Expert Advice

How can I treat asthma?

How can I treat asthma?
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Asthma is an inflammatory respiratory disease, triggered by allergens or irritants. The result is a tightening of the muscles around the airways, swelling of the mucous membranes, and increased mucous secretion, making it difficult to breathe.
TREATMENT: Most doctors prescribe an inhaler with a liquid medication, which can open air passages but does not significantly reduce inflammation. To calm inflammation and control an attack, try hydrotherapy. Place a hot, wrung–out towel over your chest and lie on your back. The heat relaxes your bronchial muscles, allowing you to breathe normally. You can also try inhaling steam: Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a bowl of hot water. Drape a towel over your head and lean over the bowl and inhale until you can breathe normally.
MANAGEMENT: To help prevent an attack, pour a cup of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide into a hot bath; it can bring extra oxygen to the entire surface of the skin and make the lungs somewhat less hungry for oxygen.
—Emily A. Kane, N.D., Lac, a clinical practitioner in Juneau, Alaska

An asthma attack is rarely triggered by food, but evidence suggests that certain nutrients can have an impact on episodes and may ease symptoms.
TREATMENT: Vitamin C (found in citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries, peppers, and dark green lettuces) and omega-3s (salmon, halibut, and mackerel) are nutrients that may help relieve symptoms. Quercetin, a phytonutrient found in tea, apples, onions, and many other fruits and vegetables, inhibits the production and release of histamine, as does bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple. People with asthma may have B6 or magnesium deficiencies. To boost your B6 intake, eat whole grain cereals, potatoes, bananas, beans, chicken, lean pork and beef, and seeds. For magnesium, eat nuts, beans, halibut, whole grains, and yogurt.
MANAGEMENT: Eat beans, cherries, and parsley, as well as plant–derived beverages like tea and wine. Apigenin, a phytonutrient found in these foods and drinks, may suppress an immune system antibody linked to asthma.
—Susan Moores, M.S., R.D., spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and a nutrition consultant in St. Paul, Minn.

The Alexander Technique is a set of principles used to guide healthy movement; it's a way of performing physical activities more efficiently, without letting muscular tension get in the way. It can't cure asthma, but it can relieve the anxiety that worsens an attack.
TREATMENT: During a session, the teacher explains the concepts, gives you an understanding of how your body is meant to work, and evaluates your posture, movement, and breathing. Have at least one lesson with a teacher before you start working on your own. (See or
MANAGEMENT: To relax your bronchial muscles in general, lie on your back with your knees up and feet on the ground. Inhale deeply and, as you exhale, make a whispered "ahhh" sound, as if trying to fog a mirror. Do this five times, then let your natural breath establish itself. Before long you will find your body more at ease.
Joan Arnold, certified Alexander Technique teacher in New York state

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