Making the diagnosis of asthma is tough for both patient and doctor. As an asthma specialist, I can tell you that patients want to know, “doc, when can I stop my medications?” This is often the first question they ask! Ruth Holroyd takes a very candid look at natural treatments for allergic asthma and I appreciate her insights into her journey of asthma therapy. I would make some comments regarding asthma treatment with natural remedies:
- Ruth is using a peak flow meter to determine the amount of airway obstruction that causes wheezing and shortness of breath. She is utilizing the first component of asthma care which is to monitor the degree of obstruction in the lungs. Unfortunately, worsening asthma is often undiagnosed because we don’t measure our lung capacity and instead rely on our symptoms. Time and time again, asthma can fool us by how much wheezing or shortness of breath we have. Always use your peak flow meter, or have your doctor order spirometry at least once per year to measure your airway capacity.
- If you want to make changes in your asthma regimen, please let your doctor know before changing your medications on your own. If your doctor won’t endorse your desire to reduce your medications, get a different doctor. Shared decision making is a must with this condition.
- We know that asthma has a strong component of anxiety, possible vocal cord dysfunction (from not breathing correctly), and respiratory muscle weakness. Many of the natural remedies for asthma that Ruth mentions are targeting better muscle control and eliminating the “anxiety” component of asthma. These techniques are helpful regardless of the medications you’re already on for asthma.
- The most important part of asthma management doesn’t involve any medication–know your triggers! Whether allergens, perfumes, or stressful situations, if you know your triggers, you will do much better in staving off an asthma attack.
Natural treatments for allergic asthma
I’ve had allergic asthma all my life and used both reliever and preventative inhalers regularly for YEARS. This blog is about my journey to living with asthma naturally and no longer using any asthma medication.
I’ve always worried about this continued use of steroids for asthma and whether they were bad for me, causing side effects etc. Naturally when I began topical steroid withdrawal I looked into whether this was going to hinder my progress because the preventative asthma inhaler contains a steroid drug. It was hard to find any advice that I really trusted so I continued to use both.
Asthma can be life threatening.
Every day 3 people in the UK die because of their asthma.Asthma UK
“Asthma deaths in England and Wales were recorded at 1,320 in 2017 and 1,422 in 2018 giving us an increase of 7.7%. Asthma UK analysed asthma deaths data from the Office for National Statistics, Deaths registered in England and Wales 2018 .“
I believe many of these could be due to undiagnosed allergies, but I can’t substantiate this.
My asthma history
However during lockdown, purely by chance, the slower lifestyle and isolation, different pace of life, outlook, eating habits and daily routines, I realised I’d forgotten to use the preventative inhaler for months. I felt fine, so I kept on as I was, being very careful, avoiding my triggers and watching my peak flow.
I have a Smart Peak Flow device which was given to me free to review on Instagram. It links up to your phone and you can then easily track your readings, see peaks and troughs and monitor your asthma really quickly in the app. You can also share this with your medical professional so they have up to date information to see. You can buy a Smart Peak Flow unit on Amazon.
At my last asthma consultation I sought advice from my local asthma nurse who, whilst nervous to condone my choice of quitting the medication, admitted my peak flow was normal. She told me to keep an eye on it and get in touch if I needed to get back on the preventative inhalers. The other interesting advice I was given was to stop using the blue one before a run, as had been previously advised. Instead, I should take the inhaler with me and only use it as needed. I now find I rarely need the blue inhaler at all and actually couldn’t tell you the last time I used it.
I still get a little wheezy, I think caused by hay fever, dust and other triggers, but it seems to be very mild. A visit to a cafe can set me off on a wheeze attack due to air borne dairy particles, but this was still the case when I was using both reliever and preventer inhalers. Sitting outside and leaving cafes quickly when I get wheezy is a price I have to pay to stay safe .
Ban the bloody latte!
I’m not a doctor so would not for a moment suggest that anyone stop using their asthma medication. If you are using preventative inhalers and the blue relievers please continue to do so as directed by your doctor. If you are concerned please get an appointment with the asthma centre closest to you for a review.
Natural asthma treatments
Since not using my preventative inhaler I’ve been looking into how to ensure I remain drug free safely. Sometimes I do still get wheezy, on high pollen days and sometimes for no apparent reason that I can determine. Luckily these have been mild and I can manage it myself. Monitoring regularly by taking your peak flow is good practise so you can see any dips and deterioration. By far the best thing was one particular breathing technique that has helped so much and it got me thinking, what other research and things are out there that could help? What else am I missing?
- Buteyko breathing – Buteyko (pronounced Bu-tay-ko) is a breathing technique which can ‘improve asthma symptoms, quality of life and reduce bronchodilator (blue reliever inhaler) requirement in adults with asthma’. To do Buteyko breathing, breathe in normally, hold your breathe by covering your nose with your finger and thumb and keep your mouth closed. Hold for 10 seconds or as long as you can. Let your breathe out slowly when you need to, or after ten seconds and now breathe in and out normally ten times. Every time I do this I find it shifts mucous after only one try, and always by the second cycle. I used to feel like my chest was restricted and that the mucous was stuck, dry and wouldn’t move, leaving me sort of breath. This simple technique works every time I feel a little shortness of breath of wheezy. You can read more about this in my blog about the Buteyko Breathing technique for asthma
- Salt Therapy Inhaler – I’ve not used one of these before but a few of my contacts on Instagram have recommended them to me. I nearly bought one but at the moment I don’t have any asthma to test it on. Check out Saltair inhalers on Amazon.
