Is there an alternative asthma treatment plan that works?
The answer to that question is ‘maybe’. There are various alternative asthma treatment plans and natural therapies that some people claim have been effective for them. However, there’s a new approach that is proving useful for many people and gaining increasing acceptance from the medical community. It is called biofeedback training or biofeedback treatment.
So what is biofeedback training? And how effective is it as an alternative asthma treatment?
In essence, biofeedback training is about gaining a degree of conscious control over unconscious / involuntary body functions in order to contain disease symptoms. For instance, in the case of asthma, biofeedback researchers say that it may be possible for patients to consciously relax their tracheal muscles and thus stop an asthma attack.
Actually, there are more than a dozen different illnesses that are being treated – with at least some degree of success – using biofeedback therapy. Asthma is one of them.
Everyone has learnt at school that the body has certain automatic functions like the heart beat, blood flow, body temperature, etc and that these functions are completely outside our conscious control. However, it has been discovered at least several decades ago that a certain amount of conscious control over normally unconscious / involuntary body functions is possible through training. The National Institutes of Health say that some people can even reduce their blood pressure by simply willing it.
Biofeedback training falls under a grouping called Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). The Yale neuroscientist Dr. Neal Miller once suggested that automatic muscle functions can be consciously influenced. He was called a heretic by the medical community. However, Dr. Miller’s statement was subsequently shown to be true.
Migraine patients have successfully used biofeedback training to gain relief. Biofeedback is, in fact, accepted as a form of treatment for migraine. Some kinds of asthma are being treated with these techniques. Research is being done on how to utilize biofeedback training for treating high blood pressure, perhaps even as a primary treatment for that health condition.
How can biofeedback training be used as an alternative asthma treatment?
In an asthma attack, the muscles surrounding the bronchial passages become inflamed. If those muscles can be induced to relax, asthma victims would find it easier to breathe. Medication can relax those muscles. And biofeedback training has also shown its effectiveness in achieving muscle relaxation and thereby minimizing asthma symptoms.
Asthma patients, by and large, have abnormal breathing patterns. Biofeedback training can be utilized to both recognize and correct improper breathing habits.
For instance, asthmatics tend to take a deep breath in followed by several short, shallow in-and-out breaths. The result is that their lungs never become completely empty. If they don’t get empty, they obviously can’t be refilled properly either. Therefore, these people are always short of breath. This breathing pattern is called barrel breathing.
Using a process called pneumographic biofeedback, barrel breathing patients come to recognize their altered heart rate when they breathe incorrectly. Then they consciously alter their breathing and observe its effect on the heart rate. They work to lower their heart rate and bring it within normal range. They do this by breathing correctly.
There have been several small studies relating to this training. The conclusion was that it does help to reduce asthma symptoms. Further, it may even help lower lung inflammation and breathing obstructions characteristic of asthma patients.
One study that was detailed in the American College of Chest Physicians during 2004 stated that asthma patients trained using the above process needed to use less medication. In addition, they improved pulmonary function. The authors of the study said that biofeedback training may be useful to help patients reduce dependence on steroids to control asthma.
While there is increasing acceptance for biofeedback therapy as an alternative asthma treatment, patients should take care to work only with a well-trained, qualified biofeedback therapist. And the doctor should be kept fully informed at each stage. He must monitor the patient’s condition over time and make necessary adjustments to the medications.
Asthma information: Foods that can help control the disease
Can eating the right foods help you bring asthma symptoms under control? The available asthma information concludes that the answer is yes, in a lot of cases. It is a fact that eating right will help with many health issues. The FDA states that a healthy diet is a very important factor in preventing the onset of many killer diseases that have become common today.
It is easy to see the connection between diet and the prevention / healing of problems like heart disease and diabetes. But is there a connection between diet and asthma?
Nutritionists say there is in fact, a strong connection. At a fundamental level, the body operates through a series of complex chemical interactions. It needs the right nutrients to feed those chemical activities.
Breathing is one such chemical process. Breathing and the process of utilizing oxygen in the cells is accomplished through many chemical interactions. The ingredients involved are the oxygen taken in, the nutrients consumed and what the body creates out of those nutrients.
Here’s a look at what happens during normal breathing and during an asthma attack.
As is apparent, there are many muscles involved in the act of breathing. When you breathe in, the diaphragm muscles and the chest muscles expand to accommodate air into the lungs. During exhalation, these muscles relax. Then there are the muscles around the airways itself. These muscles can either contract to decrease the amount of air going into the lungs, or expand to allow more air to flow in. In an asthmatic, these airway muscles become inflamed. As a result, the ability to bring enough air into the lungs is reduced.
It is obvious that healthy breathing depends on all these muscles remaining healthy. By the same token, improving the health of these muscles will help improve asthma symptoms.
Nutrition specialists say that if you are an asthma patient, your diet should contain sufficient levels of omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and quercetin. These substances help control inflammation of the muscles and maintain proper lung function.
The bronchial muscle is directly affected by magnesium, which helps dilate the bronchi. That is why enough magnesium in the diet is important – it helps keep the bronchial muscles in good tone. Foods that help include almonds and spinach salads. Chocolate has lots of magnesium in it. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are very good too. So is avocado.
The damaging effects of air pollution can be mitigated by having enough anti-oxidants in the body – quercetin is an anti-oxidant. Quercetin-rich foods will help significantly, say some nutritionists because it helps combat the pollutants that can set off an asthma attack. Of course, having sufficient anti-oxidants in the body has many other health benefits too.
Quercetin-rich foods include cranberries, pears, green cabbage, apples and onions, among others.
Some asthma patients take a drug called theophylline, which reduces the ability to utilize a component of vitamin B6. In such cases, vitamin B6 supplements will help. There is some evidence that this vitamin helps reduce wheezing in asthmatics. Foods that contain vitamin B6 include sweet potatoes, turkey, sunflower seeds, salmon, tuna and avocadoes.
In patients with exercise-induced asthma, taking vitamin C right before exercising helps them prevent asthma attacks. Research shows that many asthmatics are vitamin C deficient. This vitamin can help cut down on how often asthma attacks occur as well as the severity of those attacks.
Oranges, fresh strawberries, red bell peppers, potatoes, tangerines, kiwi fruit – all are rich in vitamin C and will help with asthma symptoms.
As you can see from the above asthma information, there is a direct connection between asthma and diet. Eat right and you have better chances of bringing your symptoms under control.