Asthma

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Finding a good herbalist

Most of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Introduction

Asthma is a complex, multi-faceted condition and, from the holistic medicine perspective, you simply must approach it from more than one angle to work towards a cure. That said, you can't do everything at once, it is a step by step process. I suggest you begin by reading through the whole article to get an overview, then go back to the key areas that you feel you need to give your initial attention to and start from there...

Asthma is a huge and growing problem in New Zealand as it is in other countries as well. All of what follows here is based on positive, first-hand experience with many people who have diagnosed with asthma and have wanted to find another way to improve or even cure their condition, it is shared here simply in the hope that it will help others too.

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Conventional drugs & the natural approach

I want to say early on in this article that much prefer my patients to stay alive vs. the alternative! Therefore, when a drug is literally able to help someone keep breathing I most certainly want them to have that medication freely available whenever needed...

This said, the conventional approach to asthma has many limitations. People are concerned about the long-term dangers of steroids, they worry that nothing is being done to try to work out what is causing their asthma and they become increasingly worried when their bad patches get worse or harder to resolve despite using ever stronger medications, a scenario I am all too familiar with in practice.

In any case my general approach is to always make it clear that conventional medicine and traditional herbal medicine are not in opposition to each other but can be safely and wisely used alongside each other.

Paracetamol & Asthma

This said, I should also note here that there is also a growing concern that the widespread use of Paracetamol in children over the last 20 years has been having an adverse effect on immune health development and may be a contributor to rising asthma rates. This exact subject is currently being researched but it will be quite some time before any certain conclusions can be drawn...

Patience

If you will adopt the kind of natural approach that I am outlining below then I think there is every likelihood that you will receive a great deal of benefit from it, but you must be prepared to be patient, especially if you have been unwell for some time. As with many conditions that become chronic, the longer a person has had the problem the longer they may require treatment to become truly better.

I want my patients to have made significant and lasting improvements in their health before they consider reducing any of their prescribed medications. Also, if it is at all possible, I encourage them to talk with their physician about how they are trying to use herbal medicines and a natural approach to improve their condition and that they want to eventually be less reliant or even not at all reliant on drugs.

I have seen that most doctors are very open to their asthmatic patients seeking better outcomes in these ways; they are only too aware of how slippery a slope it can be to be overly dependent on the very drugs they are prescribing, especially over the long term...

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Herbs for asthma

Used wisely, herbs are fantastic at helping people with asthma. The way they work is entirely differently to inhalers and steroids and you should not think of them as alternatives to those drugs but rather as medicines that help your body to regulate and eventually heal itself.

Dennis Stewart, my main herbal teacher in Australia in the 80s, said "you will build your practice on helping people with skin and lung problems." I've often thought about what he said, it's been true, not because people with chronic eczema or asthma get fast, miracle cures, but because they can get genuine, lasting improvements in conditions they were stuck with for years.

Much of my work in this area has been with the tough cases; people who have used incredible amounts of steroids and just aren't responding well to them any longer. To get a good result in such instances is a real testimony to the effectiveness of a natural, traditional approach. That said, there is no one right formula of herbs to cure asthma, what I will do is show some remedies below, by way of example, that I have often had positive experiences with.


Inula helenium (Elecampane)

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Catarrhal asthma

Catarrh is basically a medical word for mucus or phlegm. Catarrhal asthma is especially common in young children but can certainly affect adults too.

Catarrhal asthma is characterised by

1) rattly sounds when breathing, especially when lying down
2) plenty of mucus felt in the lungs and being coughed up
3) other signs of excessive 'damp' secretions from the body; e.g. nose, ears, bowel
4) the 'allergy bucket' described below likely including food allergies or intolerances

Respiratory herbs that I have found that can especially help with catarrhal asthma include Elder flower, Elecampane, Ginger, Golden Seal, Licorice root, Mullein, Thyme & White Horehound.

By way of an example of how I might typically use these herbs, here is a sample formula:

Elder flower 30mls
Elecampane root 30mls
Ginger root 30mls
Golden Seal 10mls
Licorice root 30mls
Mullein leaf 30mls
Thyme leaf 20mls
White Horehound 30mls

To make 210mls of Fluid Extracts or Tinctures - the typical adult dose of this formula could be 4mls three times daily until things have significantly improved then drop to two times daily. We would then usually sustain the dose there at twice a day for some time and then eventually drop down to just 4 mls once a day as a maintenance dosage for as long as required.

