Asthma is a common respiratory condition that affects millions of people across the globe. While asthma is a long-term disease that cannot be completely treated at this point, asthma attacks and symptoms are highly preventable when patients learn how to recognize and avoid their triggers, track their breathing, and take their daily asthma medications.
Just as asthma manifests differently from person to person, treatment will also vary according to different factors. In fact, many patients do not only rely on prescription medications to manage their symptoms but also turn to other alternative treatments to complement their care.
Here are five common alternative treatments that have helped asthmatic individuals conquer their disease:
1. Breathing retraining exercises
A recent study by Professor Mike Thomas and the University of Southampton shows that breathing exercises can improve the quality of life of asthma patients just as much as having a session with a physiotherapist. This involved doing the exercises at home through video tutorials and following a written booklet.
Some breathing programs that have helped relieve patients of their symptoms include the Buteyko Breathing Technique, which allows individuals to breathe slowly through the nose instead of through the mouth, and the Papworth Method, a decades-old technique that encourages people to breathe using both the nose and the diaphragm.
2. Diet changes
While there is no diet that targets asthma specifically, there are certain foods and nutrients that seem to help patients to control their symptoms. For instance, caffeine is known to come from the plant family, theophylline, which is a common bronchodilator. Meanwhile, a diet rich in vitamin D also helps patients to boost their immune system and ward off the symptoms of asthma.
Other essential vitamins and minerals that could help keep asthma attacks at bay, as well as strengthen the body in general, includes vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and vitamin A, probiotics, and omega 3 fatty acids.
3. Yoga and meditation
While there is no concrete evidence showing that yoga can effectively treat asthma symptoms, it is a common alternative therapy that many asthmatic patients practice. Because of its goal to relax the mind and body, it helps individuals to reduce their stresses, which are potential triggers for asthma symptoms.
Just like yoga, a form of meditation known as mindfulness, which is also referred to as mental training, is also another holistic approach to asthma care. The simplest way to perform it is to sit on a quiet place with eyes closed and to focus your attention only to your thoughts and breathing. Meditation has been known to have stress-relieving benefits and should be a great complementary treatment for asthma.
4. Herbal remedies
Using herbal remedies to treat asthma is a common practice among asthmatic patients, especially in Asia. Some herbs that are often used include ginkgo biloban, which is believed to have anti-inflammatory effects that helps reduce airway sensitivity; licorice root, which is supposed to reduce inflammation and soothe cough; and dried ivy leaf extract, which is used to help clear mucus and prevent the narrowing of airways.
Although such herbs may have worked for some patients, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute warns people with asthma to be vigilant when taking such remedies as they are not recommended and approved for medical use.
If you have been experiencing symptoms of asthma, have your condition diagnosed right away. Aside from pulmonary function tests, you might need to undergo other tests such as a chest X-ray or an electrocardiogram using EKG cables.
Having your asthma diagnosed is an essential first step to take, as it will help you and your doctor come up with a suitable asthma care plan that you need and prefer.