- Reduce anxiety – This is key, for me there is a direct link between being anxious and itching and wheezing or shortness of breath. It’s not always easy to just do something like cut out stress or reduce anxiety as it’s not simple. But do you what makes you stressed and anxious? Can you control it in any way? or work to make thing better and reduce that burden on your immune system. I have had counselling and continue to work on the things that worry and upset me. I have loads of tools that I’ve learnt over the years and learning what’s not good for me is really helping. Learning to say no when you need to and look after yourself first will start to show a difference in your health. It’s all those little things like maintaining good sleep, healthy screen time, self care, nature and exercise. Don’t under estimate the effect of a busy lifestyle with no time to rest, recharge and rewire.
- Meditation – I’ve been learning to meditate now for a few years and I am by no means an expert. I don’t for a moment try to clear my mind or do anything clever, but what it does do for me is to help me slow my breathing down. So many of us are not learning to breathe properly. By taking just ten minutes out of my day to just sit and try to slow everything down I have noticed a huge difference in my mental health and my physical health. Learning to breath properly, deeply and plug into that part of your nervous system that helps you relax is something I think everyone should learn to do. Just try it for 30 seconds and you’ll notice a difference. Just sit with a straight back, feet planted firmly on the floor, try to relax your jaw, your tongue, your forehead and your shoulders and close your eyes and breath in deeply, hold your breath for few seconds and breath out slowly. There are loads of different breathing exercises so give it a go. It’s free, you can do it anywhere and I guarantee it will help. I have the Calm app and find that a guided meditation helps me to keep focus on the breath. If you would like a free month’s trial on Calm let me and I’ll send you a link.
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C is involved in the metabolism of histamine and prostaglandins, which are involved in bronchoconstriction so it’s a natural antihistamine. It certainly isn’t going to do you any harm because the body doesn’t store it if you take too much. So if you have allergic asthma it should definitely help. Obviously a diet rich in vitamin C will help but you can boost your intake, particularly when wheezy. Get Vitamin C powder or pure ascorbic acid on Amazon.
- Magnesium – The reason this mineral can help is because it’s a natural bronchodilator which means it opens up the airways and also helps reduce inflammation. It’s even used by doctors in emergencies either intravenously or in a nebulizer. You can try Liquid Magnesium from Floradix on Amazon.
- Learn your triggers – My asthma is triggered by a number of things including dust, latex, mould, pollen and grass, airborne dairy particles, some dog and cat dander, horses, other animals etc. Even when I was using all the medication these triggers would still cause asthma. The only way to really manage it is to avoid these triggers as best you can. Really keep an eye on when you get wheezy and what’s happening each time. Keep a diary so you can work out what’s happening. Ie. is it in the bath, in the garden, when at a particular friend’s house, time of year, season of pollen. It takes time to piece it all together but by understanding your body and what it reacts to you can live your life to avoid them as much as possible. So for instance, I always sit outside in some cafes, even in winter, because sitting inside makes me too wheezy.
- Detox your home – I’ve been doing this slowly now for a few years. As things run out I replace with a natural kinder solution. I’m talking about skin care, cleaning products, fragrances, everything. I love my new essential oil diffuser that helps me get calm and chilled for bedtime. I only use 100% pure essential oils now to fragrance my house, those plugin perfume things are awful, honestly really bad for your asthma and general health. Please everyone stop using them!
- Diet – Soya triggers an asthma attack for me, immediately. Could a food type be giving you problems too? Keep a food diary if you think this is the case and request allergy testing from you doctor.
- Dust mite and allergen bedding – This one is also really important if you have a dust allergy. I’ve used them in the past but am currently not as I find that if I stay somewhere else I really used to struggle. The mattress covers are quite a bother to fit, but if you have a serious dust allergy these could be a game changer. You can get Anti Allergen mattress and duvet covers from Allergy Best Buys. You’ll get 10% off if you sign up to their newsletter. They also do some lovely looking Bamboo bedlinen that I have my eye on!
- Pillows – I have got the SleepAngel anti allergen pillow which I really love and take everywhere with me when I go on holiday. It goes with a carry bag so you can easily transport it. It is the only allergen free and waterproof pillow on the market and nothing gets inside it. It’s special coating means you can wipe it clean if you need to a disinfect also so there is no need to machine wash either. Although who ever washes pillows? Or is that just me who’s never washed a pillow? Check out the SleepAngel pillow here. Of course there are lots of pillows that say they are hypoallergenic but I’m getting on really well with my SleepAngel pillow.
- Demystifying Atopic eczema and asthma course – I have just started a course to understand eczema better and some of these tips are from that. I will share a link when I have it so you can find out more too. If you’re interested contact Carolyne Akinyemi on Linkedin.
References and further reading
Magnesium and Asthma on asthma.net
Asthma and pathogenesis and novel drugs for treatment (the vitamin c link) from the British Medical Journal
Disclaimer: By using any of the Amazon links above a small amount will be paid to me from Amazon as commission. It costs me money every month just to host and maintain this blog so these links help me keep the blog going.
I do want to stress here I am not suggesting that anyone stops using their asthma medication. I am not a doctor, just a patient sharing their experience. Please make an appointment with your GP or local asthma clinic if you need help or advise about managing your asthma.
How is your asthma? Do you use a preventive inhaler? What do you do to help you manage your asthma?