Nutrition, Garlic, Yoga, and More

Prescribed asthma medication paired with diet and self-care strategies may help ease severe asthma symptoms.

Asthma is a disorder that affects the lungs, making it difficult to breathe and perform physical activities. During an attack, the airways swell, muscles constrict, and mucus fills the airways, resulting in coughing and chest tightness.

You may be curious whether there’s anything natural you can do to help reduce your symptoms. Here’s what the research says about 13 complementary therapies you may want to try for your asthma.

Although there’s no specific diet for people with asthma, there are a few nutrients and foods that may help relieve your symptoms.

1. Beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E

Being overweight or having obesity increases your risk for asthma and can worsen your symptoms. It’s important to maintain a balanced diet including plenty of fruits and vegetables.

These foods are good sources of antioxidants like beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E, which may help reduce inflammation around your airways.

However, if you experience a flare-up in asthma symptoms after eating certain foods, try to avoid them. You may have a food allergy that’s causing your symptoms to worsen. Talk with your doctor to confirm this.

2. The gut microbiome

Research suggests that asthma may be linked to our gut microbiome. This means asthma symptoms may worsen if there’s an imbalance of beneficial bacteria in your gut.

Consuming probiotics may help reduce inflammation. In a 2021 study, researchers found that combining probiotics with regular asthma treatment improved symptoms.

Sources of probiotics include fermented foods such as:

In addition some cheeses contain probiotics, and you can also take probiotic supplements, though getting them from your diet may be preferable.

3. Garlic

Garlic has several health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties, according to research. Because asthma is an inflammatory disease, garlic may be able to help relieve your symptoms.

A 2019 study found that garlic extracts significantly reduced the number of inflammatory cells and white blood cells called iosinophils in laboratory mice. This, in turn, seemed to decrease bronchial inflammation.

Still, there’s no conclusive evidence that garlic is effective against preventing asthma flare-ups.

4. Ginger

Ginger is another herb that contains anti-inflammatory properties and may help with severe asthma. In particular, it contains a compound called 6-gingerol, which has been shown to decrease allergic lung inflammation in studies on mice.

These studies were specifically focused on lung inflammation induced by a dust mite allergy, which can be an asthma trigger.

Studies also suggest that ginger may help relax the trachea and airway muscles, as well as reduce mechanical ventilation time for people with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). That said, a clinical trial on ginger and asthma in human subjects is still ongoing.

5. Honey

Honey is frequently used in cold remedies to help soothe the throat and reduce coughing. You can mix honey with a hot beverage like herbal tea to help relieve your symptoms.

According to a 2019 study, honey was found to help improve breathing and lung function in people with asthma, but only when combined with other remedies such as cumin. The research did not find evidence for the effectiveness of honey on its own.

Other scientific evidence that honey should be used as an alternative asthma treatment is limited.

6. Omega-3 oils

Omega-3 oils, which can be found in fish and flax seeds, have been shown to have many health benefits. They are also associated with decreased airway inflammation, which may help improve lung function in people with severe asthma.

However, research also shows that people taking high doses of oral steroids to treat their asthma symptoms may not see as much benefit from consuming omega-3 through food or fish oil supplements.

This is because steroids block the beneficial effects of omega-3 oils. It’s a good idea to check with your dohctor before upping your intake of omega-3.

7. Caffeine

Caffeine is a bronchodilator, which means it can help open up the pathways into the lungs. Also, it can help reduce respiratory muscle fatigue.

A 2022 study found that drinking between 0.5 and 3 cups of coffee or tea daily can help reduce the likelihood of getting adult-onset asthma. Also, keeping caffeine consumption between 160 and 305 milligrams (mg) daily also reduces the chance of developing adult asthma.

Another 2020 study in a Korean population also showed that drinking 1 to 2 cups of coffee daily may help reduce the chance of getting asthma, particularly for women. But no similar link was found between asthma and caffeinated drinks like green tea or soda.

