An estimated 15 million Americans, (about 6% of the population), have asthma. What is asthma? There is no single biological marker, no clinical test for asthma. There are various symptoms, multiple causal factors, different responses to medical treatment, and different outcomes. Asthma is a growing medical concern in industrialized countries and settings around the globe, with no slowdown in sight.
Asthma is thought to be a complex genetic disorder, since family members often share symptoms. But environmental factors are still likely to be the primary determinants. Families share the same environment (toxic exposures), eat off the same table (nutritional deficits), and can pass along biochemical alterations or weaknesses to offspring. Even breast feeding has been found to be protective against asthma.
Asthma is a hypersensitivity or allergic reaction for which there is a “genetic predisposition”. Thus, exposure to dust mites, pets (like cat dander and hair), cockroaches, molds, pollen, or other air particles may trigger symptoms. Yet asthma symptoms have burgeoned in recent years, and this is not a genetic indicator. The variation in the prevalence of asthma is striking between different areas throughout the world. The level of industrialization is the dividing marker. Respiratory disorders are much more common in polluted and crowded areas. In the developed world in the last two decades, asthma rates have skyrocked – doubling in the United States since 1980.
Evidence abounds for environmental triggers. Our outdoor air pollution is considered as a trigger – urban pollution, motor vehicle exhaust, smoke and gasses emitted by industrial sources, and more. Occupational asthma is common with over 250 causative agents reported so far. Indoor air pollution seems to be more of a risk than outdoor pollution. Tobacco smoke, dirty ventilation ducts or poor ventilation, emission from gas appliances, heaters or stoves, oil boilers, accumulation of pesticide residues and other pollutants are all contributors. Diet is also recognized as influencing asthma. Diets containing a high proportion of junk food have been linked to an increase in the prevalence of asthma. Avoiding refined sugars, refined “white” flours, (partially) hydrogenated vegetable oils, food additives, colorings and preservatives brings dramatic improvement. Alcohol, especially red wine and whisky, can exacerbate asthma. About 25% of patients attending one hospital reported asthma flare-ups after ingestion of at least one alcoholic drink. These beverages cause bronchoconstriction in susceptible individuals.
Hypersensitivities to foods and allergies to food additives, pollutants or contaminants are prevalent. Many foods to which sensitivities develop are highly acid-containing or acid-forming. Metabolic acidosis (deficiency of alkalinize minerals) is common in asthmatics. Raw vegetables and raw fruits (with few exceptions) provide alkaline minerals and should be emphasized in the diet. As mentioned, a strong contributor to asthma is the severely inadequate diet, in which large quantities of refined carbohydrates are consumed. This can lead to altered blood-sugar levels, and subsequently a lowered adrenal gland capacity toward reestablishing normal levels of blood glucose. Hypoadrenia, in turn can lead to a heightened asthmatic attack, due to its diminished cortisol hormonal production. Even excessive emotional stress can trigger an asthmatic occurrence since chronic stress can overburden the adrenal glands in its adrenalin hormone response.
It has also been noted that post-menopausal women who take estrogen replacement therapy for long periods may significantly raise their risk of asthma. These results are according to a study of 90,000 women, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, conducted by researchers from Harvard University.
Many factors can foster an asthmatic attack. Exercising caution with our food intake, stress management, and chemical exposure can help diminish any overall genetic predisposition we may have
(Dr. Richard Hanson, chiropractor in Jamestown, New York, can be reached at (716)664-0445. Most major insurances are now being accepted.)