Western VS Alternative Medicine: What Are the Options When You Are Living with Allergies and Asthma?
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA: www.AAFA.org) asthma affects more than 20 million Americans (approximately 1 in 15), and over 50% of asthma cases are related to allergies. Combined, more than 60 million Americans suffer from asthma or allergies. Western medicine provides a number of helpful solutions for people suffering from asthma. The most common are:
1. Fast acting, short duration inhalers contain a bronchodilator to open up airways quickly when an asthma attack is in progress. They are often referred to as rescue inhalers.
2. In recent years corticosteroid inhalers have become a common conventional treatment. Corticosteroids effectively reduce inflammation in the lungs and often times are paired together with a long acting bronchodilator.
In addition to inhalers many asthma and allergy specialists seek to identify various allergens with allergy tests. Then they often prescribe allergy medications or shots to help reduce allergic reactions that may lead to lung inflammation and airway constriction.
Holistic Medicine and a Naturopathic Doctor’s Approach to Allergies and Asthma
As a naturopathic doctor I have both personal and professional experience dealing with allergies and asthma. I have struggled with allergies and asthma since childhood and at one time was prescribed nine different medications to mange my symptoms! I believe firmly that Western medicine has a lot to offer, especially to manage emergency situations, but holistic medicine and natural treatments also have an important role to play.
Holistic Health Considerations
Asthma can have many underlying causes. Asthma is an inflammatory condition that affects the airways. The lungs have an increased amount of reactivity to triggers that cause constriction of the airways and mucus production. Allergies are one of the most common triggers. In order to create a holistic health solution for asthma patients with allergies I must evaluate all of the internal and external environmental triggers.
First I speak with the patient about potential external environmental triggers. Do they have sensitivities to dust mites, pet dander, molds, chemicals, etc? Even poor air quality can be a trigger. The AAFA recently released their annual list of Top 10 Worst Cities for Asthma. Six out of ten are in the Southeastern United States.
Next, I evaluate the internal environment of the patient. I examine the patient’s constitutional strengths. I consider nutritional factors, as well as hormonal balance, and identify if the patient requires a body detoxification program.
Naturopathic Treatments for Asthma and Allergies
Important nutrients are often deficient in people who have asthma. Essential fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals are often needed in order to strengthen the respiratory system and the body as a whole. Herbal medicine can also be recommended to clear mucus, reduce congestion and tonify the lungs. In my holistic health and naturopathic practice I also use Electrodermal Screening to identify allergens and desensitize patients to them. This is a fairly uncommon treatment, but has excellent results. This natural treatment helps patients remove triggers such as fragrance allergies, seasonal allergies and mold allergies.
Common Food Allergies Related to Asthma
Many people do not know that living with allergies can make their asthma symptoms much worse and more difficult to manage. Common food allergies are often triggers for children and adults suffering from asthma. Electrodermal Screening can also help identify common food allergies like wheat allergies, gluten allergies and milk allergies. This is why, as a naturopathic doctor, I place high value on the relationship between asthma and nutrition.
Dairy and wheat allergies have been shown to aggravate inflammation in susceptible individuals, which makes asthma symptoms worse. With proper nutrition, herbal medicines, allergy desensitization and supplements, people with asthma can see a great reduction in the number of asthma symptoms or attacks. This holistic health approach combined with conventional treatments can improve quality of life for even some of the most serious asthmatics. You may find with more natural treatments that reliance on an inhaler decreases over time as the body becomes healthier and functions at a more optimal level. When Western medicine and naturopathic approaches are combined, patients with asthma have the opportunity to improve quality of life and overall health.