For longer term use it can be a lot easier for the patient to use these kinds of concentrated extracts but these exact same herbs can also be most beneficially used in tea form and I will often start with using teas when I want to convey a particularly strong dose of the herbs and I am confident that the patient will be compliant with the somewhat harder process of drinking several cups of very strong tasting herbal tea each day for a few weeks!

The sample formula above shows how all these cleansing herbs for excess damp in the lungs can be used together. Note also, that this kind of medicine is not fixed in one 'right way', there are endless variations on how you can blend herbs together and how you can increase or decrease the dosage in order to focus on one or more remedies to give an emphasis on a desired action e.g. Thyme is particularly good at helping with infection in the lungs or bronchial tubes whereas Mullein and White Horehound are especially helpful at simply helping a person to cough out the mucus!

If you want to get to know these old and great health allies much more closely then; a) read about them in the herbal A-Z here and b) just start using them! They are truly very safe and they will soon show you how they work and just how much they can help. If you are new to this kind of medicine I think you will be most pleasantly surprised.

Constitutional note

By the way, when you have some further time to delve into a related area, there is a high chance that a person who especially suffers from catarrhal asthma is going to be from one of the damper constitutions. This rather fascinating subject is introduced here and there is a section on how to work out which constitution you are found here.


Verbascum thapsus (Mullein)

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Constricted asthma

Constricted asthma, by comparison, has much less mucus involved and nowhere near so much tends to come out. In fact, they usually have to do a great deal of coughing without a lot to show for it! The main issue in constricted asthma is that the smooth muscles of the respiratory system have become tighter, tenser and narrower, with a significantly reduced amount of room for the air to flow in and out as a result.

Constricted asthma is characterised by

1) dry cough and wheezing
2) dry mouth and skin along with heightened thirst
3) muscles that are clearly tight and constricted in the upper back and diaphragm
4) the 'allergy bucket' especially including airborne pollens, animal danders, mould etc.

The respiratory herbs that I have found that can especially help with constricted asthma are Aniseed, Chamomile, Cramp bark, Elecampane, Hyssop leaf, Licorice root, Lobelia herb, Marshmallow root

Here is a sample formula to show how I might use these herbs in combination

Aniseed 15mls
Chamomile 30mls
Cramp bark 25mls
Elecampane 30mls
Hyssop leaf 30mls
Licorice root 30mls
Lobelia herb 5-10mls
Marshmallow root 40mls

To make 205-210mls of Fluid Extracts or Tinctures - the typical adult dose could be 4mls three times daily until things have significantly improved then drop to two times daily, sustain there for some time and then eventually stay at 4 mls once a day as a maintenance dosage for as long as required.

Again, the same kinds of herbs can be used with great benefit as a tea and again I urge you not to get caught up in this particular formula as being the 'right one', it is only here as an example. If you can only obtain some of those herbs, or if you are advised to use others, then you should still certainly go ahead and try another way!

These are all potent medicines but you will note that the range of dose given for the herb Lobelia is not set but rather put as between 5-10 mls. The reason for this is that too much of this herb will make you feel quite nauseous and much too much of it will make you vomit! You must get the dose of this herb right and you are better to start too low than too high.

That said, the ability of Lobelia to relax constricted bronchial tubes is quite fantastic and I would always want to treat constricted asthma with at least some Lobelia in the mixture (one of its old names was 'Asthma-weed!') Again, I urge you to find a herbalist to help you find and use this herb wisely and again some ways you might go about finding a good one is linked here.

Constitutional note

In the case of constricted asthma there is a much higher chance that the person will be from one of the dryer constitutions. If we can work out such a thing in advance we can know that such a person will respond much better to certain herbs, and foods for that matter. Again, when you have some time to study this material, the link to the introduction on constitutional medicine starts here and the section on working out which constitution you are is found here.


Lobelia inflata

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Allergic asthma

One or more allergies are almost always involved in the underlying cause of asthma but, like asthma itself, the subject of allergy is a complex one; numerous substances are typically at fault and there are a number of reactions within the body that must happen before a person finds it hard to breathe.

