National Asthma Awareness Week is September 1st-7th. Asthma is an important public health issue in Australia (1) with around 300 million people having asthma worldwide, and estimations of a further 100 million by 2025. (2) Antioxidants are proving to be significant in research relating to asthma management. Several components found in foods have been proposed to have a series of antioxidant, as well as anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory properties, which can have a protective effect against asthma risk. (3) This provides naturopaths and nutritionists a sound basis for dietary and supplement advice, backed by the research.
All About Asthma
Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition characterised by airway inflammation and hyper-reactivity. (4) During an acute attack, the inflamed airways become narrow, causing periods of airflow obstruction. Common symptoms (5) during an asthma attack include:
- chest tightness
- shortness of breath
Triggers of an attack include environmental factors like (2)(6)
- inhaled allergens such as pollens, mould and other aeroallergens
- food allergens
- smoke and tobacco exposure
- indoor and outdoor air pollution
- weather, including thunderstorms
- animal hair and dander
Complementary medicine and Co-management.
Firstly, it’s important to get a formal diagnosis, since the disease can be fatal. (5) Both childhood-onset and adult-onset asthma can go unnoticed in some people since the signs and symptoms of asthma may be subtle. Some children present with atypical features such as recurrent respiratory tract infections, seasonal asthma and night-time cough. (7) Secondly, when it comes to asthma management, it’s also important to know that your Livewell Practitioner will never advise you to stop prescribed asthma medication. Complementary medicine is safe to take alongside prescription medicine and provides support to help to reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms. Surveys have found that parents who have children with asthma preferred therapies such as massage, relaxation techniques, diet advice and vitamins. (8)
An Apple and an Orange a Day keeps symptoms away
The typical Western diet of refined grains, processed and red meats, and sugar, has pro-inflammatory effects which can potentially provoke asthmatics. The Mediterranean diet, with a high intake of fruits and vegetables, has anti-inflammatory properties (6) and evidence suggests that consumption of plant-based foods might protect against asthma development and improve symptoms. (4) The antioxidants in fruits and vegetables may lower airway inflammation and higher intake may have a positive impact on asthma risk and control. (6) This has been noted specifically for apples and oranges alongside other fruits and vegetables which can make symptoms more manageable. (5)
Addressing Asthma with Antioxidants
Antioxidants prevent, intercept, and repair the effects of oxidation and cellular damage, support immunity by reducing external attacks from bacteria, viruses, toxins and xenobiotics in the lung and therefore can moderate the development of asthma. (9) Dietary antioxidants include vitamins C and E, carotenoids, ubiquinone, flavonoids, and selenium. (5) Vitamin C supports the hydration of airway surfaces (5) and has demonstrated a protective effect against exercise-induced asthma (7) while carotenoids are associated with improvements in lung function. Flavonoids, including quercetin, give further support also exhibiting anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic activities. (5) Quercetin rich foods include onions, apples, blueberries, kale, broccoli and green and black tea (7), reminding us that when it comes to fruit and veg to eat the rainbow!
The Magic of Magnesium
Naturally, the influence of nutrition on asthma has an important place in managing the disease. (9) Several nutrient deficiencies are associated with asthma risk including the antioxidants vitamins C and E as well as vitamin D, magnesium, potassium and fatty acids. (7) Beyond the diet, the right type of supplements can also impact the wellbeing of an asthmatic. Increased magnesium intake is associated with a positive effect on asthma (5) since magnesium acts as a bronchodilator, relaxing and dilating the airways. (7)
Ask us about Asthma management
Improving your well-being is our priority. Given the importance of managing asthma safely, we offer a range of treatment options and can help choose the best suited natural therapy for you. From working with a Naturopath, Nutritionist or Dietician or experiencing acupuncture, massage, Bowen therapy or kinesiology there are effective solutions to ensure you can manage the effects of asthma on your health. Be sure to check out our antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory plant-based recipes here and here.