New Zealand has one of the highest prevalence rates of asthma in the world: 15% of adults and 20% of children.
However, the causes of asthma are still not fully understood. Possible factors being studied include diet, climate, immunisation rates, economic conditions, community health care standards, antibiotic use in early childhood, and the timing and number of respiratory infections in early life.
Asthma disproportionally affects Maori and Pacific Island groups, and lower socio-economic groups, with hospital admissions twice as common for Maori as non-Maori.
Yet the burden of asthma can be reduced, by seeking appropriate medical advice. Regular medication in conjunction with education within a written framework of an Asthma Self-Management Plan has a clear pathway to follow to manage your asthma. The Child Asthma Plan is an essential document that your child should have readily available to all caregivers such as at school, sports practice or away at camp, sleep-overs and baby-sitters.
It is thought 70%-80% of asthma is triggered by allergens, the most common being the faecal waste of the house-dust mite. Numbers of these can be reduced by regular vacuuming, damp dusting, weekly bedding washing and placing soft toys in the freezer for 24hrs every three weeks.
For those adults suffering from Chronic Obstructive Respiratory (or Pulmonary) Disease (CORD), mainly affecting smokers and ex-smokers, further information is available from the website www.asthmanz.co.nz . This site contains a multitude of helpful suggestions, such as ‘Energy Savers’ and ‘Turn off the stress in your body’ ; and for those living alone to develop a network of support and have an ‘urgent’ signal for a neighbour, such as curtains being drawn by a certain time of the morning.
Asthma and COPD sufferers are recommended to receive an annual flu vaccine, cease smoking and have an exercise programme.
Besides regular medications some diet/lifestyle modifications and natural therapies can be helpful. A trial avoiding common allergenic foods like eggs, fish, shellfish, nuts, milk, chocolate, wheat etc can lead to significant improvement especially if food sensitivities or allergies are a factor. It is estimated 5-10% of patients are ‘sulphite’ sensitive. Sulphites are generally present in food additives and colourings.
Natural supplements which can be helpful include:
1. Fish oil – a natural anti-inflammatory which can reduce narrowing of the airways.
2. Magnesium – has a relaxing effect on the tissues of the airways.
3. Selenium – Asthmatics have been observed to be low in Selenium and adequate replacement has subjectively shown to improve symptoms.
4. Vit. B12 –Asthmatics can be deficient Vit. B12 and is useful in blocking asthmatic reacti9on if administered by injection.
5. Tylophora asthmatica – this is an Ayurvedic herb with a useful anti-inflammatory effect and helps with stabilisation of the mast cell – that triggers the histamine release and the inflammation of the airway.
6. Quercitin – is a bioflavonoid in fruits and vegetables and works as an antioxidant which reduces inflammation.
Buteyko Breathing – practitioners in this Russian breathing technique have documented improvement in Asthma Management.
As always at the Wellness Centre we believe in a full assessment and individualised integrated health plan for good management for Asthma.