It is a commonly used analogy and it can be helpful to think of allergic complexity as being like a kind of bucket that, when it becomes full to overflowing, equals such symptoms as happen with asthma, or for that matter asthma's closely related allergic cousins' eczema and urticaria.

The point is that there is always more than just one ingredient that goes into filling up the allergy bucket and, that whilst you can't empty it of everything, you can usually work on reducing or even removing some of what is filling the bucket. In practice this approach reliably sees people becoming much less reactive overall; the bucket is not already full to overflowing so it takes a lot more to set their symptoms back off again.

The 'bucket; commonly includes things that can be quite hard for us to control but there are also two big bucket-fillers that are involved to a large degree that should be carefully considered at the outset; namely air-borne allergies and food-based allergies.

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Air-borne allergies

Many people with asthma have a significant amount of air-borne substances filling up their allergy bucket. The main potential culprits to focus on being animal dander, mould & and dust-mite.

Pollen & Pollution are also big bucket-fillers for many people who suffer from asthma and I talk about some ways to reduce exposure to these further into this article, with a section that relates to pollen called 'cleaning the passageways' here and a section on helping with pollution called 'clean air' here.

In this section I want to focus on the air of the bedroom environment because, whilst it is a lot harder to change the air we are breathing during the day we can make a big difference to the quality of the air we breathe at night and you cannot overestimate how much of a difference the bedroom environment has on the immune system, and allergic-based disease, in general.

Animal dander

This always comes as hard advice for someone who has a close bond with their pet and has a long-term habit of allowing them into the bedroom at night but animal dander is just such a common part of the allergy picture that, at least until you are much better in your health and so can then see if allowing their presence back into your bedroom makes you get worse again, your bedroom simply must be a dog or cat free-zone.

Remember to be sure to keep the bedroom door closed during the day-time if your pet is inside and you are out of the house. This can be a hard step for everyone involved but you simply must put your health first and if they understood this then they would want you to do that too.

Mould

Mould spores especially come out at night and can be a major underlying cause of allergic asthma. Even if you do not see any obvious patches of mould anywhere in your bedroom they may still be there but invisible to the eye.

What follows may seem like strange advice from a nature-loving herbalist but I think one of the first things you have to do in the holistic approach to asthma is to bleach your bedroom! Bleach, in whatever form you use it, is the deadliest method to destroy mould and fungi and you should not be shy in using plenty of it to rid your bedroom of every trace of organisms that may be threatening your ability to breathe!

Clean everything, the walls, the ceiling, behind the bed and any other furniture as best as you can. How often a person suffering from asthma should have to repeat this kind of deep-clean, mould eradication, entirely depends on their climate along with the age, sunlight exposure and relative humidity vs. dryness of their home. As a rough guide, I would say once every 3 months as a safe average for people living in temperate zones, less in colder, dryer regions, more often if you live in a warmer, damper environment or an older house.

Dust-mite

Dust-mite has finally been recognised as a major issue for the health of many people, especially those suffering allergic asthma, so there are many commercial products now available on the market to help that I suggest you take advantage of where finances and availability permit.

If you have carpet in your bedroom then you can be certain that this will be the number one source of any dust-mites that may be coming out at night and filling up your allergy bucket, in this case:

a) investigate products or services that can eradicate or at least greatly reduce dust-mite in your carpet

b) think hard about getting someone to get rid of your bedroom carpet (or only consider pulling it up yourself whilst using a high-grade mask) and instead using cleanable rugs on hard surfaces

c) thirdly and I know this is going to sound most odd, but it is very effective to use the binding tannins in black tea to suppress the ability of dust-mite to migrate from your carpet into the bedroom atmosphere. The simple method to achieve this is prepare some undrinkably strong black tea by putting a few bags or tsps. of tea into hot water and leaving the mixture to literally 'stew' until it cools. You then strain the mixture into the kind of spray bottles that are used to mist the leaves of indoor plants. Then, before going to bed, you spray a fine mist of the tea over your carpet.

I do know how weird this sounds but it won't stain anything, it's cheap and immediately available and this step can make a surprisingly large difference to reducing the allergy bucket as reported back by people who've done it!

