In the United States, asthma cases have increased by more than 60 percent since the early 1980s, and asthma-related deaths have doubled to 5,000 a year. What is causing the asthma epidemic and what can we do to stem the tide? A recent series of articles in the Journal of the American Chiropractic Association (JACA) delves into this question and offers advice from doctors of chiropractic and allergists who have helped control asthma symptoms in many patients.
People in their 30s and older can remember that when they were young, it was very unusual for even one child in school to have asthma. School children now often know several kids with asthma in a single class. The rapid increase in the number of young people with asthma was brought home to Dr. Scott Bautch, past president of the American Chiropractic Association’s (ACA) Council on Occupational Health, when he went to a football game with his 13-year-old son: “Someone on the field had a breathing problem. It was hard to see whose son it was, and 15 parents ran to the field with inhalers.”
So far, researchers don’t know why cases of asthma are increasing at such an alarming rate. They hypothesize that a combination of genetics and some non-hereditary factors — such as increased environmental exposure to potential allergens — play a role. “Thirty years ago, Windex was the only cleaning solvent used by a few people. Now, we have a special cleaning solvent for every object,” says Dr. Bautch. “In addition, furniture and carpets are produced with formaldehyde as a preservative, and people breathe it,” he says.
Decreased air quality is coupled with the allergy-friendly modern house design, says Dr. William E. Walsh, MD, FACC, an allergist practicing in Minnesota: “Fifty years ago we lived in old, drafty houses, and the breeze dried and freshened the air, and cleared out mold and other allergens. Nowadays, our super-insulated houses don’t breathe adequately. Making basements into a living space increases mold exposure because mold grows in any basement.”
Food has become another source of exposure to allergens. “Food manufacturers put more preservatives in foods now to store them longer,” says Dr. Bautch. Researchers hypothesize that an increase in vaccinations, cesarean births, and antibiotic intake may be playing a role, too.
Asthma is a chronic disease; it can’t be cured—only controlled. For best treatment results, both the primary care physician and an asthma specialist, such as an allergist or pulmonologist, should be involved. According to experts interviewed for the article, the treatment program, in addition to medication intake, should include reducing exposure to the substances that induce acute episodes and identifying specific allergens that affect the patient.
Allergens aren’t the only culprit. Stress factors—such as moving to a new home, or changing jobs—may induce or aggravate asthma attacks. Even emotional expressions such as fear, anger, frustration, hard crying, or laughing can cause an attack as well. To reduce the patient’s stress level and improve the patient’s quality of life, alternative treatments should be incorporated into the treatment program. Various relaxation techniques, such as biofeedback, meditation, yoga, and stress management, as well as massage, chiropractic manipulation, breathing exercises, and acupuncture can be helpful.
A multi-site clinical trial on chiropractic management of asthma is underway in Australia. “The preliminary data are very encouraging. Chiropractic patients are showing decreases in physical asthma symptoms and cortisol levels,” says Dr. Anthony Rosner, director of education and research for the Foundation of Chiropractic Education and Research.
“Doctors of chiropractic can give a full-scale evaluation to asthma patients; assess their physical and neurological status, their lifestyle, diet, and stressors; and help the patients increase motor coordination, and improve the work of respiratory and gut muscles to increase the quality of life,” says Dr. Gail Henry, a chiropractic neurologist, who practices in Houston, Texas. “Doctors of chiropractic can be a great addition to the healthcare team treating the asthma patient.”
Asthma experts offer the following tips for asthma patients:
- Use air filters to help clean air in your home.
- Cover mattresses and pillows with dust covers and use hypoallergenic bed clothing to reduce exposure to dust mites.
- If your condition is getting worse, get checked for viral respiratory infections and different medical conditions, such as flu, rhinitis, sinusitis, and gastroesophageal reflux. When those are treated and eliminated, asthma symptoms improve. Endocrine factors, such as menstruation, pregnancy, and thyroid disease, may exacerbate asthma, as well.
- Some medications—aspirin; beta-blockers, including eye drops; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, etc.—can also precipitate or aggravate asthma symptoms.
- If your asthma is exercise-induced, an individually prescribed exercise program carefully chosen under the guidance of your primary health care provider or doctor of chiropractic should be incorporated into the treatment plan.
- Avoid sulfites or monosodium glutamate (MSG) in foods. Since both additives are used in a wide variety of foods, carefully read processed food labels and choose MSG-free foods when eating out.
- Choose a more vegetarian-type diet. Animal proteins found in meat include arachidonic acid—a precursor for inflammation.
- Include foods with omega-3 fatty acids in the diet—such as fish or fish oil.
- Supplement with vitamin C, which helps reduce allergic reactions and wheezing symptoms.
- To reduce stress in your children, spend quality time with them and limit their exposure to TV programs that include violence.
Pull Your Weeds, Not Your Back, When Gardening
As springtime approaches, weather warms up and leaves turn green, many people will spend more time outside planting bulbs, mowing the lawn and pulling weeds. Gardening can provide a great workout, but with all the bending, twisting, reaching and pulling, your body may not be ready for exercise of the garden variety.
Gardening can be enjoyable, but it is important to stretch your muscles before reaching for your gardening tools. The back, upper legs, shoulders, and wrists are all major muscle groups affected when using your green thumb.
A warm-up and cool-down period is as important in gardening as it is for any other physical activity,” said Dr. Scott Bautch of the American Chiropractic Association’s (ACA) Council on Occupational Health. “Performing simple stretches during these periods will help alleviate injuries, pain and stiffness.”
To make gardening as fun and enjoyable as possible, it is important to prepare your body for this type of physical activity. The following stretches will help to alleviate muscle pain after a day spent in your garden.
Garden Fitness Stretches
- Before stretching for any activity, breathe in and out, slowly and rythmically; do not bounce or jerk your body, and stretch as far and as comfortably as you can. Do not follow the no pain, no gain rule. Stretching should not be painful. While sitting, prop your heel on a stool or step, keeping the knees straight. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in the back of the thigh, or the hamstring muscle. Hold this position for 15 seconds. Do this once more and repeat with the other leg.
- Stand up, balance yourself, and grab the front of your ankle from behind. Pull your heel towards your buttocks and hold the position for 15 seconds. Do this again and repeat with the other leg.
- While standing, weave your fingers together above your head with the palms up. Lean to one side for 10 seconds, then to the other. Repeat this stretch three times.
- Do the “Hug your best friend.” Wrap your arms around yourself and rotate to one side, stretching as far as you can comfortably go. Hold for 10 seconds and reverse. Repeat two or three times.
Finally, be aware of your body technique, body form and correct posture while gardening. Kneel, don’t bend, and alternate your stance and movements as often as possible to keep the muscles and body balanced.
When the Bulbs Are Planted…
If you already feel muscle aches and pains and did not complete the warm-up and cool-down stretches, there are ways to alleviate the discomfort. Apply a cold pack on the area of pain for the first 48 hours or apply a heat pack after 48 hours, and consider chiropractic care.
Quinoa with Chickpeas and Tomatoes
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 1 cup canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 4 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 pinch salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
- Place the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, and rinse under cold, running water until the water no longer foams. Bring the quinoa, salt, and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Once done, stir in the garbanzo beans, tomatoes, garlic, lime juice, and olive oil. Season with cumin, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley to serve.
We are on Facebook. “LIKE” us at http://www.Facebook.com/AshChiro
Post a review or a testimony of how our services have benefited you or your family by visiting our blog: http://AshChiro.Wordpress.com/ AND receive a free 3oz Biofreeze roll-on!
For further information on health, contact Ash Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic at 972-317-0680