3 natural methods to help treat asthma

This chronic respiratory disease strikes an estimated three million Canadians, including 10 percent to 15 percent of children. The good news is there are a few ways you can treat it naturally:

3 natural methods to help treat asthma

Yoga and meditation

Self-monitoring, medications and sensible lifestyle changes enable most people to lead active, healthy lives. Stress and extreme emotions can trigger asthma, so it’s important to find ways to remain calm.

  • One interesting study showed that yoga and meditation may help the effectiveness of asthma drugs. A group of people with asthma, who continued to experience symptoms while taking preventive medication, improved after practicing Sahaja yoga for four months.
  • This form of Indian meditation teaches practitioners to attain "mental silence," a state of being alert without specific, focused thoughts. Lung tests showed that those doing the yoga were less susceptible to asthma triggers than those who practiced other ­relaxation techniques. The benefits disappeared two months after the yoga was stopped.

Acupuncture and guided imagery

Acupuncture may help improve short-term lung function, although the scientific evidence is less than conclusive.

  • In one controlled study, however, nearly 50 percent of the asthma patients who did guided imagery were able to decrease, or even discontinue, their medication, compared to just 18 percent of the control group.

The exercise paradox

If you have asthma, exercise often helps. On the other hand, sometimes it makes matters worse. Up to 90 percent of people with asthma experience what’s called exercise-induced asthma, meaning strenuous activity can trigger an attack. Some people (including top international athletes) have only exercise-induced asthma and never have symptoms unless they're exercising. Typically, with exercise-induced asthma, within five to 20 minutes of starting vigorous exercise, you may have difficulty breathing, chest tightness, coughing and even chest pain. Sometimes symptoms don't appear until after the workout.

Does this mean you shouldn't exercise if you have asthma? Cer­tainly not. Doctors agree that exercise can be beneficial for people with asthma, as long as it’s done sensibly (just check with your doctor first). Here are some tips when exercising:

  • Choose the right activity. Swimming and water aerobics are excellent. Walking, hiking, bicycling and downhill skiing are also less likely to trigger exercise-induced asthma.
  • Warm up and cool down. If you're going to do vigorous activities, warm up thoroughly and take time to cool down. This helps prevent sudden changes in the temperature and humidity of the air you're breathing in. Especially in cold weather, breathing through your mouth speeds cold, dry air to your lower airways, which can trigger an attack.
  • Medicate before exercising. Inhaling a short-acting beta2-agonist bronchodilator spray 15 minutes before exercise can usually prevent attacks. Some may need to use longer-acting anti-inflammatory medications.

Asthma can be a tough condition to live with everyday. Working these tips into your lifestyle should help relieve some of the discomfort. As always, be sure to consult a doctor if you think these tips interfere with any part of her treatment.

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