DR Mercola on Asthma
Are Inhalers the Best Treatment for You?
The conventional asthma treatment typically consists of a non-steroidal bronchodilator – an anti-inflammatory agent that you inhale. It causes the smooth muscle cells in your lungs to relax, which opens up your airways.
If that doesn't t work, the next level is typically an inhaled steroid, which is a very potent anti-inflammatory agent. The reason these aggressive types of intervention are performed is because asthma is indeed a serious condition. It can be fatal, so you need to be serious about treating it.
Unfortunately, as usual, Big Pharma wants you to believe that their inhaled asthma drugs are the magic bullet you need to combat this disease, but the truth is asthma medicines don't work and can be dangerous to your health. In fact, a new box warning on one long-acting beta2-adrenergic agonist (LABA) clearly states that LABA can actually increase the rate of asthma-related death!
It is not that fast-acting inhalers are without any benefits as they have no doubt saved the lives of asthma suffers during acute attacks and do have an important role in managing this debilitating and chronic condition. But they should be used as a last resort.
I'll tell you why.
Fast-acting asthma inhalers can lose their effictivenesswhen overused, the medical term is tachyphylaxis, and this can start to happen after as little as one dose. Also, all beta2-adrenergic agonists have been shown to have negative effects on your heart and your body's metabolism.
Because asthma is a disease involving allergic reactions and inflammation, a much better strategy for you is to prevent asthma in the first place through keeping inflammatory conditions in your body to an absolute minimum.
Keeping inflammation in check includes properly regulating your omega 3 to omega 6 ratios. One great omega 3 fatty acid I want you to think about including in your healthy diet is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
How CLA Helps Asthmatics
Asthmatics get asthma because they produce much higher levels of leukotrienes, which are fatty molecules of the immune system and at least 1000 times more potent than histamine at causing bronchial constriction.
These highly inflammatory leukotrienes are produced when an enzyme known as 5-lipoxygenase (5-lipox) acts on a particular fat called arachidonic acid (AA). Many of the inhaled drugs that treat your asthma work by reducing leukotrienes.
But there's a more natural way for you to fight leukotrienes.
With nutrition you can reduce the precursor molecules (5-lipox and AA) in your body, thus preventing the inflammation from ever being produced.
CLA is an omega-3 fat found in both animal and plant sources that fights 5-lipox and AA inflammation without harming your arteries. CLA does this by converting inside your body to both DHA and EPA, both of which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
One of the best things you can do for your health right now is to balance your omega 3 to omega 6 fat ratios, and CLA from organic, grass-fed meats can play a big part in this.
The Best Source of CLA
Frequent readers of my newsletter know that I am a strong advocate for getting vital nutrients and healthy fats from whole natural food sources as opposed to taking supplements. In fact, I've long said that substituting supplements for good nutrition could be hazardous to your health.
CLA is no exception. While plant-based sources are good, a better natural source of CLA is grass fed beef. In fact, grass fed beef is the source I recommend above all other sources for naturally supplying your body with CLA.
You'll notice I said grass fed beef, not grain fed beef.
Because grain is not a natural diet for cows, and grain fed cows have been shown to produce meat significantly lower in healthy CLA.
Real Beef Eat Grass – Not Grains
Grass fed beef:
· Has higher CLA profiles than grain fed beef
· Has overall better fatty acid and anti-oxidant profiles than grain fed beef
· Is more nutritious than grain fed beef
· Is better for your body than grain fed beef
Other CLA Health Benefits
CLA offers a whole host of healthy benefits that have been virtually eliminated from kitchens in America thanks to the rise of corporate grain fed beef farms.
The CLA found in grass fed beef can also:
· Help you gain muscle and lose fat
· Inhibit growth of cancer cells
· Provide relief for arthritis
· Build endurance, improve body composition and regulate insulin levels
You can support both your own health and the livelihood of the farmers out there who are trying to do things the right way, by eating grass-fed beef and organic food. It is best to obtain your grass-fed beef locally as shipping costs can be very high, but if your local grocery store doesn't carry grass-fed meats yet, check out the options at our Web store.
How to Prevent Asthma Naturally
Although asthma is a serious disease, safely treating your asthma is not a complicated affair. Here are some basic, simple strategies that can help treat the root of your problem:
· Optimize your vitamin D levels – We now know that there's a very strong connection between vitamin D levels and asthma, as vitamin D can be a very powerful immune modulator. However, I don't suggest just taking the recommended daily allowance, which is a mere 400 units a day. You really need to make sure you're getting therapeutic levels.
This is ideally obtained from exposing a significant amount of your skin -- not just your hands and face - to appropriate amounts of sunlight.
I do recommend oral supplements if you don't have regular access to the sun or a safe tanning bed. But if you do, make sure you monitor your blood with an accurate test . The one caution here in the US is to be certain your test is performed at a lab like Labcorp, that uses the gold standard Diasorin test for checking vitamin D levels. Due to information published by the New York Times about Quest labs, where they admitted to inaccurate results, I no longer recommend using them.
If you get your levels to about 60 ng/ml, there's a strong likelihood -- especially if you combine it with exercise and balancing out your omega 3 and omega 6 fats as described below -- that you will not experience the symptoms of asthma anymore.
· Increase your intake of animal-based omega 3 fats – I can't emphasize enough the importance of getting sufficient amounts of high quality animal-based omega 3 fats in your diet. Because although I strongly believe we all need plant-based omega 3 fats (and I consume some virtually every day myself, like hemp seed or flax seed), the difference is that most of us do not possess the metabolic machinery to rapidly convert the ALA in these plants to the higher order fats DHA and EPA, which are potent anti-inflammatories.
· Although I still recommend fish oil in some instances, I believe krill oil is an even better source of omega 3 fats for most people.
· Reduce your intake of omega 6 fats – In addition to adding omega 3 fats to your diet, you also want to reduce the amount of omega 6 fats you consume because the ratio between these two fats is very important.
If you use a lot of processed foods, the balance between omega 3 and omega 6 fats will become distorted, which can cause the type of inflammation that leads to asthma.
· Avoid processed foods – Processed foods tend to unbalance your microflora, which researchers have recently linked to increased asthma in children.
· Consider the hygiene hypothesis – There's a tendency in our modern culture to be obsessive about cleanliness, especially in children. However, this may not be as healthy as initially thought. It appears that being exposed to common bacterial and viral infections as a child can be instrumental in providing the stimulus to your immune system to prevent asthma naturally.
· Get regular exercise – Exercise (especially out in fresh air if you're an asthmatic) is actually crucial as it helps to moderate your insulin levels. It increases your insulin receptor sensitivity, and as a result your body produces less insulin, which tends to optimize it. Research has also shown that asthmatics who exercise tend to show improvement in:
o Maximum ventilation
o Maximal oxygen uptake
o Work capacity, and
o Maximum heart rate
You can also use allergy testing to build up your immune system. My experience is that conventional testing does not work very effectively and there is a fair amount of risk. A far better intradermal skin test would be provocation neutralization testing. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has a list of physicians who are trained in this highly effective technique.
If you follow these simple strategies mentioned above, you can virtually eliminate your need for bronchodilators and steroid drugs.