With all the new findings 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, it’s highly advisable to avoid any treatment or product -- natural or otherwise -- that claims to be a "cure" for asthma.
Can Natural Therapies Help to Manage Asthma?
Some natural therapies may help to manage symptoms of asthma. For instance, a negative response to emotional stress can cause an asthma attack. Some natural relaxation remedies like deep abdominal 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, it’s thought that omega-3 fatty acids found naturally in high-fat fish such as salmon, mackerel, and cod let the body make more products that tend to cut inflammation. Whether this may help people who have asthma is still unproven.
Are There Natural Asthma Remedies?
Many things get credit for being natural asthma remedies. But because there have been limited research studies on complementary and alternative treatments for asthma, it’s not known how safe and effective these 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 acupuncture works as an asthma treatment.
Herbs and natural dietary supplements. Many people use herbs, plants, and supplements, especially Chinese herbs, to treat asthma. Since there’s no proof they help with asthma symptoms, they aren’t recommended. Studies have looked at using magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidant supplements such as vitamin D and vitamins A, C, and E for asthma symptoms. Again, there isn’t enough evidence to recommend these natural therapies.
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.
Asthma diet. If you have a food allergy, avoiding foods that trigger an allergy attack may also help with some asthma symptoms.
Biofeedback. Learning to control your heart rate may help you manage your asthma, but more studies are needed to confirm a benefit.
Pros and Cons of Natural Asthma Remedies
As you consider the different types of natural asthma remedies available, it’s very important to cautiously balance your desire to breathe easier with the possible dangers of the treatment, which may be unknown. Never use any natural dietary supplement without checking first with your health care provider or asthma specialist. Some natural herbal products, such as bee pollen, may trigger an asthma attack if you are allergic to the specific plant. Also, never stop using your asthma drugs without your health care provider’s knowledge. If you don’t follow your health care provider's plan to treat your asthma, the results can be very serious, even life-threatening.
If you are uncertain about the claims on a natural dietary supplement product label, call your health care provider before taking it. They can assess 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, hand-held 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, or PEF.
Your doctor may want you to use a peak flow meter to help you recognize 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 your asthma is getting worse and you need to do something.
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 such as smog.
- Seek medical advice and treatment for problems that can worsen asthma symptoms, such as 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.