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Good health - Asthma

Asthma - Asthma is a common chronic lung disease. It has been defined by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute as a common chronic disorder of the airways that is complex and characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, airflow obstruction, bronchial hyperresponsiveness (bronchospasm), and an underlying inflammation. The interaction of these features of asthma determines the clinical manifestations and severity of asthma and the response to treatment.

During an asthma attack, the airways of the bronchi become uncomfortably narrow due to contraction of the muscles that encircle them. This produces wheezing and trouble with breathing, especially when expelling the air from the lungs. Swelling in the bronchi may also occur, with the extra generation of mucus, which is then hard to cough up. Such attacks can be very alarming, especially if they last for several hours they may even be fatal in some cases. There seems to be a positive epidemic of asthma at present, with asthma affecting one in four children in the UK; indeed the number of cases has doubled since the 1970s. Every five hours someone in Britain dies from an asthma attack.

Some people seem to be especially sensitive to environmental irritants, in particular to dust, smoke, animals, dandruff and pollen. Certain foods can also trigger an attack and patients should therefore test for intolerances. Asthma is frequently caused by consumption of wheat, cow's milk, eggs, hazelnuts or celery. As many asthma sufferers will confirm, psychological factors can play an important part and stress and anxiety can make the condition worse.

Most patients discover from experience what the allergens are that provoke attacks and make every effort to avoid such substances. However, certain social situations can make this awkward. Some irritants such as ozone or nitrogen dioxide are not even visible and, with such widespread pollution of the atmosphere, it is impossible to avoid them, even in the countryside.

Since asthma is potentially very serious, ventilators and drugs that dilate the bronchi need to be available for quick relief. However, it is worth knowing that vitamin C is a natural antihistamine. If 250mg is taken every ten minutes during an attack, its severity can be significantly lessened. As a preventive measure, 1 to 2g daily has proved helpful. This amount builds resistance to the effects of harmful airborne substances. Additionally, if exercise provokes wheezing, this can be alleviated with a 500mg dose of vitamin C taken about an hour beforehand.

The mineral magnesium is implicated in muscle relaxation and supplements can therefore ease symptoms: try 400mg daily. This can also be taken in the form of Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate).
Experience has shown that if 100mg of vitamin B6 is given daily to children who are asthmatic, the number of attacks as well as their severity is diminished. It is thought that some symptoms may arise from an inability to metabolize this vitamin correctly.

Avoid all food preservatives, flavour enhancers and colouring agents such as monosodium glutamate (E621-3), if eaten regularly, can induce spasms of the breathing muscles, while metabisuiphite (E223) is known to aggravate asthma attacks. This is used as a preservative, particularly in wines and squashes. Here again, vitamin B6 can counteract the worst consequences if such substances are consumed unwittingly. Painkillers such as aspirin can also induce wheezing.

Asthma is aggravated by stress, so any forms of relaxation, including meditation or yoga etc. Vitamin C should be taken every day as a daily supplement, of ta least 500mg and by eating plenty of fruit, vegetables and salads. Also cut out sugar and all other refined carbohydrates, which can aggravate symptoms, and reduced saturated fats. Both ginseng and garlic are traditional remedies for asthma which are very useful. By adjusting the diet and lifestyle, asthma sufferers can learn how to avoid asthma attacks almost completely and rarely have to resort to an inhaler.

A good tip - an ionizer encourages dust to settle by emitting negatively charged ions, making it less likely to be breathed in, if you suffer from asthma, buy one for your bedroom.

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