How can we cure asthma

Asthma: treat naturally

Every eighth child suffers from asthma - a third more than ten years ago. Fortunately, the therapy options for asthma have also expanded. They enable freedom from symptoms or permanent healing.

Author: Petra Horat Gutmann

The air stays away, it is difficult to breathe: asthma is the most common chronic disease in children. Research into the causes is in full swing: according to the results of several studies, children in polluted regions are particularly often affected. According to other studies, the pollen from grasses and flowering plants play a triggering role in around 40 percent of those affected. Children who grow up in rural surroundings, such as on a farm, are less prone to allergies and asthma, according to other findings from recent years.

Whether pollen, mold, house dust mites, cigarette smoke, cold stimuli, kitchen steam or environmental pollutants: what the different triggers have in common is that the bronchial tubes of those affected react excessively to the various stimuli. To be more precise, the bronchial muscles cramp, the bronchial tubes become narrow, and the mucous membrane produces a thick mucus that makes it difficult to breathe air out of the lungs. If the asthma is left untreated, inflammation and swelling of the airways will continue to increase. In the worst case, the delicate, elastic bronchial tubes turn into permanently stiffened tubes over time. The result is chronic shortness of breath.

You have to do something about it. But what? "First of all, parents should keep an eye on their children," advises Dr. med. Roger Lauener, chief physician of the Allergy Clinic Center for Children and Adolescents at the Davos High Mountain Clinic. Because not every whistling sound of breath and not every cough is a sign of asthma. Even a banal viral infection can cause asthma-like symptoms, especially in infants and young children whose airways are still very narrow.

Parents should be aware of the following asthma symptoms:

  • Attacks of breathlessness, especially at night, in the early hours of the morning, or during exertion
  • wheezing sounds on exhalation
  • dry, irritating cough, especially at night
  • Expectoration of tough, glassy mucus when coughing (does not always occur)
  • sometimes tendency to frequent infections, rapid fatigue and sweating.

If there is already an allergic disease, e.g. hay fever or neurodermatitis, parents must pay particular attention to asthma symptoms.

When asthma is diagnosed, most parents seek help from conventional medicine. This can stop the threatening seizures quickly. Beta-mimetics are among the most common asthma medications. Cortisone preparations are used for moderate or severe asthma - to the chagrin of many parents who have heard or read about the threatening side effects of drugs containing cortisone. “This fear is usually unfounded,” says Roger Lauener. "Corticoids only become a problem when they are swallowed or injected, at high doses and with long-term use."

Most children in Switzerland, however, suffer from mild or moderate asthma. You only need a small amount of cortisone. In addition, according to Roger Lauener, the cortisone is inhaled, which reduces the amount to a thousandth of a fraction of the dose of tablets and syringes.

The frequency of medication intake has also changed in recent years. "We no longer recommend always taking asthma medication in the same dosage over a long period of time," says Dr. Lauener. "Today the administration of medication is adapted to the child's condition and the course of the disease, often even from month to month."

The conventional medical asthma treatment wants to enable the little patients to live symptom-free and unrestricted despite their illness. "This goal is achieved in the vast majority of cases," says a delighted Roger Lauener. "If the asthma is due to an allergy, a causal treatment, i.e. desensitization, is also promising."

It makes sense that conventional medicine relies on additional measures, in particular breathing exercises and physiotherapy. The Hochgebirgsklinik in Davos, which cares for hundreds of childhood asthma patients every year, goes one step further. "We want to enable the children to take their lives into their own hands," says Christian Caflisch, the clinic's chief social pedagogue. Behind this simple statement is a sophisticated sports and leisure program that promotes the physical and psychological independence of the children: The children spend the afternoons year in and year out in the great outdoors, hiking or on bikes, ice skates and skis.

Among other things, they play “lung detective”, which means: They learn to observe their bodies and their well-being closely and to assess them correctly. In addition, the young patients learn relaxation techniques - an important measure, since "in asthma often psychological causes play a role, especially stress", as Dr. Lauener explains. For Christian Caflisch, the main thing is that the children have more confidence in themselves and that they find a middle ground between "being sorry and not wanting to be true about their illness."

Breast wraps, ointments, herbal vapors, tablets and tinctures: naturopathy knows numerous plants that have a healing effect on the respiratory tract. Just think of the power of mullein and Icelandic moss for dry coughs or the pelargonium root for infections of the upper and lower respiratory tract. But what therapeutic successes are possible with asthma?

"It is worth trying phytotherapy," says Stefan Fehr, medicinal plant specialist and chemist in St. Gallen. «The prerequisite for this is working with an experienced phytotherapist. He is able to correctly assess the asthmatic symptoms and alleviate the symptoms with the help of suitable natural medicines. " Stefan Fehr himself works with asthmatic children and infants almost exclusively with spagyric essences, for example with bishop's herb, sea grapes, butterbur, sundew and frankincense.

The Biel-based phyto specialist and naturopath NVS Madelaine Balmer also relies on the supportive power of natural medicines for asthma: “Thyme is one of the most effective medicinal plants, which has an expectorant effect and relaxes the bronchial muscles. Among other things, it can be used for inhalation. For small children, a tea with quendel, which is milder than thyme, is more suitable. The ribwort is also an important medicinal plant for asthmatic symptoms, as it has an expectorant, anti-inflammatory and soothing effect. " These and other medicinal plants are available in different preparations, for example as cough syrup, fresh plant juice, tea or ready-to-use medicinal products.

Tangible successes in asthma - that can also be seen in traditional Chinese medicine, as the example of the Zurich TCM specialist Nina Zhao-Seiler shows. "TCM assumes that there is an imbalance between the various functions of the organism in all diseases, including asthma," she explains. "These have to be brought back into their natural equilibrium."

