Asthma treatment in the United States has been estimated to cost almost $5,000 per year, with about half of that figure going to medication. It's money well spent if it allows you to breathe, of course, but some patients would like to find alternatives. There haven't been a lot of studies on natural remedies for asthma, so there are no proven alternatives to medication. That means you should keep your inhaler handy and follow your doctor's advice, but here are some natural methods that are safe to try.
Improve Your Diet
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There is no specific diet that's routinely recommended for asthma sufferers, but there is evidence that poor nutrition might be a factor in the disease. One study has found that teens who didn't get enough vitamins C and E and omega-3 fatty acids were the most likely to have asthma symptoms and poor lung function. Another study found that children who were raised on a Mediterranean-style diet were less likely to have asthma-like symptoms than those on a typical American diet.
Experts recommend eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and getting lots of omega-3 fatty acids (those found in oily fish and plant oils like flaxseed) while avoiding trans fats and omega-6 fatty acids. They also recommend avoiding sulfite preservatives found in many processed foods, including canned goods, dried fruits, and wine. Giving up dairy, which is often recommended by well-meaning friends and family without medical training, doesn't seem to help with asthma symptoms and can lead to osteoporosis.
Avoiding smoke is vital, so no one should be smoking in the home of an asthma sufferer. When neighbors start burning leaves or trash, stay indoors with the windows closed and turn on your air conditioner to help filter the air you're breathing. Some triggers are less well-known. Pet dander, saliva, and insect droppings can trigger asthma attacks if you are allergic to them, so keeping your home clean and keeping pets at a safe distance are important. Scented air fresheners and candles can also be triggers. Using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter regularly, changing your HVAC filters often, and using a home air purifier can help reduce triggers in your home.
So far, there are no clinical studies that prove the effectiveness of most of the herbal remedies that are commonly recommended for asthma. However, caffeine is a drug that is similar to theophylline, a bronchodilator that relaxes the airways and was used in asthma treatment for years. Some clinical trials have found that small amounts of caffeine can improve lung function for up to four hours. Some suggested remedies, including anti-inflammatory foods like garlic and ginger, can be safely incorporated into your diet if you'd like to try them.
Asthma can be fatal without treatment, and there are few clinically proven alternatives to medication, so it's important not to depend entirely on natural remedies. Keep your inhaler handy and discuss all your treatment options, including alternative treatments, with your doctor.