The word Asthma comes from a Latin word which means ‘panting’.
It is because the patients suffering from asthma pant and wheeze. Asthma is a chronic disease affecting the respiratory system of the body. It is the most chronic illness of childhood .
According to WHO, 235 million people are suffering from asthma all over the globe currently .
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Symptoms of Asthma
Asthma is usually characterized in the form of ‘Asthma Attacks’. At times patient might not show any symptom for a long time whereas at other times the symptoms of asthma might continue for days at a stretch. Common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating, etc.
Causes of asthma
Asthma could be caused due to allergic or non-allergic causes:
Mostly asthma attacks are caused as a result of an allergic reaction. Allergies could be caused against anything per se; but the common allergens are air-borne allergens like pet furs, pollution, dust mites, tobacco smoke, pollens or chemical irritants.
Sometimes and Asthmatic attack can be triggered by factors like; anxiety, stress, cold, exercise or in response to any other disease.
Most of the times people with a family history for asthma tend to develop the disease. During an asthma attack, the air-tract gets swollen thus blocking the entry and exit of air from the lungs. The muscles of the airways tighten and the mucus lining also becomes thick and sticky. As a result, patients experience shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing.
Diagnosis and treatment of asthma
Many times asthma gets undetected and this is the chief cause of the increasing number of asthmatic patients across the globe.
However for diagnostic purposes a device known as Spirometer is used by the general practitioners. This device is used to measure the inhaled and exhaled air volume by the patient and helps to determine the severity of condition for an asthmatic.
There are various medicines available to provide immediate and long-term relief in the case of asthma. These are:
Immediate action : These include beta- adrenergic agonists (like; Albuterol, Metaproterenol, Pirbuterol, etc.) or steroids (like; Prednisone, Prednisolone, hydrocortisone, etc.)
Long-term action : These include corticosteroids like; Beclamethasone, Budesonide, Flunisolide, etc.
15 Superfoods for Asthma
Asthma is a condition which could not be reversed but could definitely be controlled.
Avoiding the cause of allergy is the best method to be free from the symptoms of this disease condition.
Again supplementing the diet with natural antioxidants, vitamins and minerals is the best way to prevent and control this disease. 15 such foods rich in desired vitamins and minerals are given below:
Broccoli is rich in fibre, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, iron and calcium. All these vitamins and minerals have nutritional significance.
But above all broccoli contains Sulforaphane which helps the body to fight against respiratory inflammation caused during asthma. The researchers at UCLA proved the potential of broccoli as a natural remedy for pollutant-induced asthma.
They found the presence of the chemical sulforaphanes in broccoli which triggers the release of various anti-oxidants.
These antioxidants in turn help to scavenge the free radicals causing oxidative damage and clear the airways to soothe the patients suffering from asthma.
Quite recently a group of scientists proved the potential of sulforaphane-induced broccoli extract to suppress the allergic reactions in patients suffering from asthma.
This study also recognized the presence of another chemical named glucoraphanin in broccoli sprouts which helped in reducing the impact of particulate matter in triggering an allergic reaction .
Thus it is believed that regular intake of stemmed broccoli by asthmatic patients would help relieve them of disease symptoms.
If you are a 90s kids you will be aware of the benefits of spinach due to the famous cartoon series “Popeye”.
Well, it could be said that spinach plays a similar role for asthmatics too! It is a good source of Folic acid which is found to be deficient in patients suffering from respiratory allergies.
In a report published in 2009 it was found that on increasing the level of serum folates, risk of suffering from common allergic reactions like wheezing and atopy is lowered.
The exact mechanism of action of folic acid is not known but it is evident from the data that the serum folate levels and IgE (major antibody responsible to cause allergic reactions in humans) are inversely proportional.
Thus in patients suffering from asthma, the serum folate levels are low whereas the serum IgE levels are quite high. However on supplementation with folate, the serum IgE levels were found to lower .
A much more direct study was conducted in the following year where the scientists proved that aqueous extract from Spinach help ameliorate symptoms of asthma in patients. Apart from folic acid, spinach is a good source of iron and calcium and thus is one of the super food for asthmatics .
