Asthma is a serious matter.
Over 16 million adults and 7 million children in America suffer from asthma, and it is responsible for about 5,000 deaths per year.
And if you suffer from asthma, you are no stranger to the shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing that comes with this lung condition.
Asthma occurs because the airways in your lungs tighten, become inflamed, or become filled with mucous.
The symptoms of asthma vary from person to person, and can be:
- frequent or occasional
- mild, severe, and even life threatening.
Chinese Medicine and Asthma
In Chinese medicine, there is always some element of phlegm associated with a diagnosis of asthma.
In fact, the Chinese use the term “abiding phlegm” when talking about asthma, meaning that even when you’re not having symptoms, phlegm is always an underlying cause of this condition.
According to the Chinese, asthma may be caused by:
- the environment
- strong emotions
- poor diet
- or being depleted by chronic illness.
There are a number of underlying patterns, or Chinese medical diagnoses, that are associated with asthma.
A couple can be the by-products of a bad cold or flu, in that asthma flares up when you’re sick.
The patterns include:
This is the kind of asthma you get when you have a cold and it sinks into your chest, making it hard for you to breathe.
Typical symptoms include:
- a headache
- aches and pains
- a low grade fever
- mild chills
- a sensation of feeling cold
- chest tightness, and coughing of thin, white phlegm
While this pattern is usually associated with a cold or the flu, it can occur without your ever being sick. In that case, allergies, cold air, wind, or even exercise may be triggers.
If you don’t get over your cold right away, your chest may remain congested and you may wheeze and cough up thick yellow phlegm. (Gross!)
Inflammation or infection is a player in this pattern, so you will also feel hot and thirsty, you may run a fever, and feel dry and constipated.
Again, this pattern doesn’t necessarily have to be the by-product of a cold or the flu. There are some people who have asthma that feels hot and inflamed all the time who also fall under this pattern.
This tends to be a less severe form of asthma.
Symptoms include shortness of breath, a weak voice, a force-less cough, wheezing, sweating (not necessarily associated with feeling hot), and thin white or clear phlegm.
Lung deficiency sounds exactly like what it is — weak lungs.
How could your Kidneys have anything to do with asthma?
Well, your Chinese Kidney system is associated with your body constitution — the strength of your health, how well you age, and your energetic reserves. A weak Kidney system is equated with an overall depletion of energy, meaning you’re run down.
This is the type of asthma that is frequently triggered by exercise, exertion, or cold.
Other symptoms include shortness of breath, difficulty inhaling, fatigue, feeling cold to your core, and cold extremities.
Alternative Treatments for Asthma
Treatment for asthma, according to Chinese medicine is two-fold.
During the acute stage, the first order of business is to calm the asthma attack and promote smooth respiration. This is done using acupuncture and herbs.
It’s important to say that if your asthma is not under control, an attack is serious and could even be life-threatening.
This means that you need to be under the care of a doctor who can prescribe medications, usually as an inhaler, for emergency attacks.
The second level of treatment is to alleviate the underlying cause of your asthma when you’re not having symptoms.
For example, if Phlegm/Heat is causing your asthma, then treatment would focus on reducing or drying the phlegm and cooling your heat. Again, a combination of acupuncture and herbs, combined with food therapy and lifestyle changes would be used.
A few tips that may be helpful in controlling and alleviating your symptoms include:
- Avoid triggers that cause your symptoms. Triggers may include cold, exercise, allergens, and certain foods.
- Keep your neck and chest warm, especially if cold is a trigger for you. Wear a scarf — they are fashionable even if it’s not winter.
- Stay out of smoky rooms.
- If you also suffer from heartburn, know that a flare up can aggravate your asthma. Deal with the heartburn to help your asthma.
- Take it easy on the dairy products. They tend to produce phlegm.
Try breathing exercises.
Take a Yoga, Tai Qi, or Qi Gong class. Otherwise, breathe to a 4-7-8 count. Inhale to the count of 4, hold to the count of 7, and exhale to the count of 8. Do a set of 4 breaths a couple of times a day.
It’s great to go the alternative medicine route, but don’t be stupid. Use your inhaler if you’re having an attack.
If you get caught without your inhaler, try some caffeine. It acts like the asthma drug Theophylline. Also, a cup of coffee or tea before your workout may keep exercise-induced symptoms under control.
Try some Vitamin B6. 50 mg. a day may help with the severity of your symptoms.
Keep in touch with your lungs.
While this may sound touchy-feely, it’s important to recognize patterns so you can head off an asthma attack. Just like pain, it’s much easier to manage if you try to control it early.
See your doctor if your symptoms seem to be getting worse or harder to control.