Several different breathing exercises may help relieve symptoms of asthma. These include:

8. Buteyko Breathing Technique

The Buteyko Breathing Technique (BBT) is a system of breathing exercises. BBT focuses on breathing out of your nose instead of your mouth. Breathing out of your mouth can dry your airways and make them more sensitive.

While there’s no research-based evidence that using BBT helps reduce the use of asthma medication, it may help reduce your asthma symptoms through slow, gentle breathing.

Some people may experience less respiratory infections from using this technique. Others who practice BBT believe that it helps to raise your carbon dioxide levels. Still, there isn’t conclusive evidence to support this theory.

9. Papworth method

The Papworth method is a breathing and relaxation technique used since the 1960s to help people with asthma. It involves using your nose and diaphragm to develop breathing patterns. You can then apply these breathing patterns to various activities that may cause your asthma to flare-up.

According to research, this breathing exercise does seem to help improve lung function and breathing in asthmatic people. That said, more research on the effect the Papworth method and other breathing modalities is needed to determine the full benefits.

A training course is usually recommended before adopting the exercises as part of your daily routine.

10. Yoga

Yoga incorporates stretching and breathing exercises to help boost flexibility and increase overall fitness. For many people, practicing yoga can decrease stress, which may trigger your asthma.

Studies have found that people trained in Yoga may experience fewer asthma attacks and have better results in breathing tests.

A 2023 meta-analysis of 15 studies also concluded that there is some evidence to the possitive effect of yogic breathing on mild-to-moderate asthma.

Research shows that asthma can have not only physical and environmental triggers but also psychological ones, such as stress, anxiety, or depression. Trying different ways of mental grounding or psychological treatment may help reduce asthma flare-ups in some cases.

11. Hypnotherapy

In hypnotherapy, hypnosis makes a person more relaxed and open to new ways to think, feel, and behave. Hypnotherapy may also help facilitate muscle relaxation, which may help people with asthma cope with symptoms like chest tightness.

This may explain why a 2021 study on hypnotherapy found that people with known psychological asthma triggers can find some symptom relief with this treatment.

12. Mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness is a type of meditation that focuses on how the mind and the body are feeling in the present moment. It can be practiced almost anywhere.

All that you need is a quiet place to sit down, close your eyes, and focus your attention on the thoughts, feelings, and sensations in your body.

Because of its stress-relieving benefits, mindfulness may help to complement your prescription medication and relieve stress-related asthma symptoms.

Research shows that mindfulness practices may not directly reduce the physical symptoms caused by asthma but rather helps better manage how you experience and view those symptoms in your daily life.

Other research on the impact of mindfulness on asthma appears to be inconclusive, so more studies are needed to verify the connection.

There’s some evidence that acupuncture and speleotherapy may help reduce asthma symptom severity.

13. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese medicine that involves placing small needles into specific points on the body. Some people with asthma may find that acupuncture helps to improve airflow and manage symptoms like chest pain.

One 2017 study found that adding acupuncture to your daily routine may help improve your quality of life if you’re living with allergic asthma.

Another 2015 study that compared acupuncture and traditional asthma treatments found that those who did acupuncture during the study showed more improvement in immune system and lung function tests than those who tool traditional asthma medications.

However, the long-term benefits of acupuncture have not yet been proven effective against asthma.

14. Speleotherapy

Speleotherapy is a type of dry salt therapy. It involves spending time in a salt room, introducing tiny particles into the respiratory system.

One 2018 study on asthma in children found that after 4 weeks of speleotherapy, symptoms seemed to improve, as well as levels of nitric oxide, which is a marker for asthma inflammation.

Another 2020 study found that combining speleotherapy with winter exercise or sports may help reduce asthma symptoms.

Some of these natural approaches may help reduce asthma symptoms, but you check with your doctor before trying anything.

Your doctor may also recommend you continue taking your usual asthma medications, and they may adjust your dosage if your asthma is severe.

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