Use of plants and herbs for medicinal purposes is known to mankind since times immemorial. Rosemary is one such plant which is known for various purposes.
It is used as a flavouring agent, cosmetic, beverage drink and as a medicine for respiratory and intestinal disorders. It is said to relieve the tracheal smooth muscles thus alleviating the symptoms of asthma.
These therapeutic properties of rosemary are attributed to rosemarinic acid present in its plant extract. Rosemarinic acid possesses anti-inflammatory properties which render it useful in case of asthma .
In a 2005 study conducted on a mouse model, rosemarinic acid was found to possess anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory properties. Thus it was established from this study that the plant extract from rosemary is effective in fighting disease symptoms in patients suffering from asthma .
Kiwi is a rich source of Vitamin C amongst fruits. As a result it carries strong anti-oxidant properties. This property enables it to neutralize the damaging free radicals which can cause harm to body cells.
Thus it exercises a protective role against respiratory disorders like asthma due to the presence of Vitamin C and other phytonutrients that enhances its antioxidant abilities.
A research published in April 2000, established the benefits of kiwi consumption in children between the ages 6-7. This study tested 18737 children and categorized them on the basis of daily consumption of citrus fruits like kiwi and emergence of allergic symptoms like sneezing, wheezing, shortness of breath, etc.
At the end of this study, a strong correlation was established between the two parameters. It was found that disease symptoms like shortness of breath, severe wheeze, night time cough and runny nose was lowered by 32 %, 41%, 27% and 28% respectively in children who consumed citrus fruits 1-2 times per week.
Hence this study established the role of Vitamin C in improving body’s immunity against allergic reactions.
It could be considered as one of the best natural remedy for asthma. Flaxseed oil of rich in alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3-fatty acid.
This has the capability to reduce the production of leukotrienes which are the major factors responsible to trigger inflammatory responses in case of asthma.
A team of Japanese researchers proved the role of alpha-linolenic acid by supplementing the patients suffering from asthma with linolenic acid.
Just two weeks after this intervention the level of leukotrienes in the blood of the patients was found to decrease followed by amelioration of disease symptom. Many similar studies help to prove the significance of Flaxseed for patients of asthma.
Sunflowers seeds are a good source of Vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and selenium. Vitamin E has effective anti-oxidant abilities.
It helps in neutralizing the free radicals present in the body thus forming a security net against the damaging effects of these radicals .
A study has proved that few forms of Vitamin E, say, γ-tocopherol (γT), δ-tocopherol, and γ-tocotrienol possess unique anti-oxidant properties which help in prevention and reduction of various inflammatory symptoms during respiratory diseases .
Also sunflower seeds have a good content of Magnesium which helps in relieving from adverse symptoms of asthma. Thus it is a food of choice for this disease.
Mustard Green is rich in Vitamin C, E, B6, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, and fibre. The vitamins help to neutralize the debilitating effects of the free radicals present in the body.
Vitamin C additionally helps in breakdown of histamine, a chemical responsible for causing inflammatory reaction. On the other hand, magnesium present in mustard green helps in proper functioning of the smooth muscles of respiratory tract by relaxing the lungs and trachea.
According to Ayurveda, rubbing warm mustard oil to the chest and back of asthmatic patients helps in relieving the stiffness and uneasiness thus facilitating easy breathing.
Carrot is an excellent source of beta-carotene and choline.
Both these have been found to play a role in curbing the symptoms of respiratory disorders. Interestingly, beta-carotene exhibits positive effects only when provided through diet rather than supplements.
This finding further emphasizes on the importance of inclusion of carrots in the diet of the patients .
Similarly in a study performed in 2010, effect of choline supplementation on the disease symptoms in asthma patients was tested.
It was found that choline supplementation leads to a substantial fall in the leukotriene and interleukin level of the patients . Thus it helped in reducing the disease symptoms in asthmatics.
Turmeric is an herb known for its medicinal value. It forms an integral part of the Indian cuisine. However apart from its culinary properties, it possesses many therapeutic functions as well.
It can be used as an anti-allergic as it prevents the release of histamine from the mast cells thereby lowering the allergic response. Turmeric has a pigment known as curcumin which renders it the medicinal properties. Curcumin helps in alleviating the pathological changes in asthma.