On a side note, at least in New Zealand, the incidence of asthma before the widespread uptake of carpets within residential homes in the 1970s was a fraction of what it is today. There may be other more compelling reasons, such as the hygiene hypotheses, that are a more central issue but, even if carpet is only a contributing factor, do not underestimate the power of the droppings of that tiny dust-mite to cause or contribute to asthma!

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Food-based allergies

Undiagnosed food allergies and intolerances are, in many experienced practitioner's views, often involved in chronic asthma to at least some degree but 'how much of a problem is it?' and 'what exactly is it?' are tricky to work out.

The only way to truly answer the 'how much of a problem is it' question is to take out the suspected substances and see how much things improve. If a person has a history of asthma or eczema going back into childhood, then this may be one of the most important areas you can work with. In such 'early-onset' cases, making the correct changes to the diet may result in dramatic improvements over time.

Working out 'what exactly is it?' when it comes to food allergy and intolerance is one of the most treacherously confusing areas to delve into in the health world because there are so many conflicting opinions as well as many highly dubious methods of testing for food allergies or intolerances!

That said, just because it's hard doesn't mean it should be seen as too hard. This work requires time and effort but if it helps a person to breathe easy and live normally then any amount of trouble will be worth it. Without seeing you in person, the following pointers and suggestions are to help as much as I can...

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Immediate reactions

if you or your child have had rapid allergic reactions to foods that have affected your breathing then you almost certainly have classical food allergies. You may be able to get a clearer idea of what you are reactive to by doing some conventional skin-prick or IgE blood tests however, if these are unavailable or seem inconsistent in their results, then you may be wise to exclude a certain group of foods for at least one week and then carefully re-introduce each of them one at a time to see if any of them make any difference to your overall health and breathing.

Virtually any food has the potential to be regarded as an invader by the immune system but, in order of frequency, the list of what foods cause the most immediate reactions are as follows:

Eggs
Fish
Shellfish
Tree Nuts
Peanuts

Delayed reactions

If you or your child do not seem to have any rapid reactions to foods, there is still every possibility that you or they are experiencing delayed reactions to foods that are being mediated by a different part of the immune system (chiefly IgG white blood cells). This is called food intolerance, as distinct from food allergy. Food intolerances are much harder to diagnose and consequently they are frequently missed, even when they are a known major contributor to such allergic-based diseases as asthma and eczema.

If there is any reason to suspect food intolerance, and if you or your child have asthma then it certainly should be suspected, I would recommend going through the following steps:

Dairy

Avoid all dairy products for 7-10 days and then deliberately re-challenge the system by eating dairy and observe how you react when you avoid it as well as what happens when you eat it again. This whole process is practically discussed in further detail here

Gluten

Remove all gluten containing products for 7-10 days and again perform a controlled challenge to observe the results. A page on this process, including a PDF chart at the bottom to see which foods are safe and which must be avoided, is found here.

Note:
I would normally recommend a trial of dairy first and then gluten, and this is simply based on the statistical likelihood of which is more likely to be an issue but, as many case-histories have shown, there are plenty of people who are reactive to both so if the health condition is quite severe then it may be wise to avoid both dairy and gluten at the same time and then carefully re-challenging one after the other.

Testing

If one or both dairy and/or gluten are found to be an issue, then I suggest stopping there and giving at least a month (preferably up to three months) to see what kind of difference it makes to completely remove them from the diet. Long clinical experience has repeatedly shown that the longer a person avoids the key food that is contributing to their allergen load the better they get and it really is a matter of letting a decent amount of time pass before you can see the true gains...

However, if neither dairy or gluten show any obvious signs of reactivity, or if they have done and the person has avoided them for a good amount of time but not made any significant clinical gains, then the final step in this area is to do some bona fide IgG blood testing with a reputable laboratory or home-detective kit.

I discuss this important matter of testing within a more detailed discussion on food allergy and intolerance in a section on the website found here.

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Treating infections

Excess mucus production, especially as happens in catarrhal asthma, creates a perfect breeding ground for bacterial and fungal micro-organisms. Whatever the organism involved, Infections throughout the respiratory system, from the sinuses all the way down to the lower lungs, are a huge complication in asthma. They are also often a major part of its ongoing cause, as inflammation subsequent to infection leads to further airway constriction....

There are two approaches that should always be used when chronic or recurring infections are a part of the asthma condition. The first is simply to regularly and effectively clean the airways, the second is to strengthen and support the immune system in the battle it has been struggling with.

