Asthma is a chronic condition that affects more than 17 million adults and an additional 8 million children in the United States. Most people know the basics of reducing triggers, maintenance medications, and rescue inhalers to keep their asthma in check. But there may be some natural changes you can make, so that dealing with asthma becomes a little easier.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is found in citrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato juice, potatoes, green and red peppers, kiwifruit, strawberries, papaya, cantaloupes, and even green veggies like kale, brussel sprouts, and broccoli. Many people have heard about the role vitamin C may play in preventing a cold, but it may also be good for people with airway inflammation. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology published a study in 2014 showing that 500 milligrams to 2 grams per day of vitamin C reduced post-exercise airway symptoms by half, as measured by spirometery. So load up on these healthy foods that contain vitamin C and talk with your doctor if you think supplementation might be right for you.
Coffee contains antioxidants that are beneficial to the human body; indeed, it is the number one source of antioxidants in the U.S. Much like vitamin C, those antioxidants may reduce inflammation and get rid of harmful free radicals. A study by Harvard physician Scott Weiss, M.D., M.S., found that people who regularly drink coffee had almost one-third fewer symptoms of asthma than those who don’t. In addition, the caffeine in coffee has been shown to produce small improvements in airway function for up to four hours. I don’t know about you, but I won’t be skipping my morning java!
Ginger and turmeric
Ginger and turmeric (a part of the ginger family) have anti-inflammatory properties that have made them valuable tools in pain relief for centuries. The American Thoracic Society International Conference presented research showing that ginger, when added to an asthma medication, enhances bronchodilation and improves asthma symptoms. While you can’t add these spices to your inhaler just yet, you can add them to your diet. These delicious spices make a wonderful addition to many recipes, so why wouldn’t you? You may get some anti-inflammatory benefits too!
Honey is a sweet treat we often add to our tea. But did you know that honey can be used to treat coughing and soothe the mucous membranes? In an article in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers studied honey in the treatment of children with nighttime cough and found that honey performed better than the common cough suppressant dextromethorphan, as rated by the parents surveyed. This is not to say that honey cures asthma, but helping alleviate some of the symptoms in conjunction with proper medications for asthma can allow everyone to get a good night’s sleep. People who have allergies should be careful, however, because sometimes the pollen in natural honey can cause an allergic reaction.
While these natural remedies may help deal with some of the symptoms of asthma, they are not a cure. Talk to your doctor before adding or changing any part of your treatment plan.
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Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.