by Dr. Tammy Amoth
It’s that time of year again…the festive lights on holiday trees, the warm crackling of a fire, and the chill in the air all signal that winter is here! Did I say “chill” in the air? What I meant was “frigid, arctic frost!” The blustery, cold winter can create respiratory challenges for everyone (who hasn’t taken a deep breath on a very cold day and felt like their airways froze shut?), but for asthma sufferers, the frigid air compounds an already serious problem.
Asthma is a chronic condition caused by constriction and inflammation of the bronchial tubes and often includes increased mucous production in the airways. It afflicts over 22 million Americans, accounting for over 20 million outpatient visits, over 1.6 million emergency room visits, 500,000 hospitalizations, over 20 million lost work days, over 10 million lost school days, and over 35 million prescriptions per year. There are about 5000 asthma-related deaths per year. Despite medical attempts to treat it, asthma rates have increased more than 160% in children under the age of five, and 74% in children aged 5 to 14 since 1981. Medical management of asthma has helped save many lives; however, medications can only quiet the expression of symptoms.
The basic underlying cause of asthma is an imbalance in the immune system. An asthmatic’s immune system differs from a non-asthmatic’s in several ways. First, the system overreacts to external irritants that have no effect on non-asthmatics. Second, their immune cells tend to produce an excessive amount of pro-inflammatory chemicals which can lead to increased mucous production and a prolonged inflammatory response in the airway. In addition, asthmatics may have an imbalance in their autonomic nervous system favoring the parasympathetic nervous system, which causes constriction of the airways. Therefore, a seemingly insignificant stimulus causes a heightened immune response with excessive and prolonged inflammation, mucous production, and bronchial tube constriction. Medicine can reduce asthma’s symptoms, but it cannot restore proper balance to the body. Thankfully, there are some natural ways to restore balance to the body and help prevent the cascade of events that cause asthma attacks.
The nervous system controls and coordinates all of the cells, tissues, and systems of the body. The bones that make up our skull and spine protect our nervous system at its source: the brain and spinal cord. A loss of integrity of the moving bones of the spine can impair this vital communication link between your brain and body. If you have nervous system compromise, do you think you will be sicker or healthier? If this compromise affects the autonomic nervous system, could it cause bronchial constriction? Could it impact immune cell function? Yes! Chiropractic is the art and science of reducing nervous system interference, called “subluxation,” by improving the function and structure of the spine. Gentle adjustments to the spine restore the fundamental communication flow from the brain and spinal cord to the body, allowing the body to express optimum health, balance, and well-being. Consider a chiropractic assessment to determine if your spine has subluxations that may be affecting your respiratory function.
In addition to evaluating their spinal health, it is imperative that those with asthma make significant dietary shifts. Inflammation plays an enormous role in asthma, and the building blocks for the pro- and anti-inflammatory chemicals produced by the body come from our diet. Reducing the intake of foods that amplify inflammation while increasing those that normalize the body away from inflammation will help restore balance to the body. Replace processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats with whole, simple foods such as vegetables, nuts, chicken, meat, eggs, legumes, whole grains, fruits, olive oil and organic butter. Beware of dyes, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners. Take a high-quality omega-3 supplement to shift the body away from inflammation, as well as probiotics to enhance appropriate immune system function. Consider taking antioxidants to fight free radical damage caused by inflammation. Drink an ample amount of water. Address any emotional stress, which can also trigger asthma attacks.
Asthmatics can improve their body function through dietary changes and regular spinal checkups. Creating body balance makes it possible for healing to occur, allowing some people to reduce their medications and enjoy the wonders of the winter season, regardless of the chill in the air.