Treating Asthma with functional medicine
Asthma is a chronic health condition characterised by inflammation of the airways.
The linings of the airways become swollen and excess mucus is produced. In addition to this, the airways constrict, becoming narrower. This combination of constriction, swelling and additional mucus makes it more difficult to breathe. This results in symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. These symptoms are most severe during as asthma attack but are present to a lesser degree most of the time. The Symptoms can also worsen when the asthma sufferer exerts themselves for example during exercise.
There are two main types of asthma:
- Allergic asthma is triggered by an over-active immune response to something that is a normal part of our environment. This could be something like pollen, pet dander or a food. This type of asthma tends to run in families and typically develops during childhood. Sufferers often also have other allergic conditions such as eczema or hay fever.
- Non-allergic asthma is the term used for types of asthma caused by other triggers. This includes asthma that develops from smoking, as well as asthma caused by pollution or exercise.
Asthma is usually diagnosed by a GP based on a person’s symptoms and a breath test. The breath tests can measure how much air a person’s lungs can hold and detect if inflammation is present in the airways.
Once diagnosed with asthma, sufferers are prescribed an inhaler to help manage their symptoms. Some types of asthma inhalers contain medications that can help to open the airways during an asthma attack. Others contain steroids which help to dampen down the inflammation in the airways and suppress the body’s overactive immune response.
Both types of asthma inhaler help to manage the asthma symptoms, but they don’t address the underlying cause.
Functional medicine aims to address the underlying imbalances that lead to disease. It can support asthma sufferers by:
- Helping to identify and minimise trigger factors that worsen asthma symptoms. For example, blood tests to check for immune reactions to different foods.
- Supporting the immune system so it behaves less reactively.
- Adjusting the diet to lower levels of inflammation in the body.
- Looking at imbalances in other body systems might be making the asthma worse – for example digestive conditions or hormone imbalances that are furthering the problem.
- Implementing lifestyle interventions that can help long-term, effective management of asthma symptoms. These include breathing practices and relaxation techniques.