Cleaning the passageways

Never underestimate the potential for a chronic infection, especially in your sinuses, to be causing a chain reaction of inflammation and constriction that can be reaching all the way down into your bronchial tubes.

If you know that you are prone to sinus infections or you get a lot of blocked mucus in your nose, then you should try one or both of the following tried and true techniques to turn things around

Nasal douching

The whole concept of putting warm salt water up one side of your nose, so it goes up through your sinus passageways and then comes out the other nostril, is utterly weird and off-putting, until you actually just do it, whereupon people realise that a) it doesn't hurt, b) it's very easy to do and c) it works...

If you do an online search for 'neti pots' you should be able to easily and inexpensively get the required device for this ancient and effective method to clean the passageways. If there was ever a case of 'you just have to try it for yourself' then this would be it.

Steam cleaning

Secondly, if you have any reason to think that infections may be a part of your asthma, consider doing a medicated steam on a regular basis to clean out the respiratory passageways,

The warm, moist air of the steam gets everywhere it needs to go whilst the essential oils that you've added to the steam help to break down something that makes chronic infections extremely resistant, the 'biofilms' of the bad bugs.

Medicated steams slowly but surely disinfect the respiratory system from chronic infections and they are very easy to do, especially if you use the 'simple method' as described in the page linked just below.

I do rate the Swiss formula 'Olbas oil' pictured below which I've used with good results in many cases but if you have any trouble getting it then you can be certain that Eucalyptus oil is also very good and easily available. The techniques for this process are discussed in practical detail here.


Oils for medicated steam inhalations

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Building immunity

If a person with asthma knows that they have a chronic infection (e.g. from getting a laboratory culture done from a sputum sample) or they are obviously getting recurrent acute infections, then there can be no doubt that their immune system will appreciate some support and if this is the case then start with herbs!

Herbs can be frankly superb at building immune health, there are many potential allies in this field but one in particular has been seen to make a marvellous difference when used in the right way. I am talking here about Echinacea however, its popularity has seen it become the victim of several utterly wrong but persistently pernicious myths, one including that it is 'bad for people with asthma', but this is utterly untrue! Yes, about one in a thousand people will be allergic to the pollen of the Echinacea flower but there is absolutely zero pollen in a traditional preparation from the root of the plant. Don't let the myth stop you trying this herb if you need its help, it can be a life-changing treatment for a person who needs immune support, more info here.

I frequently pair Echinacea with another great immune tonic from Traditional Chinese Medicine called Astragalus, more about it here, and thirdly there is a strange and unique mushroom medicine called Cordyceps that can also be remarkably helpful at strengthening the lungs and immunity, more here.

In some cases, the single best thing you can do to help a person with a weakened immunity is to take a strong course of vitamin D. In an ideal world everyone with asthma would have at least one blood test to see where their levels of this crucial, immune-moderating, hormone-like vitamin are sitting at but because this is an expensive test, if a person with asthma and a low immunity is not clearly getting good amounts of regular sunlight I will often just give one or more courses of Vitamin D internally to be sure, at a typical dose of 10-20 thousand ius per day.

I talked about removing food allergies and intolerances earlier, likewise eating a healthy whole foods diet can go a long way to improving immune health. If you would like to read an article on what I consider to be the key points behind excellent nutrition then read here.

This is just to point out some highlights on immune health, If you know that immune health is a key area for you then read a more detailed article on this vital subject here.


Astragalus racemosa

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Clean air

Another compelling explanation for the rapid rise in asthma rate relates to the increase in air-borne pollution in our increasingly industrialised world. How you might know that this is a key issue for you or your loved one is simply by how much worse your breathing is on smoggy days or when you have been exposed to bad air whilst in heavy traffic or other intensely populated environments.

There are several practical methods to improve the quality and cleanliness of our air.

Plants

Plants are utterly essential and highly beneficial to us in so many ways, including that they are now proven to reduce air pollution! However much you can, in your home or place of work, have plenty of plants growing around you, they are all good, especially the green, succulent (needing plenty of water) varieties.

Location

Even if a person is certain that their asthma is much worse from air pollution most of us have only a certain amount of freedom about what kind of air we breathe from one day to the next. That said, if and when you do have some choice about where to live then, if at all possible, get near an ocean, a desert, up a mountain, or any place that has less pollen, less pollution and cleaner air!

