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Asthma and Diet as Cause and Cure



In 2008, sales of asthma drugs were $15 billion and estimated to reach $17 billion by 2010. Roughly 300,000 people in the West suffer with difficulty in breathing. Asthma occurs when the active airway tightens or constricts (bronchospasm). It is one of three conditions that constitute chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The inflammatory aspect of COPD is bronchitis and emphysema is the endgame for years of inflammation.

Without a doubt, our environment and the air we breathe has become more polluted with chemicals and particles that irritate our lungs and air passages. So the first thing we should consider is to stop polluting the air with tobacco smoke and use air purifiers to filter the air. Another factor we can control in overcoming a problem with asthma is our diet. This is the central cause of the rising epidemic of lung diseases we are experiencing.

If one's diet is not healthy then we will become more susceptible to obvious causes of lung disease, such as air pollution, infectious agents, tobacco smoke and allergens. One of the most clear-cut examples regarding the significance of diet and the health of our lungs is observed in the low rate of lung cancer among Japanese cigarette smokers. In contrast, the risk of getting lung cancer for a person in the United States is approximately 10 times greater than a Japanese person living in Japan in spite of the fact that a greater percentage of Japanese people smoke. Japanese descendants living in the United States who smoke have the same rate of occurrence for lung cancer as do Americans. These observations lead us to the importance of dietary differences for persons living in the United States and Japan. Because Japanese smokers follow a starch-based diet of rice and vegetables their bodies are more able to repair damages caused by tobacco smoke much more efficiently than if they were consuming a diet of fat, meat and dairy - the standard American diet.

There have been numerous large population studies that have clearly demonstrated that persons who have a healthier diet, consisting of less animal foods and more plant foods, experience fewer diseases of the lungs.  In one study consisting of 52,325 persons it was shown that individuals who consumed a lot of meat had development of new persistent coughs with phlegm 43% more frequently than those who ate a diet high in fruit.

How Lung Function Is Affected By Diet

There are several considerations as to how a healthier diet will aid people breathe more easily whether or not they have COPD. It is good that all of these mechanisms are connected and easily addressed by a starch-based, low-fat diet accompanied by moderate exercise.

People Have Too Much Fat to Breathe

Women who are obese have a rate of asthma that is 50% higher when compared to women who are not obese. Reduced lung function is mostly due to the fat in the body that accumulates up inside the abdomen which puts pressure on the diaphragm the main breathing muscle. This reduces the ability of the lungs to expand. Following weight loss, lung function improves in obese people. The most efficient way to get rid of excess weight and fat permanently is to adopt a starch-based diet. Exercise also promotes weight loss. The benefit to lung capacity is due to losing weight and not the exercise.

The Lungs Are Burned By Acid Reflux

Acid reflux (a.k.a.  gastrointestinal reflux disease or GERD) include COPD and asthma. When stomach acid surges up into the mouth and is inhaled into the lungs, critical inflammation occurs. When the acid is inhaled into the bronchial tubes, the tissues are burned resulting in mucus, swelling and the constriction. From 34 to 89% of persons with asthma have GERD. Among asthmatic children, 75% have GERD. Persons with asthma caused by GERD routinely complain of difficulty in swallowing, regurgitation and heartburn. It is possible to have a serious acid reflux problem while showing no symptoms. When GERD asthmatics sleep, lie down or have meals their asthma is worsened. Treating this with a healthy diet will reduce the chances of acid reflux. Also raising the head of the bed by about 6 inches is helpful. Only as a last resort should one consider taking antacids. All of these methods will help asthma and other breathing issues while reducing the need for asthma drugs.

Blood to the Lungs Is Hampered by Oils and Fats

The normal dynamic for blood cells within the blood vessels is that they bounce off one another and flow freely. About an hour after a fat-filled meal, the cells begin to clump together slowing the flow of blood. Six hours after eating the fat, the clumping and sticking becomes so severe that the flow of blood actually stands still in many small vessels. After several hours the clumps will begin to release and the blood flow to the tissues will resume. As a result of this cycle, the amount of oxygen in the blood is lowered by 20%. The results of this diminished circulation can be fatigue, high blood pressure, impaired brain function, angina and a reduction in lung capacity. It should be understood that blood circulation is as severely diminished with vegetable oils (including olive oil) as with animal-based fats. The best approach for healthy lung function is to adopt a low-fat diet.

Airway Inflammation Caused by Diet

Although somewhat controversial, there has been volumes written regarding foods that cause allergic reactions which lead to airway spasms, difficulty in breathing and the production of mucus. Research that was done over 60 years ago indicated that a number of foods could promote asthma and found that an exclusion diet often improved the asthma condition in patients.

In May of 2010 the American Thoracic Society met in New Orleans and reported that persons with asthma who ate a high-fat meal exhibited elevated airway inflammation only hours after the fatty meal. The fat laden meal also seemed to impede the effectiveness of their asthma medication such as albuterol.

How To Promote Better Breathing

The first obvious step is to use air purifiers and to stop smoking.

The next step is to change to a diet based on starchy foods with the addition of vegetables and fruits. Immediately this will lessen acid reflux and start you down the road to shedding excess pounds. To further quiet the stomach there are some modifications that can be made to the basic diet. Vegetables that are cooked are easier to digest than raw vegetables. Cucumbers, radishes, green peppers and onions are well-known culprits for indigestion, but this unpleasant side effect normally disappears when cooked. Fruit juices, especially citrus, often contribute to acid reflux and cause indigestion. Eating the whole fruit will rarely be bothersome. Many individuals will want to stay away from spicy foods.

You can use gravity to keep stomach acid out of the lungs and throat by elevating the head of your bed by 4 to 6 inches.

There is much evidence to suggest that the proteins found in dairy products are the most likely culprits when it comes to allergens that cause asthma. Egg proteins are probably in second place. Some plant foods may also be a problem. There is much discussion about wheat and other grains that may be mucus forming. You can keep a daily log to try and find foods that promote your asthma. The best method and also the most difficult way to categorize offensive foods is to undergo an elimination diet. This diet is primarily comprised of sweet potatoes and rice as the basic starches with the addition of non-citrus fruits and yellow and green vegetables. All foods are thoroughly cooked. The only beverages are water.

If breathing is a problem for you then consider the inexpensive starch-based diet that also promotes health overall it is free of side effects.

This piece was adapted from an article by Dr. John McDougall M.D. You can read the original article which includes a list of scientific studies supporting the conclusions made in this article by visiting his website at www dot drmcdougall dot com.


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