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Keep allergic asthma under control

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Allergic Asthma

Chances are there was at least one child in your class at school who needed an inhaler to help control their asthma. That’s because asthma is such a common condition. So common in fact, the NHS estimates it affects one in every 11 children in the UK (i).

Sarah Barber is a Brighton and Hove based nutritional therapist. Her Pure People clinic provides dietary programs for weight loss, detox, expectant mothers and babies and children. More from this expert.

  • What is asthma?

    Asthma is a condition that affects the airways (bronchi) which carry oxygen to the lungs. During an asthma attack the lining of the bronchi becomes inflamed and the mucus glands produce excessive amounts, further narrowing the airways. Attacks can be very distressing and asthmatics could experience shortness of breath, a tight chest and severe coughing and wheezing.

  • What is the difference between allergic and non-allergic asthma?

    Allergic asthma is the most common form of asthma. It is caused by an overactive immune system and triggered by pollutants known as allergens.

    “As with regular asthma, allergic asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the airways,” explains nutritional therapist Sarah Barber. “Allergic asthma is the term used to describe asthma attacks that are caused when a person with allergies is exposed to a trigger, such as dust, pollen or dander (skin scales from animals). This is opposed to non-allergic causes like viruses and exercise-induced attacks.”

    When a person with allergies inhales these allergens their immune system identifies them as harmful particles and produces the chemical immunoglobulin E (IgE) to combat them. This reaction promotes inflammation and mucus production, triggering an asthma attack. If you recognise the warning signs early you may be able to take steps to help ease the symptoms.

  • Treatment for allergic asthma

    Although there is no cure for asthma, there are different inhalers available which could help alleviate symptoms. Some simple lifestyle changes could also allow you to control asthma and reduce the frequency and severity of attacks.

    “Other than medication, treatment would be according to the cause and could include liver detoxification, rebalancing the immune system, avoiding allergens as much as possible and reducing stress,” says Sarah.

    By keeping your kitchen and bathroom clean and free of mould, you will limit your exposure to allergens. Investing in a high-efficiency particulate absorption (HEPA) air filter will help remove substances like pollen from your home. You should also stay indoors as much as possible during periods when the pollen count is high.

  • Five health supplements to help asthma

    Including a health supplement as part of your daily diet could also help you control asthma.

    1.    Bromelain

    Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme found in high concentrations in fresh pineapple stems,” explains Sarah. “It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and can reduce pain and swelling and promote tissue repair. It is useful in the treatment of asthma as it appears to reduce the thickness of mucus.”

    A study published by Alternative Theories in Health and Medicine tested the effects of bromelain on mice (ii). The results revealed bromelain had a therapeutic effect on established allergic airway disease and could therefore help alleviate symptoms in people with similar conditions, such as allergic asthma.

    “Bromelain acts as a blood thinner, so should be avoided by anyone taking anti-coagulant drugs such as warfarin,” says Sarah. “Advice should also be sought if taking alongside other supplements with a similar anti-inflammatory action, such as fish oils.”

    2.    Vitamin C

    This essential vitamin is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties. A study on 4,104 children tested the relationship between wheezing and the consumption of fresh fruit rich in vitamin C (iii). The results, published in Thorax, revealed even a low level intake of citrus fruits could reduce wheezing in children. 

     “Vitamin C with bioflavonoids helps reduce the allergic response and lowers levels of histamine which triggers inflammation,” explains Sarah. “Vitamin C supplements could also treat viral infections and increase levels of antioxidants in the body.”

    3.    Omega 3 fatty acids

    Oily fish like salmon is rich in omega 3 and could help control asthma by preventing inflammation and airway hyper-responsiveness, making it easier to breath. A study on 574 children, published by The Medical Journal of Australia, revealed children who ate oily fish had a significantly reduced risk of asthma (iv).

    4.    Plant sterols

    Plant sterols, a type of plant fat found in vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, could help modulate the response of the immune system by preventing the release of an immune factor called interleukin-6 (IL-6) which triggers the production of histamine. A daily dose of plant sterols could limit the immune system’s reaction to allergens and reduce levels of inflammation associated with allergic asthma.

    5.    Vitamin E

    Vitamin E supports the immune system by increasing levels of antibodies which help protect against damage caused by harmful free radical particles. It has also been associated with a reduction in skin sensitisation, so increasing your vitamin E intake could help influence the immune system expression and lower its response to allergens.

  • References and links

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