Natural Remedies for Asthma

What Are Natural Remedies for Asthma?

With all the studies on alternative medicine and natural remedies, you may wonder if there’s a natural cure for asthma. Unfortunately, there is no cure for asthma at this point. In fact, you should avoid any treatment or product -- natural or otherwise -- that claims to be a "cure" for asthma.

Some natural therapies may help you manage symptoms of asthma. For instance, a negative response to emotional stress can cause an asthma attack. Some natural relaxation remedies like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and biofeedback can help relieve stress.

Other findings suggest that diet plays a role in easing asthma symptoms. For example, omega-3 fatty acids found naturally in high-fat fish like salmon, mackerel, and cod may help your body fight inflammation. Whether this may help people who have asthma is still unproven.

10 Natural Remedies for Asthma

Many things get credit for being natural asthma remedies. But because studies on complementary and alternative treatments for asthma have been limited, it’s not clear how safe and effective all of them are.

These natural remedies have been studied:

Acupuncture. This traditional Chinese treatment involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body. While some people with asthma say acupuncture eases their symptoms, there’s little proof that it works as an asthma treatment.

Biofeedback. Learning to control your heart rate may help you manage your asthma, but more studies are needed to confirm a benefit.

Herbs and natural dietary supplements. Many people use herbs, plants, and supplements, especially Chinese herbs, to treat asthma. It’s not clear how well many of them work. More research is needed on supplements like magnesium and fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids). But vitamins C, D, and E may help lower your risk of symptoms.

Asthma diet. If you have a food allergy, avoiding trigger foods may also help with some asthma symptoms.

Plant-based diet. Several studies have found benefits for people with asthma who follow the Mediterranean diet.It involves lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats like olive oil. You eat more fatty fish and poultry than red meat. Experts think this diet helps with asthma symptoms because it helps fight inflammation in your body. A similar eating plan called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) may also improve asthma control.

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Weight loss. Most people who have extra pounds carry them in the middle of their body. This can make it harder for your lungs to work. Losing weight can improve lung volume and lower your chances of conditions that make asthma worse, like diabetes or high blood pressure. It may also make exercise easier, which could improve your asthma symptoms.

Caffeine. Caffeine is a mild bronchodilator, which means it helps open your airways. Studies have found that it may improve airway function in people who have asthma.

Yoga. Stress may trigger asthma symptoms. Breathing exercises used in yoga have been found to help some people with asthma control breathing and relieve stress, a common asthma trigger.

Buteyko breathing. This technique focuses on slow breathing and short periods when you hold your breath. It doesn’t treat asthma, but it may help improve the pattern of your breathing.

Papworth method. This relaxation and breathing system teaches you to breathe from your diaphragm so your lungs fill with as much air as possible.

Are There Natural Remedies for Asthma Attacks?

The typical treatment for an asthma attack is a quick-acting (rescue) inhaler with medication. Sit upright and take slow, steady breaths. Try to stay calm. Follow the asthma action plan that you’ve set up with your doctor. If your breathing doesn’t get better or if you’re so short of breath that you can’t talk, get medical help right away.

Some breathing exercises can help with symptoms of an asthma attack.

  • Pursed-lip breathing. This slows your breathing and helps hold your airways open longer so your lungs work better. With your mouth closed, breathe in slowly through your nose. Then breathe out through your mouth, with your lips pursed like you’re whistling, for twice as long.
  • Belly breathing. This technique uses the same steps as pursed-lip breathing. But as you breathe in, focus on the movement of your belly. Picture it filling with air like a balloon. It may help to keep your hands on your belly so you can concentrate on the air going in and out.

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Natural Asthma Remedy Risks

As you consider the different types of natural asthma remedies, it’s very important to carefully balance your desire to breathe easier with the possible dangers of the treatments, which may be unknown. Keep these things in mind:

  • Never use any dietary supplement before checking with your doctor.
  • Some natural herbal products, such as bee pollen, may trigger an asthma attack if you’re allergic to the specific plant.
  • Never stop using your asthma drugs without your doctor’s knowledge. If you don’t follow your treatment plan, the results can be very serious and even deadly.

