The month of May symbolizes regrowth, the joy of Spring, and sudden yet pleasant changes in weather. So it's fitting that May is also dedicated to asthma and allergy awareness since this time of year can bring on many triggers for those living with asthma. If you or someone you know is living with this chronic inflammatory disease, you already know how it can wreak havoc on a person’s lungs as inflamed airways make it difficult for sufferers to breathe. Asthma brings on coughing fits, shortness of breath, excessive wheezing, and uncomfortable chest tightness. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), “10 people die of asthma every day…[and] it affects more than 26 million Americans.” Yet, the startling truth is that most of these asthma-related deaths can be prevented with proper management, access to adequate medical care, and adequate education.
What causes asthma?
While people with a family history of asthma are more likely to develop it, what you might not realize is that asthma is also triggered by different types of allergens and pollutants in the environment. Some of the most common asthma triggers consist of allergens that can be found in your home: pollen, mold, dust mites, pet dander, rodents, and cockroaches—although asthma may also be triggered by irritants in the air that may consist of tobacco smoke, wood fires, charcoal grills, strong fumes, and vapors and odors such as paint and gasoline as well as perfumes, air pollution, and exposed chemicals. Furthermore, certain circumstances may trigger asthma such as catching the common cold or flu, getting a sinus infection, engaging in physical activities and exercise that stresses the respiratory system, drastic changes in the weather, and experiencing strong emotions that affect breathing patterns.
That’s why it's crucial to have an asthma management plan to prevent symptoms from getting out of control. In addition to medication, there are a variety of tried and tested remedies that can greatly reduce asthma symptoms if implemented properly and consistently. However, it’s important to note that while incorporating these holistic remedies may help to mitigate asthma symptoms, these measures are not meant to replace prescribed medications and inhalers that your doctor may have recommended. Instead, the following 5 holistic remedies will serve as additional tools to keep triggers at bay so you and your loved ones can breathe a little easier.
1. Eat A Colorful, Nutrient-Dense Diet
Consuming a nutritious diet can do wonders for controlling the inflammatory response associated with asthma. Specifically, vibrant fruit and vegetables that contain carotenoids that form the basis of vitamin A such as carrots, sweet potatoes, root vegetables, leafy greens, and berries have been shown to improve asthma symptoms. This is because asthma sufferers tend to have lower levels of carotenoids in their blood, which helps to maintain healthy mucous membranes that line the airways leading to the lungs. Additionally, foods abundant in vitamin C (like citrus fruits, red peppers, strawberries, pineapple, cauliflower, etc.) provide essential nutrients to strengthen the immune system while also providing powerful antioxidants that help detoxify the body and reduce inflammation associated with asthma.
2. Ventilate & Clean Irritants In Your Home
The quality of the air inside your home is crucial to managing asthma symptoms. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Americans, on average, spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors where the concentrations of some pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.” When it comes down to ventilating your home, you can do a little more than open a window once in a while. Although that helps to circulate fresh air into your home, it’s much more effective if you’re also cleaning regularly. This means washing your bedding, vacuuming any carpet rugs, and clearing clutter weekly to minimize pesky irritants. You might also consider using air filters to trap pollutants and set regular appointments to get your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems checked to ensure you’re maintaining optimum air quality.
3. Add Hypoallergenic Houseplants
In case you didn’t know, not all indoor plants trigger allergies. In fact, there are many hypoallergenic houseplants that actually help reduce indoor air pollution, according to a 1989 NASA study that examined plants like the peace lily, marginata, Chinese evergreen, bamboo palm, and more. These types of plants have proven to remove harsh chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene in addition to adding a natural ambiance to your indoor space. The trick is to wipe down the plant leaves with a damp paper towel once a week or so to remove dust and only water the soil at the base of the plant to avoid excess water from becoming a breeding ground for mold.
4. Diffuse With Essential Oils
Diffusing essential oils like eucalyptus oil and peppermint oil into your indoor space can help lower inflammation, ease swollen lymph nodes, strengthen your immune system, and help to manage your asthma symptoms. This is due to the way these oils interact with our immune response so that allergens are detoxified efficiently and reduce the overreaction of the immune system. To reduce your asthma triggers, diffuse five drops of each oil to relieve clogged up sinuses, relax nasal passages, and enable the body to clear out mucus and allergens.
5. Make Deep Breathing Exercises A Habit
Practicing deep breathing exercises like pranayama yoga for just 20 minutes a day can have a positive effect on asthma symptoms and greatly improve your lung function. To learn how to voluntarily control your breath, begin by lying down with your knees bent. Next, with each exhalation allow your belly to sink away from your hands and into your body. Gently pause and then inhale slowly as your relaxation deepens. Then, repeat and continue to maintain that steady rhythm of breath for the entire duration of time.
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. (1995-2019). Retrieved May 19, 2019, from https://www.aafa.org/asthma.aspx
- Saxena, T., & Saxena, M. (2009). The effect of various breathing exercises (pranayama) in patients with bronchial asthma of mild to moderate severity. International journal of yoga, 2(1), 22–25. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.53838
- Wolverton, B.C, Johnson, A, Bounds, K. Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement.[PDF file]. Retrieved from https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19930073077.pdf
- Wood, L.G., Garg, M.L., Blake, R.J., Garcia-Caraballo, S. and Gibson, P.G. (Dec. 24, 2005). Airway and circulating levels of carotenoids in asthma and healthy controls. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, (6):448-55. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16373941
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. (July 16, 2018). “Indoor Air Quality: What are the trends in indoor air quality and their effects on human health.” Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/indoor-air-quality