It lowers the airways inflammation and hypersensitivity thus providing with relief from asthma. Various studies done on guinea pigs or murine models prove the effectiveness of curcumin as an anti-inflammatory substance.
Apples are rich sources of bioflavonoid, Quercetin which has a strong anti-histamine, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Apart from quercetin apples carry various other phytochemicals like catechin, chlorogenic acid and phloridzin. These anti-oxidants are supposed to render protective effect in case of asthma .
In a research published by the National Heart and Lung Institute a direct link between allergic symptoms like wheezing and intake of apple juice was established amongst asthmatics.
It was found that intake of apple juice helped in alleviating some of the disease symptoms like wheezing in children . Further study is needed in order to determine the true importance of apple intake in asthma.
Ginger has long been known for its medicinal roles in Ayurveda. In India, ginger tea is considered to be the best concoction to treat respiratory illnesses.
Now even the western world has started appreciating the value of this eastern root. A study conducted by the scientists at Columbia University prove the effects of ginger on asthmatic patients.
This study found 3 beta-agonists namely; 6-gingerol, 8-gingerol and 6-shogaol in ginger extract which possessed anti-inflammatory properties. These chemicals were found to dilate the bronchial vessels thus relieving the airway in case of asthma.
Sweet potatoes are a rich source of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system. Previous studies have shown that asthma patients have lower level of vitamin C in their body.
This deficiency might possible aggravate disease symptoms. Hence various studies have been performed to learn about the significance of Vitamin C supplementation in combating against the symptoms of allergy.
It has been found through all the studies that inclusion of Vitamin C in the diet substantially reduces coughing, hypersensitivity and occurrence of asthmatic attacks in patients.
Additionally sweet potatoes are high on fibre content and thus provide the body with necessary nutrition.
Kale is yet another member of the cruciferous (cabbage) family that has made it to this list. It is rich in vitamin C, fibre and beta- carotene. Vitamin C has anti-oxidant properties as discussed above.
Kale is one of the vegetable which has the highest Oxygen radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) and thus can prevent the body against the harmful effects of free radicals.
In a recent yet unpublished report from the researchers of University of Melbourne, the medicinal value of kale for asthmatics has been discussed. It showed that members of this family carry anti-inflammatory properties and thus prevent the lungs from damage in case of asthma.
Tomatoes are a rich source of carotenoids and lycopene. These pigments are considered to have preventive and protective effects for asthma attacks.
Lycopene possesses effective anti-oxidant properties which protects the body cells against damage. A group of scientists from Israel proved that lycopene has preventive role against oxidative-stress caused by exercise-induced asthma .
Recently a research based in Newcastle showed that supplementation of lycopene in asthma-induced mice model results in decrease in the level of eosinophils (the immune cells which cause allergic reactions) and interleukins in the lungs.
These findings prove the significance of lycopene in treating asthma . Tomatoes being one of the richest source of lycopene are thus a desired choice against asthma.
Boswellia, commonly known as Indian Frankinsence is obtained from a herbal tree known as Boswellia serrate. It is of great significance in Indian and African traditional medicine.
Boswellia contains a compound known as boswellic acid in its plant extract. This helps in reducing the amount of leukotrienes in the blood which in turn subdues the allergic reaction and hypersensitivity.
In a double-blind study conducted on 23 males and 17 females effect of administration of boswellic acid in alleviating the symptoms of asthma was tested.
After a 6 week trial it was shown that it significantly decreased the amount of leukotrienes in the blood of the patients thus treating the disease symptoms . Ever since Boswellia is considered to be an effective herb in treating asthma.
Asthma is a hypersensitivity reaction of the body against some allergens or some other non-immune dependent triggers.
It causes lots of discomfort to the patients and in chronic cases can even lead to death.
There are medications to relieve the patients from the disease symptoms but none of those medications claim to cure the disease completely.
Proper lifestyle changes are thus recommended for patients suffering from asthma. Patients are advised to recognize the allergens that trigger an immune response in their body and thence avoid exposure to such allergens. Mild exercise could even be beneficial.
But above all inclusion of fruits and vegetables rich in essential vitamins and minerals could provide long term control and cure for this condition.