Nina Zhao-Seiler keeps a close eye on her little asthma patients: “What does the child suffer most from? Is it shortness of breath? The cough? The slime or the exhaustion? These and many other questions and symptoms must be included in the diagnosis. "

This is followed by a one-month basic therapy, which usually improves the symptoms, says Ms. Zhao-Seiler. The most important aids are herbal preparations, prescribed according to classic Chinese recipes. They contain, among other things, warming medicinal plants such as ginger and liquorice as well as the seeds of certain types of plantain, radish and cress.

The naturopath also uses acupressure for toddlers under three years of age. Parents learn the handles in practice and imitate them at home. Zhao-Seiler uses a gentle form of acupuncture on children over three years of age. Their conclusion: "If there is a change in diet, asthma is usually greatly alleviated or even cured."

With the demand for a change in diet, TCM takes a counter-position to conventional medicine. The latter assumes that diet has no influence on the development and course of asthma.

TCM therapists see it differently: "For the success of the treatment, it is important that asthma patients avoid certain foods and stimulants," emphasizes Nina Zhao-Seiler. "These include, above all, sugar-protein compounds like those found in numerous finished products, for example in chocolate, bars, sugary yogurts and milk drinks."

It sounds similar from the camp of Ayurvedic medicine (Ayurveda). The respected Ayurveda doctor Hans-Heinrich Rhyner states: "Asthma children should avoid all foods and drinks that produce phlegm in the body, especially dairy products."

But can you really expect a child to go without milk, cheese and yoghurt? “You don't have to do without it completely,” explains Rhyner. “However, it is important that the dairy products are never consumed cold. It is ideal to enrich the milk with warming, digestive spices and mix with a little water. " Specifically: Instead of handing the child a glass of cold milk from the refrigerator, you give them a bowl of warm milk and season it with a pinch of cardamom, ginger, turmeric or organic bourbon vanilla.

Hans-Heinrich Rhyner has often seen that asthma in children (and adults) heals completely. Ayurvedic asthma therapy also begins with a careful diagnosis to determine which “basic energies” are in imbalance. In Ayurveda these energies are called Vata, Pitta and Kapha. To put it simply, "Kapha asthma" is present when the mucus-forming disease processes are in the foreground, explains Rhyner. If, on the other hand, the attack-like breathing difficulties and a rather dry cough prevailed, this indicates a Vata or Pitta asthma.

Just like in TCM, it is now important to restore the natural balance of energies. Adult asthma patients benefit from a cleansing cure lasting several weeks (so-called pancakarma), but this is only useful for children from the age of 12. With the little ones, Hans-Heinrich Rhyner therefore works primarily with Ayurvedic natural remedies that harmonize the immune and nervous system, quench the urge to cough and liquefy phlegm; e.g. with the ancient medicinal plant Vasaka, also called Adhatoda vasica or Indian lungwort. It has an expectorant effect and has proven itself in most forms of asthma. The medicinal plant Ashwagandha alias Withania somnifera or sleeping berry, on the other hand, is particularly effective in treating allergic asthma. In addition, numerous other medicinal plants are used in Ayurvedic asthma therapy, including ginger, liquorice and ribwort.

Relaxation, breathing and physical exercises - these measures also play an important role in Ayurvedic asthma treatment. Hans-Heinrich Rhyner: "Depending on the cause and constitution of the child, it needs either calming, grounding measures or influences that give it more movement and ease."

Biological holistic medicine, as practiced at the Paracelsus Clinic in Lustmühle AR, takes a slightly different route. Dr. med. Victor von Toenges takes stock: "We have noticed that children with asthma often have food allergies."

For this reason, every asthma therapy at the Paracelsus Clinic begins with comprehensive tests: "The most common are intolerance reactions to milk, wheat and eggs," emphasizes von Toenges. "Leaving out these foods creates a good basis on which asthma therapy can develop."

The most important therapeutic measures of the Paracelsus Clinic for asthma include remedies, vital substances and bacterial preparations that build up or harmonize the intestinal mucosa and the immune system. "This package of measures leads to about 60 percent of the children free of symptoms within one to two years," says Dr. by Toenges.

Orthopedic specialists, including the German physician Walter Packi, also provide remarkable findings for asthma therapy. The 58-year-old observed years ago that asthma was caused by muscle mechanics. "From the perspective of the kinematics of the body, asthma is a problem of the lower cervical spine," explains Walter Packi. "If the asthmatic inhales, his 5th or 6th cervical vertebra sinks instead of the ribs rising."

This instability of the lower cervical spine is due to a reduced function of the deep neck muscles. The result: "The harder the asthmatic inhales because he cannot breathe, the greater the instability and the more cramped the anterior neck muscles." In order to break this vicious circle, the natural function of the neck muscles must be restored, according to the muscle specialist.

This is reminiscent of the findings of the lung pioneer Dr. med. Johannes Ludwig Schmitt, who pointed out in the middle of the last century that chronic muscle tension was a major factor in the development of asthmatic symptoms. As therapy options for asthma, the German doctor and researcher recommended releasing incorrect tension, reducing tension-inducing movement patterns and strengthening the muscles.

The Russian doctor Konstantin Buteyko developed a method of treatment that was as simple as it was effective to make life easier for asthmatics. This form of “breath diet” helps with a large number of indications and can be an approach to regaining a natural breath balance. The aim of respiratory therapy according to Buteyko is to relax with simple exercises, to control the breath - and thus to reduce the frequency and severity of asthma and other symptoms.

You can find out more about the Buteyko method in the November issue of Health News 2019.

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