Essential oils

These are the extracted oils from certain herbs that give the plant much of its characteristic smell. Essential oils have many potential applications for enhancing our health and environments and one of the best ways in which they can help is by dispersing them into the air we breathe, where as well as making the air smell pleasant they can simultaneously bind to and render harmless airborne particles and pollutants.

One of the simplest and most effective ways of utilising essential oils in this way is to fill some kind of spray bottle with water and some drops of essential oils (e.g. 10-20 drops of oils to 100mls of water) and just regularly spray this into your environment.

Another popular way is to use an oil-burner, the advantage of that method being that it will disperse the oils into the atmosphere in a more gradual manner. Essential oil burners and the candles that keep them going are readily available online and elsewhere.

In a moment, I will list a few of the essential oils that I think are especially good to help a person with asthma but mainly I would like to say that, in this area, I recommend people to 'follow their nose' because I believe that the oils you most instinctively like the smell of are the ones that are most likely to work the best for you! I love essential oils and have been into them for many years and we carry a large selection of oils in our clinic for our patients. As with all our medicines, none are available for online or remote sale but if you are interested in some very short notes on the oils you can see a page on them here.

All essential oils have at least some antiseptic properties so you can be sure that they will all be helping to clean and disinfect the respiratory tissues. If you will start to adopt this rewarding practice, then I suggest you start with a few and then build up your favourites from there.

All that said, some essential oils that may be particularly helpful for a person with asthma are:

Eucalyptus
Lavender
Rosemary
Chamomile
Ginger
Frankincense
Bergamot
Peppermint

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Movement & Exercise

For many people, the greatest challenge from their asthma is in how it adversely effects their ability to move and exercise. When a person is getting good results, it is often this particular aspect of their lives that they point to as proof that they are truly getting better.

I believe that movement and exercise are pivotal to the successful treatment of asthma but that we need to keep an open mind about how to best bring them into the picture. Perhaps the best place to start is by simply working on getting a more full and fluid movement of the breath itself...

Breathing exercises

Many people find that they can greatly improve their asthma by working on breathing exercises and this has been particularly noticeable with the Buteyko method, arguably the most developed breathing program for asthma, and very well proven to help too, but requiring an arduous commitment of time and energy that is just not practically sustainable for most.

I don't think it needs to be that hard. Firstly, we need to understand what's wrong before we can work out how to fix it in the simplest way possible and the issue here is two-fold:

1) we need to get the diaphragm moving. The diaphragm is the big muscle under the ribs that is supposed to do most of the work when we breathe but usually becomes stiff and unmoving in a person with asthma. What happens instead is that the intercostal muscles of their ribs take over and the breathing becomes more shallow and strenuous.

2) we need to fully exhale, people with asthma tend to retain a lot of stale air in the base of their lungs by not fully exhaling, this in turn increases the tendency of the upper respiratory tract to overwork and shallow-breathe.

The two best ways I know to correct this issue are singing and swimming and I encourage my patients with asthma, or other chronic breathing difficulties, to pick up one or even both. Both singing and swimming make you use your diaphragm and they both ensure that you fully exhale.

Plus, they can be fun. Who can't find at least one song they like that they can learn the words to and sing-along with, making sure they hold the long notes? Likewise, swimming doesn't in the least have to be back and forth, over and over, for it to work. Even just swimming one lap with your head down, fully exhaling the air before you come up for an in-breath will correct what's wrong.

It actually takes very little to correct this issue because you are working with nature and what your body instinctively wants to do. Remember, everything gets easier with practice...

Physical exercise

Whoever you are, even if you are a person who suffers from exercise-induced asthma, I would still encourage you to find a level that you can do some kind of exercise that does not cause you distress and start from there. It's understood that singing and/or swimming is not for everyone, that's ok, any kind of movement will help your body to oxygenate your blood and strengthen your heart and lungs.

If you can exercise to the point that your heart is pumping harder, which you can know is happening if you must breathe deeper and faster to keep up with it, and you don't suffer from any breathing constriction during or just after the exercise, then you can know for sure that you are winning this battle.

