Feeling you can't catch your breath? That you can't even exhale? Not only are asthma attacks dangerous, they are extremely scary and anxiety-provoking.
The conventional treatment for asthma is an inhaler and/or steroids. These are life-saving medications and a necessary prescription for anyone diagnosed with asthma. There are, however, natural medications that can help prevent asthma attacks and decrease the severity if an attack arises.
Oxidative stress is when free radicals run rampant in the body and cause inflammation. Oxidative stress is one of the main causes of asthma attacks and other inflammatory diseases. If we control free radicals, we control inflammation.
Antioxidants are nature's way of controlling free radicals. Glutathione is one of nature's strongest antioxidants and a free radical-fighting superhero! Studies show that glutathione supplementation lead to fewer asthma attacks and reduced inflammation in the study subjects. (Fitzpatrick, et al. (2012). “Glutathione redox control of asthma: from molecular mechanisms to therapeutic opportunities”. Antioxidants & redox signaling, 17(2), 375-408.).
Glutathione is made by combining 3 amino acids: glutamine, cystine, and glycine. These 3 amino acids are found in protein-rich foods, like grass-fed beef, eggs, yogurt, legumes, and green vegetables.
Flavonoids are another class of antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress. A potent flavonoid for decreasing asthma is quercitin. Quercitin helps to neutralizing free radicals in the body and decrease histamine release.
Mast cells are an immune cell responsible for making histamine. When we are exposed to allergies or immune triggers, mast cells proliferate and pump out more histamine. Quercetin comes in and helps to calm mast cells, which in-turn decreases histamine.
To increase your daily dose of quercetin, aim to eat more foods like red onion, peppers, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, grapes, apples, and green tea.
Last but not least is relaxing the anatomy. In the lungs, we have muscular tubes called bronchioles, which tend to constrict during an asthma attack. This is what makes it hard to breath during an asthma attack. Magnesium is a mineral that helps to relax all muscles, including the bronchioles.
Magnesium also promotes open airways by stimulating nitrous oxide release in the bronchioles, which has a dilating effect. Lastly, magnesium disrupts the signal for spasming. When the airways are in spasm and is feels hard to get a breath, magnesium helps to reverse the spasm phenomenon.
Often a magnesium deficiency is the underlying cause for asthma. Studies show that magnesium supplementation alone helped lessen asthma attacks, decrease inhaler use, and improve bronchiole reactivity in people with asthma.
(Dominguez, L. J., et al. (1998). “Bronchial reactivity and intracellular magnesium: a possible mechanism for the bronchodilating effects of magnesium in asthma”. Clinical Science, 95(2), 137-142.)
Magnesium is found in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains including leafy greens, avocado, and brown rice.
For more information on how to prevent and treat asthma, please feel free to reach out! All my best, Dr. Wolbers