Asthma is a chronic disease involving the airways in the lungs. These airways, or bronchial tubes, allow air to come in and out of the lungs. Asthma effects all ages, but can be an issue with kids as young as 5 years old.
If you have asthma your airways are always inflamed. They become even more swollen and the muscles around the airways can tighten when something triggers further symptoms.
This makes it difficult for air to move in and out of the lungs, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and/or chest tightness.
With asthma growing at an alarming rate, it is quite common to see inhalers for kids at any sporting event they are participating in. Moms and dads are ‘quick-draw’ when their child comes off of the field or court. Always ready to counteract that breathing difficulty or cough.
Asthma is the leading chronic illness in children and effects 1 out of 10 kids.
Here is a list of risk factors for kids according to WebMD.com:
Having a food or environmental allergy
Family history of Asthma
Frequent respiratory infections
Low birth weight
Exposure to tobacco smoke
Presence of Eczema
Being raised in low-income environment
They say that they don’t know why children are developing more asthma. Some say that kids are exposed to too many things and some say that they are exposed to too little.
It is true, as in the above paragraph, that if you have asthma, your airways are always inflamed. But, this begs the question of … why?
As a Functional Medicine practitioner I am always asking the question, … why?
Why are the lung airways always inflamed?
Sure, when already inflamed airways are subjected to cigarette smoke, car exhaust, perfume or even cold air with an outdoor activity, they can be triggered into an ‘asthma attack’. An inhaler must be at the ready to relieve the attack
But, what are we accomplishing here? And, is this necessarily the right approach especially long term? Are there any dangerous side effects to inhaling a steroid medication, over and over again, for years?
From a Functional Medicine perspective, here are some causes of Asthma:
Heavy metal toxicity
Immune system dysfunction
Chronic lung infection
Environmental concerns: Mold, pollution, cigarette smoke
All of these causes can be overlapping and they usually are. The underlying causes must be investigated and addressed in order to allow the body to function normally.
A good patient history of the illness is key to being put on the right path of discovery. A client will often tell you when the Asthma symptoms started and if there was a trigger that has lead them down this road. Sometimes it is a combination of things that has lead to Asthma.
Sometimes I find a history of: Multiple courses of antibiotics at an early age, they were a C-Section birth, very poor diet (highly processed foods) or a diet without much variety.
With all of the systems that may be involved, proper testing now comes into play to find the dysfunctioning system and source of the chronic inflammation.
Obviously, when we have a food sensitivity, the body is already at a heightened inflammatory response. Now when we add pollen or pet dander, or even playing soccer in the cold, we can now have the symptoms of Asthma.
All along, we may have been dealing with a food that is causing a lowered threshold of immune and inflammatory activation. So, the exercise activity wasn’t the cause it was just the activator of something hidden beneath the surface. Does that make sense?
Having an inhaler at the sporting event supports the relief of the symptoms, but does nothing to address the actual cause of the symptoms.
Mainstream medicine knows that stomach dysfunction can have much to do with Asthma. Since this correlation has been recognized, there has been a sharp increase in the amounts of Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) given to people suffering from Asthma especially when Acid Reflux is found also.
This use of PPIs will then carry it’s own new set of dangerous side effects as does the inhalers.
If there is Acid Reflux, wouldn’t it make sense to discover, why? Address the dysfunction and the body usually takes care of itself.
It has been said that the stomach and digestive tract has a direct effect on the lungs. (called the ‘gas tank’ to the lungs by Dr. Dick Versendaal) Think about a food that someone is allergic to that can have them immediately short of breath as the inflammatory reaction takes hold. If the reaction is bad enough, it can lead to death.
Now think of something of a much slower chronic type of reaction. It may take months or years to manifest and would be difficult to pin point the exact culprit.
One of the first things I ask someone who has Asthma to do is give up all forms of Dairy. It is known as a mucus producing food, which indicates that it already is irritating the throat. My second choice is to have them stop drinking commercial orange and grapefruit juice. Can contain mold.
I’ve seen kids start to wheeze and cough from the mucus caused by a glass of milk, but the parents continue to give it to them because it is known as a must for the American diet.
Any synthetic foods must also be eliminated from the diet if they suffer from asthma. If I have to explain why fake food is detrimental to your health, it is already too late for you and your brain.
As good as food sensitivity testing is, it’s not perfect. The best way to determine if one has a sensitivity is an elimination diet.
If I have someone that is diagnosed with Asthma and it has occurred rather suddenly, I have them get their house checked for mold.
Let me say a word about digestive dysfunction. Food must be broken down into its components by the digestive system in order for them to be absorbed and utilized by the body. Protein must be broken down into amino acids. If protein does not get broken down fully, these small proteins and peptides can leak into the blood stream.
These ‘foreign’ peptides will be seen as invaders and will get a response from the immune system. This can lead to inflammation within the body, especially the lungs. If the reaction is chronic from a poor digestive system, it will lead to effects in the lungs.
I have had clients where I corrected their digestion and their Asthma went away. We helped a client work on correcting their dysbiosis, imbalance of the bacteria within their gut, with probiotics and their Asthma self corrected.
The first and most effective approach to Asthma should begin with digestion, eating habits and health of their digestive tract. Food and digestion dysfunction is the most common cause of Asthma, so it must be addressed first.
Let’s say a person has been on Antacid stomach medication for years, does this mess with proper protein digestion? You bet it does! Can it then cause Asthma type symptoms?
Again, a proper workup and history of illness with a Functional Medicine practitioner will reveal the most involved systems that are causing the symptoms of Asthma. That will be where the healing begins.