Asthma, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Acupuncture and Diet
- Written by Louise Stevens
Asthma has become in the last few decades a very common disorder in developed nations. The precise reason for this huge increase in atopic conditions like asthma has not yet been adequately explained, but we may suppose that aspects of our modern lifestyle and environment contribute a significant part of the picture. Exposure to environmental airborne pollutants appears to either directly cause inflammation in the bronchi or exacerbate it. Atmospheric pollution has increased and so has the number of chemicals (pesticides and preservatives etc) in our food. While these may not be so directly involved in the aetiology of asthma, it is possible that they play a role in over sensitising or derailing parts of the immune system, thus producing abnormal responses to various external stimuli e.g. dust mite excreta, pollens or foods.
Chinese medicine believes that one of the main causes of asthma is from the retention of deep rooted phlegm in the lung system. It can be from factors that are hereditary, constitutional, environmental, exogenous, dietary or due to a weakened state of health. A marked change in our behaviour and diet has occurred, particularly in children. One of the features of paediatric physiology is the immaturity of the digestive system. This inherent digestive weakness predisposes to incomplete breakdown of food and the accumulation of Phlegm. Fatty and cold foods, unfortunately the mainstay of many a modern child's diet, are especially dangerous in this regard. Phlegm is very clearly a key component of all types of asthma.
All children and adults with asthma need to be on a diet to reduce Phlegm. This means restricting foods that produce congestion of mucous membranes (e.g. peanut butter, diary products), and foods that impair the Spleen's ability to breakdown food (excessive raw or cold foods and sugar). Aspects of lifestyle and behaviour that require attention includes reducing screen time. Not only is the lack of movement not beneficial for the qi of the body but the nature of the sometimes mindless absorption and focus on the screen is seen to deplete qi. At the other end of the spectrum, is the plethora of after school activities and the expectations of parents that their child should fulfil. Such relentless pursuits can exhaust a child's qi and leaves very little room for the valuable dreaming time of childhood.
If treatments are consistent using acupuncture and/or herbal medicine, diet and lifestyle advice firmly adhered to, then positive changes can be made with a definite reduction in attacks and morbidity.
Happy to discuss any queries or questions!