Asthma is a chronic disease condition which involves the airways in the lungs. These air pathways or bronchial tubes help to pass air in and out of lungs. In the disease asthma, the airways always get inflamed. They become even more swollen and the muscles surrounding the bronchial tubes tighten up when a symptom is triggered. Statistics report that around 5 to 10% population is affected with the disease asthma which includes 23.4 million adults and 1 million children.
Asthma is an inflammatory disease condition in which the airways narrow and swell and there is production of extra mucus. The main symptoms include difficulty in breathing, severe cough and wheezing which leads to shortness of breath. In some cases asthma is does not much trouble but often asthma becomes severe which needs immediate medical care. Asthma cannot be cured, but its symptoms can be managed. The symptoms of asthma change over time, so it’s important to adjust the treatments accordingly.
Types of Asthma
Acute asthma is a sudden attack caused by the inflammation of the air sacs of the lungs, which further leads to narrowing and contraction of the bronchioles (branches of bronchial tubes) causing a restriction of airflow making difficult breathing
Chronic asthma is characterized by frequent asthma attacks which requires immediate medical intervention to prevent the frequent attacks
Exercise-induced asthma is triggered by severe exercise and shows the symptoms like coughing, wheezing, or difficult breathing. It mainly appears in young adults and children. They tend to increase during exposure to cold and dry conditons.
No single reason can be concluded as the causative factor for asthma. Studies pines various reasons together lead to asthma. Few of them are –
• Genetic traits – If the parents suffer from asthmatic condition, children are more likely to develop the condition.
• Constant allergen exposure – Frequent contact with harmful allergens or irritants may increase your risk for developing asthma.
• History of viral infections – Individuals with history of frequent viral infections are more likely to get affected with asthma.
• Hygiene hypothesis – This theory proposes that babies who weren’t exposed to enough allergens, bacteria in their childhood or early stages of life tends to get attacked with this respiratory infection. Therefore, their immune system is not strong enough to fight against asthma and other conditions.
• Other factors are – Exposure to various irritants or allergens like pollen, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander or airborne allergens
• Excess physical activity can end up in exercise-induced asthma
• Continuous exposure to cold air or sudden exposure to smoke can also trigger asthma
• People who are obese or overweight tend to get the asthma trouble more often
• Being a smoker an also lead to asthmatic condition
• Certain occupational reasons such as exposure to chemicals, cosmetics, fertilizers, hair dressing and manufacturing may lead to asthma
• Exposure to occupational triggers, such as chemicals used in farming, hairdressing and manufacturing
• Strong emotions and stress can also trigger asthma
The Asthma signs and symptoms include:
• Severe coughing especially during night, when talking or laughing and during exercise wheezing is observed – a squealing or whistling sound can be heard while the person breathes
• Tightness in the chest muscles
• Shortness of breath
As per the various reasons, the symptom also varies. Not everyone with asthma will have to experience all the symptoms.
The complications of asthma include –
• Disturbed sleep interferes with day to day work and recreational activities.
• Condition can flare up at any point of time
• Permanent narrowing of the bronchial tubes (air pathways) affects how well you can breathe
• Severe asthma attacks which leads to emergency care and hospitalisations.
• Side effect from using asthma medicines for a long time.
• Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can occur where the stomach contents along with the acids back throw into the throat
Asthma is well explained in the ancient Ayurveda. Asthma can be equated to svasa roga in ayurveda. There are 5 svasa rogas – maha svasa, urdhva svasa, chinna svasa, tamaka svasa and ksudra svasa. Among these five types maha svasa, urdhva svasa, chinna svasa are not curable. ‘Tamak-svasa is controllable and is difficult to cure. The last one kshudra svasa is curable.
The text Charaka Samhita, there is detailed explanation about the disease. Acharya Charaka explains the disease originate at the site of Pitta dosha and causes aggravation of Kapha and Vayu. The kledaka kapha accumulates in the lungs and gets adhered to the walls of bronchi. The vitiated kapha and vata together causes narrowing of the bronchial tubes, leading to shortness of breath and ends up to an asthmatic attack.
Asthma treatment in Ayurveda
The best diets preferable for asthma patients include old rice/paddy, red rice, wheat, barley, horse gram, old ghee, goat milk, honey, vegetables like bitter gourd, snake gourd, ivy gourd, spinach, amaranthus etc. Spices like garlic, cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, ginger should be used in diet. It is best to avoid buffalo milk, sheep milk, non-vegetarian foods, tubers, dry-fried items, cold-refrigerated food, heavy foods to digest, excess of curd and unboiled milk.
Ayurveda therapies for asthma
Treatment of Vegavastha (At the time of acute asthma attack) includes abhyanga with lavana taila to the chest followed by swedana. Once the attack subsides vamana can be performed with saindava jala. Repeated steaming should be done from water processed with Tulasi leaves. After removal of excess Kapha, the patient may be subjected to Virechana.
• Eat plenty of dark green, leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and seeds.
• Avoid food with artificial colours, additives or any preservatives.
• Increase intake of Omega-3 fatty acids such as walnuts, beans, flaxseeds, fish oils, etc. as they ease the inflammatory airways
• Include intake of Garlic in the diet which helps to lower asthma attacks as it inhibits activity of certain enzymes that generate inflammatory response in the body.
• Restrict intake of sugars, chocolates, carbonated beverages, fatty foods, caffeine, mint, spicy foods and onions.
• Dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt and even creamy soups should be taken. But it should be strictly avoided if the phlegm affects the airways
• Strictly avoid citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, and lemons