If you’re not sure about the claims on a natural dietary supplement product label, call your doctor before taking it. They can check the product to let you know if it has any health benefits.

Make an Asthma Action Plan

If you don't have one already, work with your doctor to create an asthma action plan. This is something you talk about and write down. It helps you tell how well-controlled your asthma is and what to do about it. Your action plan might include:

  • How much medicine to take and when
  • A list of your triggers and ways to avoid them
  • What to do when you have specific symptoms of trouble

Use a Peak Flow Meter

A peak flow meter is an inexpensive handheld gadget. You use it to measure how fast air comes out when you exhale hard after a full breath in. This number is called a peak expiratory flow (PEF).

Your doctor may want you to use a peak flow meter to help you recognize signs of trouble. Many asthma symptoms result from not being able to move air out of your lungs. If your PEF goes down, that's a sign that your asthma is getting worse and that you need to do something.

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Keep an Asthma Diary

A diary can help you keep track of how well-controlled your asthma is. Every day, write down:

  • Any asthma symptoms you had and how you're feeling
  • Where you were and what you were doing right before a flare
  • When you're using medication and how much
  • Your PEF numbers

All of this information, collected in one place, helps you and your doctor see patterns and recognize warnings of asthma attacks. You can learn to prevent them or stop them before you get very ill.

Your doctor can also check your diary to see how well your asthma action plan is working.

Goals of Managing Asthma

Even though there’s no natural cure for asthma, your symptoms can be treated and controlled with several asthma medications. Your goal in managing asthma is to:

  • Get an accurate asthma diagnosis.
  • Work with your doctor to come up with an asthma action plan.
  • Monitor your peak flow rate daily and do the right things when it drops.
  • Keep an asthma diary so you can track all your symptoms and medication use.
  • Avoid asthma triggers or causes of asthma, including outdoor irritants like smog.
  • Seek medical advice and treatment for problems that can worsen asthma symptoms, like GERD, allergic rhinitis, and sinusitis.
  • Exercise daily to boost your aerobic fitness.
  • Prevent exercise-induced asthma by medicating before exercise.
  • Eat nutritious foods to boost your immune defenses against viral and bacterial infections.
  • Stay at a normal weight.
  • Get plenty of restful sleep.
  • Call your health care provider at the first sign of asthma symptoms.
  • Check in with your health care provider regularly for breathing tests to make sure your asthma is managed and your medications are working at their best.

You hold the key to living well with asthma. Trust your health care provider to give you guidance, and then take daily responsibility for your breathing with proven ways to take care of yourself.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 30, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

Smolley, L. Breathe Right Now, New York, Dell, 1999.

American Lung Association: "Asthma Action Plan," “Create an Asthma Action Plan,” “Asthma and Nutrition: How Food Affects Your Lungs,” “Belly Breathing.”

American Academy of Family Physicians: "Asthma: Learning to Control Your Symptoms."

Mayo Clinic: "Gain Control with Written Plans," “Asthma diet: Does what you eat make a difference?” “Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan,” “Asthma attack.”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Asthma: In Depth.”

Medicine: “Acupuncture for asthma.”

UpToDate: “Complementary, alternative, and integrative therapies for asthma.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Peak Flow Measurement.”

The Lung Association Ontario: “How to Manage Your Asthma.”

NPJ Primary Care Respiratory Medicine: “The role of oral magnesium supplements for the management of stable bronchial asthma: a systematic review and meta-analysis.”

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: “Dietary marine fatty acids (fish oil) for asthma in adults and children,” “Caffeine for asthma.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Asthma: Alternative Therapy.”

Journal of Asthma: “Influence of Mediterranean Diet on Asthma Symptoms, Lung Function, and Systematic Inflammation: A Randomized Controlled Trial.”

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: “What is the connection between weight and asthma?”

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland: “Breathing techniques and relaxation for asthma.”

Thorax: “Effect of two breathing exercises (Buteyko and pranayama) in asthma: a randomized controlled trial.”

National Health Service (U.K.): “Asthma attacks.”

Global Allergy & Airways Patient Platform: “Breathing Exercises and Techniques for Asthma.”

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