuncture in the treatment of asthma. According to a few studies, acupuncture stimulates endorphins (the body’s natural pain killer), which relaxes the overactive immune system and hence relieves asthma symptoms.

Side Effects and Drug Interactions

More evidence is required to be certain about the role of acupuncture in asthma. Bruising, bleeding, or soreness might occur at the needle site. A credible practitioner is required to carry out this therapy.

2. Breathing Exercises 

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), 12.7 percent of American adults have used deep-breathing exercises for various health purposes. Regular practice of various types of breathing exercises, not only improves breathing patterns, blood circulation, and blood pressure but also boosts your immunity. Commonly used breathing exercises, include Buteyko breathing, pranayama, and deep breathing.

Effect on Asthma

According to a study, Buteyko breathing majorly focuses on nasal breathing, breath holding, and relaxation techniques, which protect the airways by cleaning, humidifying, and warming the air entering the lungs.

How does it work?

A person who suffers from asthma breathes a volume of 10 to 20 liters per minute between attacks, and over 20 liters during an attack*. This condition is known as hyperventilation (over-breathing). According to a few studies, Buteyko breathing corrects this condition and helps relieve asthma symptoms.

* The standard volume of normal breathing for a healthy adult at rest is four to six liters of air per minute

Side Effects and Drug Interactions

While doing breathing exercises, if your asthma symptoms get aggravated, it means that you are not doing the exercises properly. Immediately stop the breathing exercises and perform them only in the presence of a certified trainer.

Dietary and Herbal Supplements

3. Butterbur 

Butterbur is a traditional herb and has been used for a variety of health issues, such as pain, headache, anxiety, cough, fever, and gastrointestinal, and urinary tract conditions. The raw, unprocessed butterbur plant contains chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). Pas can cause liver damage and can result in serious illness. However, the butterbur products that have been processed to remove PAs and are labeled or certified as PA-free should be used

Effect on Asthma

According to some studies, butterbur may be effective in diminishing asthma symptoms.

How does it work?

Bakkenolide B, a major component of the butterbur leaves decreases inflammation by reducing the accumulation of various inflammatory cells, such as eosinophils, macrophages, and lymphocytes.

These cells are responsible for the hyperresponsiveness reaction of the airways. By reducing inflammatory cells, butterbur reduces the frequency and severity of an asthma attack.

Side Effects and Drug Interactions

More scientific research is required to support the efficacy and safety of butterbur in the treatment of asthma.

4. Pycnogenol® 

Pycnogenol® is the US-registered trademark name given to the product extracted from the French maritime pine bark.

Effect on Asthma

Black Box Warning

FDA has banned the use of Ephedra (herbal medicine) due to concerns about safety and toxicity

However, Ephedra( acts as a bronchodilator) has been shown to be effective in treating asthma symptoms.

Studies suggest that Pycnogel®, an anti-oxidant present in the French bark effectively controls the signs and symptoms of allergic asthma.

How does it work?

Pycnogel® decreases leukotriene levels in asthmatic patients. These leukotrienes act as inflammatory mediators and trigger contractions in the smooth muscles (lining the bronchioles), which leads to an asthma attack.

Side Effects and Drug Interactions

It can cause dizziness, mouth ulcers, headache, and gut problems.

5. Indian Frankincense 

Frankincense is an aromatic resin obtained from the trees of the genus Boswellia, native to India and Arabia.

Effect on Asthma

In Asia, frankincense resin is used in traditional medicines for digestion and healthy skin. Some findings suggest that resin contains certain substances, which can decrease the inflammation response in people with asthma.

How does it work?

Acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid, one of the constituents of frankincense resin is the most potent inhibitor of 5-lipoxygenase. 5-lipoxygenase, an enzyme that transforms essential fatty acids into leukotrienes, is further responsible for the inflammation of the airways.

Side Effects and Drug Interactions

It may cause stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and rashes (if applied to the skin).

6. Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

Omega-3 fatty acids and their derivatives are known to reduce inflammation in the lungs. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish oil, fish, walnuts, vegetable oil, and wheat germ oil.

Effect on Asthma

Few studies suggest that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects and reduce the occurrence of an asthma attack.

How does it work?

Fish oil is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids. It provides a considerable amount of omega-3 fatty acids known as Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), which reduces the inflammation of airways and thus reduces the symptoms of asthma such as wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness.

According to some studies, fish oil also reduces the occurrence of asthma in infants and children when taken by women during pregnancy.

Side Effects and Drug Interactions

Safety questions have been raised about fish oil supplements because some species of fish can be contaminated by substances, such as mercury, pesticides, or polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs). In high doses, fish oil can interact with certain medications, including blood thinners.

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