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Physical therapy

Every person I have ever met, young or old, who has asthma or any other kind of chronic breathing issue has, along with the too-stiff diaphragm mentioned above, a characteristic tension and tightness in the thoracic region of their upper back.

Whatever method is used to release that tension in the diaphragm and upper back will make a world of difference because the more relaxed your back and diaphragm are the more open and relaxed will be your whole respiratory system.

There are two particularly good ways to make this happen...

For love

For the exchange of love, get someone who cares about you to give you some regular massage. In my own practice, I have often invited my patient to bring in their partner, or a close friend or family member, so that I can show them some simple techniques to release the blocked tension in the upper back.

Working on the diaphragm at the top of the belly and under the ribs is a more intimate area to be touched but if people are willing to work on it or be worked on then it will most certainly help.

Massage was just as much our 'first medicine' as herbs were. That instinctive healing touch that we hopefully received when we were hurt as infants from our mothers or fathers still works wonders on older children and adults as well.

The key to great massage is to give feedback. You must talk because only you can feel what you feel and so only you can say what needs to be said... e.g. you must say things like "up a bit, down a bit, go to the left, go to the right, go a little harder, no do it a bit softer, go slower, go faster, go deeper, make it less pointy, make it more pointed, yes right there!" etc. etc. until they are getting it just exactly right, at which point you must let them know in some manner that they have got the spot and are doing it right. For example, even simply going "mmmmm" as you breathe out is as easy as breathing itself and will tell them that they are doing it just right.

When you give, or receive feedback, you will see that the whole process takes a fraction of the time that it would otherwise because an enormous amount of releasing of the tension can happen in just a few minutes when you are on the right spots in the right ways. Making it easy and effective and not over-long means it is easy to repeat because if you are going to do this then it is going to work and so you will want to do it regularly. If you possibly can, return the gift through massage or some other kindness. If you don't it probably won't last that long, if you do it can carry on indefinitely. Exchange much love!

Or money

For the exchange of energy in the form of money, visit with a skilled and experienced physical therapist to get treatment on your back and release constriction in your diaphragm. A good sign that you have found the right person is that they will also want to give you some tips or exercises to help you keep your back and breathing apparatus open and relaxed, in other words they will be trying to do themselves out of a job by helping you to get better enough not to need to come back!

It may take some asking around or research to find a good physical therapist but the effort will be worthwhile. Some of the tips I give in how to find a good herbalist will apply just as much in this field, they are written up here.

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Relaxation

Anyone who has not experienced what it is like to have trouble with their breathing may also have trouble understanding just how much tension and anxiety asthma can create. A reduced capacity to breathe may not cause the outright panic of not being able to breathe at all but it will always create at least some residual tension in its wake. This residual tension becomes particularly difficult because an increase in tension causes an increased tendency for the bronchial tubes to tighten up.

In other words, asthma causes increased anxiety and tension and increased anxiety and tension causes the asthma to get worse...

You are the best person to know for yourself or you child whether this is a minor side-issue or whether it should be given a high treatment priority. If it is important, then I urge you not to turn to pharmaceutical mind-altering medicines, as they give no kind of positive long term outcome, but rather to use tried and tested natural methods to help. This important subject is written up in practical, do-able detail in an article on treating anxiety found here.

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Constitutional health note

You might want to learn about your constitution to help better understand yourself as well as your problems. All types of people can respond to the general approaches described above but each constitution has certain herbs and other areas of knowledge that work especially well for them.

For example, I mentioned earlier about damp people being more likely to need help with catarrhal asthma and dry people being more likely to need help with constrictive asthma. There is a brief introduction to this fascinating subject here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here.

Putting it all together

I do understand how, especially for a person whose only experience has been the conventional medical system where they are given some drugs to inhale and pretty much no other lifestyle or other advice to work on, that the above notes may seem like a daunting amount of effort is required with this natural approach.

Remember that we are not trying to simply manage the condition with this kind of treatment, we are trying to address the key factors that are causing asthma and to help the body heal itself. Yes, this approach does require a commitment of time and energy but if things help, which they will, the long-term rewards will be worth every bit of trouble, see for yourself.

If you are ready to begin with this then remember that 'a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step'. You don't have to do everything at once, your job right now is to work out what is the most important first step for you to take and then just start from there. Have patience, be positive, and do not shrink at having faith in your ability to get better!

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd