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Vitamins and Supplements That May Help Asthma

Asthma attacks can be very severe, and the respiratory disease requires constant vigilance to avoid known triggers. While corticosteroids and other conventional drugs are commonly prescribed for asthma patients, they do produce severe side effects and are not recommended for long-term use. Natural supplements, on the other hand, are safe for long-term use and in many cases, they are just as effective. Read on to discover the vitamin and supplements that can help reduce your dependence on asthma drugs.
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Asthma is a common inflammatory disease that affects the airways causing the obstruction to airflow and spasms in the bronchioles. Asthma is a chronic disease and it is characterized by these key symptoms: cough, wheezing, tightness in the chest and shallow breathing.

Asthma symptoms are usually at their worst during the night or early in the morning. Furthermore, these symptoms become worse in the presence of asthma triggers, during exercise or on exposure to cold air.

There are other disorders that are closely associated with asthma. For example, the breathing difficulty and airway obstruction caused by asthma often leads to sleep disorders. In addition, 4 out of 5 asthma patients also have gastro-esophageal reflux disease.

It is also possible for another disorder to be the root cause of asthma. For example, researchers have proven that asthma symptoms appear and worsen for every 20% increase in body-mass index. Clearly, fat accumulation promotes inflammatory responses in the body and also reduces airflow through the breathing passages.

However, the major causes of asthma are environmental and genetic factors.

In most cases, both factors are at play, and their interplay determines the severity of an asthma attack as well as its response to drugs.

Since asthma is an inflammatory disease, people with a high risk of diseases involving allergic reactions also have a high risk of developing asthma. The most important causes of asthmatic allergic reactions are indoor allergens such as dust and house mites.

Outdoor air pollutants are the most important causes of childhood asthma. However, respiratory infections caused by viruses can also significantly increase the risks of asthma in children.

Asthma Symptoms

 

  • Frequent coughing and sneezing
  • Wheezing from the lungs
  • Running out of air while talking
  • Pressure in the chest
  • Easily fatigued during exercise
  • Blue or purple toes during attacks
  • Feelings of lightheadedness
  • Sweating and rapid heartbeat
  • Itchy throat
  • Dry mouth due to mouth breathing
  • Swollen glands and lymph nodes in the neck
  • A feeling of choking

 



The Cause of Asthma

In short, no one is sure exactly what causes asthma. However, most experts agree that toxins and irritants in the air combined with spending time outdoors can be huge influencers in the strength of symptoms. Autoimmune disorders, stress, poor nutrition, and genetics can also play a role in whether you have asthma and how severe the asthma gets.

Risk factors for getting asthma can include:

 

  • Too much time spent indoors as a child.
  • A sedentary lifestyle.
  • Childhood lung infections.
  • Obesity.
  • Allergies.
  • Genetics.
  • Exposure to toxins in the environment.
  • Poor posture.
  •  

 

Asthma has no cure but it can be managed well enough to prevent the occurrence of severe symptoms.

In most cases, preventing asthma attacks by avoiding known triggers is the best treatment protocol for asthma. To this end, lifestyle modifications should be adopted to stop smoking, discontinue drugs that trigger asthma and avoid sites of air pollution.

Indoor triggers can be eliminated by vacuuming, by air filtration and by chemical pest control of mites.

Asthma Triggers
  • Exercise.
  • Viral respiratory infections.
  • Dust and house mites.
  • Wood and tobacco smoke.
  • Pollen and mold.
  • Animal fur or hair.
  • Chemical vapor.
  • Weather changes.
  • Laughing, crying and other strong emotional outbursts.
  • Menstrual cycles.

 

Asthma drugs can either be short-acting (to provide immediate relief of symptoms) or long-acting (to provide sustained control of symptoms). The first class of drugs are usually delivered with inhalers and nebulizers so that the drugs can immediately act on the lungs and breathing airways.

However, there are natural remedies that can also effectively manage asthma symptoms.

These natural remedies include vitamins, minerals and natural supplements. The most effective of these natural remedies are discussed below.

 

Vitamin Supplements for Asthma

Vitamins are essential for a healthy body. While almost everyone knows that they ought to eat more vitamins, for individuals with asthma, it may be even more important.

A 2000 study published in the Turkish Journal of Pediatrics investigated the link between antioxidant vitamins (vitamins A, C and E), lipid oxidation and asthma.

The study involved 14 children with asthma and 12 healthy children. The kids with asthma were studied during their asthma attacks and during remission.

The results of the study showed that the levels of all three antioxidant vitamins were lower in the asthmatic kids than the normal kids.

These sub-normal levels were, however, not only observed during asthma attacks. The vitamins were even present in lower concentrations during remission even though the remission levels were higher than the levels of the vitamins during the asthma attacks.

In addition, the study showed that the levels of lipid peroxidation remains similar in both asthma kids and healthy ones. Therefore, antioxidant vitamins most likely improved asthma by some other mechanisms beyond simply preventing the release of pro-inflammatory lipid peroxidation metabolites.

A 2009 study published in the journal, Thorax, also reached similar conclusions.

This study was a systematic review of 40 past studies done on the subject. The meta-analysis showed that the levels of all vitamins were reduced in asthmatic patients. In addition, low dietary intakes of vitamins A and C were linked with an increased risk of asthma.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the antioxidant vitamins that studies indicate can help reduce the severity of asthma.

However, there is no consensus about whether vitamin C works or not. Some studies conclude that vitamin C does relieve asthma symptoms while some indicate that it provides no benefits.

Still, it is easy to see why vitamin C might be beneficial for asthma sufferers. Its antioxidant property protects the body from the harmful effects of free radicals and reactive oxygen species. Therefore, it aids tissue repair, boosts immunity and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent.

There are indeed clinical cases in which asthma patients got better with vitamin C supplementation.

One recent study that supports the use of vitamin C in the management of asthma was undertaken by researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland and Tanta University in Egypt. The study participants were children aged 7 – 10 and the asthma indicator measured was FEV1 (forced expiratory volume per one second).

The study results showed that vitamin C can increase FEV1 levels in children who have been regularly exposed to known asthma triggers such as molds or damp. However, the benefit was greatest in younger children.

This study showed that while vitamin C was effective in asthma management, its benefits vary between different patient groups and that further studies are needed to determine who can benefit the most from this vitamin.

Other studies have reached similar and different conclusions regarding the importance of vitamin C in asthma management. Some of these conclusions are:

  • Asthma sufferers (adults and children) have lower levels of vitamin C than normal subjects
  • Smoking or exposure to cigarette smoke can reduce the concentration of vitamin C in the respiratory tract
  • Vitamin C can improve airway responsiveness in the short-term
  • Vitamin C is especially effective for exercise-induced asthma

Vitamin D

Although, many studies in the past have suggested that Vitamin D may contribute to outcomes in asthmatic patients, it is only recently that researchers have closely investigated this link.

In one review published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in 2010, researchers analyzed 40 years’ worth of these preliminary studies into the role of vitamin D in asthma and concluded that vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for the respiratory disease.

In that review, the authors stated that vitamin D deficiency was strongly associated with

  • increased sensitivity of the respiratory airway to irritants
  • reduced lung functions
  • inadequate control of asthma

The reviewers further suggested that vitamin D may relieve asthma attacks by its anti-inflammatory effects which involve increasing the production of interleukin-10 and cutting off the cascade reaction that produces the cytokines that cause inflammation.

Since the body makes its own vitamin D in the skin from exposure to sunlight, vitamin D deficiency is common during the winter months. Coupled with the cold experienced during those months, it is no wonder that asthma attacks are reported more often during winter.

Another study also published in 2010 but in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology arrived at the same conclusions.

The researchers combed through the health records of 100 asthmatic children and noted that about half of them had vitamin D levels lower than the normal values.

In addition, the researchers discovered that the vitamin D deficient asthmatic children had the worst asthma attacks, used more medications, were more susceptible to allergens and had poorer lung functions that the rest of the group.

The study also showed that the children with the lowest vitamin D levels had the highest concentration of IgE, the immunoglobulin most associated with inflammation and allergic reactions in asthma.

In addition, this study further revealed that low vitamin D levels also strongly correlated with low FEV1 levels.

Lastly, the researchers were able to demonstrate that vitamin D supplements can improve the effectiveness of the anti-inflammatory corticosteroids used in asthma treatment. Therefore, asthmatics who have developed some degree of resistance to these corticosteroids can strongly benefit from both the direct and indirect benefits of vitamin D.

These conclusions were also echoed by a 2012 study published in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

B Vitamins

Of the B vitamins, vitamins B6 and B12 are the most important ones in asthma management.

Vitamin B12 is one of the most important vitamins in the body. It is needed for the syntheses and activities of RNA and DNA, cellular metabolism and the production of red blood cells. But it is its effect on the immune system that makes vitamin B12 an excellent supplement for asthma patients.

While there are no studies supporting the use vitamin B12 in this way, there are clinical cases in which vitamin B12 injection improved the outcomes of chronic asthma.

One of the evidences supporting the use Vitamin B6 in asthma management comes from a 1975 study involving 76 asthmatic children who were given 200 mg of vitamin B6 daily. The results of the study showed that vitamin B6 improved asthma symptoms and also led to dose reduction in the bronchodilators and cortisone taken by the children during the study.

The researchers suggested that vitamin B6 worked by removing the metabolic block to tryptophan metabolism which is a known cause of severe bronchial asthma. However, large doses and long-term therapy with the vitamin is required.

Choline

Choline is a B vitamin and commonly found in eggs. A study published in 2014 in Free Radical Biology and Medicine found that when mice were given a combination of selenium, vitamin C, and choline, their airways opened up and the mice were able to breathe better. The study authors concluded that adding choline to the diet could help reduce the frequency of asthma attacks. The University of Maryland Medicine Center recommends taking 3 grams of choline per day in asthmatic adults.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a necessary vitamin for the proper function of the organs and the immune system. The skin and the eyes are particularly dependent on vitamin E. Vitamin E is commonly found in many vegetables and fruits. A 2013 report published in the "American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine," stated that studies in mice have shown that vitamin E has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce swelling in the lungs. Follow-up human studies have shown comparable results, although in a less dramatic fashion.

Minerals

These minerals have been shown to help ease or improve the symptoms of asthma. These minerals are crucial for the healthy function of the body.

Magnesium

Magnesium is one of the thoroughly studied nutritional supplements in the management of asthma.

Some of these studies have established that low magnesium consumption increases the risk of developing asthma. Other studies have taken the conclusion a bit further and tried to establish if magnesium supplementation can improve asthma symptoms.

The effect of magnesium salts on bronchospasm is also well documented.

Magnesium sulfate is commonly used as a natural and safe bronchodilator. It acts by relaxing the bronchial smooth muscles to allow increased airflow.

In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Asthma, the researchers gave 52 adult patients with mild to moderate asthma a daily dose of 340 mg of magnesium citrate or placebo for six and a half month. The results showed that the lung functions of the patients in the magnesium group improved significantly and that the patients had better asthma control.

Even though magnesium improves long function, different studies have shown that it does not affect FEV1 levels or even the production of inflammatory proteins.

Asthmatic patients can receive magnesium as an oral supplement, in nebulizers and as an intravenous infusion.

Selenium

Selenium is an antioxidant supplement that has been proven useful in asthma management. Besides its antioxidant effect, it also has an anti-inflammatory effect that is most useful is asthma therapy.

The key role of selenium in the body is the maintenance of glutathione levels. It is no wonder then that different studies show that selenium and glutathione levels are lower in asthma patients than in healthy people.

Selenium is necessary for the enzyme, glutathione peroxidase which can disrupt the arachidonic acid cascade that leads to the production of leukotrienes. Therefore, selenium can prevent the accumulation of these pro-inflammatory leukotrienes, and therefore, reduce bronchial inflammation.

The available studies show that selenium supplementation does not improve lung functions in asthmatics but it can improve the quality of life of the asthmatic patient.

More Supplements for Asthma

If you suffer from asthma, adding more of these supplements to your daily diet can help keep asthma symptoms under control and prevent the need for high doses of medication.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are known as anti-inflammatory supplements. The Omega-3 fatty acids include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

Different studies have established that these fatty acids can help reduce the symptoms of asthma.

In one Japanese study, the researchers compared the efficacies of fish oil (an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids) and olive oil in the long-term treatment of asthma in a group of children. The duration of supplementation was 10 months and at the end, the fish oil group saw greater improvements in asthma symptoms.

Omega-3 fatty acids are especially effective for treating exercise-induced asthma.

Studies show that long-term supplementation can also reduce the risk of asthma and improve lung function. Omega-3 fatty acids work by inhibiting leukotriene synthesis through its blockage of the arachidonic acid inflammatory cascade.

Pycnogenol

Pycnogenol is a strange name for a park extract from the French pine tree. This herbal extract has been shown to reduce inflammation according to one study from 2013 published in “Food and Chemical Toxicology.” 

Thymol

Thymol is an extract that is derived from the herb thyme. In a study from 2017, thymol was shown to reduce allergic asthma attacks in mice.

Black Cumin

Black cumin is a type of cumin that is usually used for cooking, but according to one study published in 2016 in the journal “Planta Medica” it was found that black cumin can have minor anti-inflammatory effects on the lungs. Adding more cumin to your diet might have benefits for reducing symptoms of asthma.

Caffeine

In somewhat surprising results, a few studies have indicated that caffeine may have properties that help reduce the symptoms of asthma. Caffeine contains a compound that is beneficial in reducing inflammation that might contribute to asthma attacks. According to a study from 2015 published in “Pharmacology & Therapeutics,” drinking three cups of coffee a day was able to reduce inflammation in the body.

Ginger

Ginger is one of the most-studied supplements for inflammation. As asthma is an inflammatory condition, ginger is effective in reducing airway inflammation and airway contraction. Further studies support the use of ginger supplements alongside traditional asthma medications.

Mustard Oil

Mustard oil works as a topical treatment to open the airways and encourage healthy breathing. If you find yourself short of breath, try applying a mustard oil pack.

Heat a mixture of mustard oil and camphor. When the mixture is warm, rub it onto your chest and back. Rub the oil into the skin until it is absorbed. You should feel like it is easier to breathe within a few minutes.

Garlic

Garlic, too, has anti-inflammatory properties. You can take garlic supplements once a day, or try to consume more garlic in your daily diet. In most cases, raw garlic will have a greater benefit in the body than cooked or powdered garlic. If you can stand the taste of raw garlic, try adding some to your daily routine.

Carom Seeds

Carom seeds are an ancient herbal remedy for asthma. The seeds dilate the bronchial tubes in the lungs. Boil a teaspoon of the seeds in some water and drink the liquid. You can also crush the seeds and add it to food, or purchase carom seeds to take daily as a supplement to help keep asthma symptoms at bay.

Foods to Eat for Asthma

If you have asthma, eating a healthy diet will ensure you minimize your symptoms and reduce the amount of conventional medication you have to take. If you have asthma, adding the following foods to your diet can help reduce symptoms and help you breathe easier.

Carotenoid Foods

Carotenoid foods are the brightest foods and are brightly colored orange or red. Carotenoids are the part of vitamin A that helps relieve asthma symptoms. Studies have found that many individuals with asthma are low in vitamin A. Look for right orange, red, and yellow foods to add to your diet.

Folate and Folic Acid

Foods high in folate help reduce inflammation in the lungs. Look for foods with high folate levels, like dark leafy greens, vegetables, beans, and nuts.

Vitamin E and C Foods

Vitamin E and C are beneficial in reducing asthma symptoms. These vitamins have been show to reduce asthma symptoms like wheezing and trouble breathing. Find these vitamins in leafy greens, citrus fruits, nuts, seeds, and plant oils.

Foods Rich in Magnesium

Low magnesium levels are associated with a greater risk in developing asthma and other breathing problems. Adding more magnesium to the diet helps relax the muscles in the lungs, helping a person breathe easier. Look for magnesium in nuts, leafy greens, beans, and ancient grains.

Flavorful Foods

Foods that add flavor, like onions, garlic, and mustard all have positive benefits on the lungs. All of these foods contain a compound called quercetin, which is able to reduce inflammation throughout the body.

Raw Milk

For some, adding raw milk to the diet helps reduce asthma symptoms. One study found that when children drank raw milk, they were less likely to develop asthma or hay fever. Adding probiotics to the diet will also have a similar effect.

 

These Foods May Make Asthma Worse

Just like there are some foods that make asthma symptoms better, some foods can make it worse. If you suffer from asthma, you won’t want to consume any of the foods from this list on a regular basis. Avoiding these foods will help reduce your need to take prescription medication and will help you breathe easier and avoid scary asthma attacks.

Vegetable Oils

Vegetable oils are linked with a greater likelihood of children getting asthma as they age. This is mainly due to the presence of trans fats in the oil. Many vegetable oils sold today are rancid and contain harmful chemicals and ingredients that can trigger asthma attacks.

Processed Foods

Processed foods contain many unhealthy chemicals. Removing processed foods from your diet will help eliminate these chemicals from the body and may help relieve some of the symptoms of asthma.

Gluten

Some individuals with asthma are also allergic to gluten. You might not realize you are allergic to gluten, but if you are, your asthma symptoms will be worse than they would be if you eliminated gluten. One easy way to test if you are sensitive to gluten is to eliminate it for six weeks. If your asthma symptoms improve during that time, then you might want to consider removing gluten from your diet completely.

Other Home Remedies for Asthma

If you suffer from asthma, taking conventional medication is not the only solution. You can also try these simple natural remedies to reduce asthma symptoms.

Chiropractic Care

Your posture can play a big role in how easy it is to breathe. You might be surprised at how much benefit you see from regular chiropractic visits.

Reduce Stress

Just like many other conditions, asthma symptoms are worse when you are stressed. Try to keep your stress levels manageable by taking time out of each day to consciously relax and de-stress. Try simple stress relievers, like massage, drinking a warm beverage at night, reading a book, or sitting outside and enjoying nature for a few minutes a day.

Exercise

A lack of activity can make asthma symptoms worse. If you have asthma, try to keep as active as possible. Exercise at least three times a week, but ideally every day. Keep your weight to a healthy level and you will naturally decrease asthma symptoms.

Vitamin Supplements for Asthma Work

You don’t have to rely on conventional treatments for asthma. Although medicine is a viable option and necessary in some cases, if you take the right supplements, keep healthy, and stay active, you can reduce the amount of medication you must take daily to stay healthy. With the right lifestyle changes, you might even be able to eliminate the need for certain asthma medications entirely, which means you can live a healthier life free from the unwanted side effects of the medication as well as with the ability to breathe freely and clearly for the first time.

 

Sources


http://sitemaker.umich.edu/fm_integrative-approach_asthma/vitamins_and_supplements

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120713080022.htm

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110830081532.htm

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