Asthma – Identifying And Taming Triggers

Even before asthma is diagnosed, many people who have asthma can recognize triggers that set off their breathing problems. Certain triggers are obvious — being around animals, exercising, or coming down with a cold or virus. It makes sense that things that stimulate inflammation, such as allergies, can make asthma symptoms worse.

Identifying Your Triggers

Finding some triggers may take a bit of detective work. If you don’t know what triggers your asthma, think about your past few asthma attacks:

  • What were you doing at the time of a flare-up? Did you just finish vacuuming or raking leaves? Were you over at a friend’s house?
  • Are your breathing problems worse indoors or outdoors? During the day or at night? At home or at work? In damp, moldy rooms, such as basements?
  • Did you move into a new home or start a new job?
  • Have you recently started taking a new drug?
  • Have you noticed your asthma is worse after eating any particular foods?
  • Do you have heartburn, allergies, or sinus problems?
  • Is your asthma a year-round problem? If not, what part of the year is best? What part is the worst?

Based on your answer to these questions, your doctor may be able to help you identify your most problematic asthma triggers. If these questions don’t clarify what might be triggering your asthma and you are having trouble tracking down your triggers, try recording in a notebook or diary how your breathing feels throughout the day. Note where you go and what you do. You and your health-care provider may be able to see some patterns that point to your triggers.

Once you’ve identified the things that might be triggering your asthma, it’s time to launch a three-pronged defense:

  • Remove your triggers.
  • Avoid coming in contact with them.
  • Pretreat yourself if you think you’ll be exposed to a trigger.

Removing Your Triggers

Triggers can be anything from house dust (and the proteins that are shed by the tiny dust mites that live in it) to a variety of foods or drugs. Here are a few ways to remove some common asthma triggers from your home:

  • Clean out areas in the home where mold and dust can collect. (Ideally, have someone without asthma or allergies do this.) Vacuum rugs and carpets at least once or twice a week. Dust and clean other things that collect dust, such as Venetian blinds, draperies, or cloth-covered furniture.
  • Use special covers for your mattress and pillows that can protect you from exposure to dust mites. Change sheets and pillowcases at least once a week and wash them in water hotter than 130Ί F.
  • Keep pets outside. Better yet, don’t have pets that trigger your asthma.
  • Keep stuffed animals out of the bedroom or wash them weekly in hot water to kill dust mites.
  • If you smoke, stop.
  • Start a campaign to eliminate cockroaches at home. Never leave food out. Buy traps or poison baits if you have a serious problem.
  • Clean moldy areas with solutions containing bleach.

Before taking expensive steps that are advertised to help asthma, talk with your health care professional about what might help you. Dehumidifiers or central air conditioning may help make the air less hospitable to mold. Vacuum cleaners are available with special filters that trap dust particles. These filters, also found in air purifiers, are called high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. These investments are not necessary for every person who has asthma, but they may be recommended if your asthma can’t be controlled easily.

Avoiding Exposure To Your Triggers

Some triggers can’t be removed, such as materials that are built into your home itself or a partner who smokes. If your asthma has a trigger that you can’t eliminate, you need to try to avoid the trigger instead. Here are a few tips on taking evasive action:

Avoid cigarette smoke. This may be as simple as moving from one room to another or as difficult as helping a family member to quit. If someone in your home smokes, ask him or her to smoke outside or to smoke only in a particular room that you don’t need to go into.

Keep an eye on pollen counts and air pollution readings. If pollen or air pollution aggravates your asthma, stay inside — if you can — on days when these are bad. Also, keep the windows and doors closed during allergy season.

If you must go outside, don’t plan strenuous activities. Because pollen counts are usually highest in the morning and drop throughout the day, plan your outdoor activities for later in the day.

Reassign home tasks. If you have a seasonal allergy or an allergy to mold, let someone else mow the lawn or rake the leaves. If house dust stirs up your asthma, hand off the dusting and vacuuming jobs.

Change how you do certain activities. If exercise aggravates your asthma, try swimming instead of riding an exercise bike or running on a treadmill. The humid air around a pool is less likely to trigger airway tightening during exercise. Stretches that warm you up before exercise and help you cool down afterward may also help you avoid triggering asthma during exercise.

Avoid cold air. Keeping the air you breathe as warm and humid as possible by covering your nose and mouth with a scarf on cold or windy days can help prevent cold-induced asthma symptoms.

Get allergy shots. If year-round allergies to things such as mold or house dust trigger your asthma, allergy shots may help. Although you can take steps to reduce the levels of mold and dust inside your home, sometimes allergy shots are the only way to really get control of your symptoms.

Get a flu shot. Viral infections such as the common cold or influenza (the flu) often trigger asthma attacks. A flu shot can help you avoid this very unpleasant trigger. Find a way to remind yourself when it’s time to have your flu shot each year. For example:

  • Mark a date on your calendar for your flu shot.

  • Link the flu shot with an important date or ritual in late fall. (Most offices and hospitals start vaccinating in October or November and carry through until early March.)
  • Make your flu shot part of your pre-holiday planning in November.

If these simple measures don’t improve your asthma, a referral to an allergy specialist can help. A specialist can test you for allergies using blood samples and skin-prick testing. If these tests find specific allergies, allergy shots can help calm the immune system’s overboard response to these triggers and so may dramatically improve your asthma.

Pretreatment: Stopping Asthma Before It Starts

You don’t live in a bubble, so you can’t always avoid the things that trigger your asthma. Maybe you’re visiting friends who have cats or planning to ski for a few hours. If you can’t really avoid a known trigger, using one of your asthma drugs about 30 to 60 minutes beforehand can help prevent an attack. Your doctor will tell you which drug to take (usually albuterol or cromolyn) before exposing yourself to the trigger or exercising (if you have exercise-induced asthma). If the trigger is something you’re allergic to, such as pollen or cat hair, taking an antihistamine before coming in contact with the trigger also will help. Although pretreatment often can help you avoid breathing problems, make sure you know what to do next if you start having symptoms during your exposure, you also may take some acupuncture therapy, acupuncture is proven to help Asthma and allergies, reducing your symptoms and help when you have to go to trigger situations, visit AB Acupuncture to know more.

Alleviating Arthritic Pain with Herbs, Part I

Few headlines strip a magazine off store shelves faster than “New Arthritis Cure Found”. The phrase “Arthritis Cure Formula” on bottles containing herbal supplements provides similar selling power to the manufacturers of such products. Why is this so? What is it about arthritis that has so many who suffer from it grasping for whatever relief might be out there?

The reason, quite simply, is that arthritis hurts. And people, in general, don’t like pain. And arthritis pain is always present, affecting every aspect of its sufferers’ lives. And-contrary to some advertising claims-there is no cure, which leaves people always scrambling to find something new to help them feel better.

There. I’ve said it. The unfortunate truth. Arthritis, regardless of the type, is an incurable condition for which existing treatments are designed purely to alleviate the pain.

There are many types of arthritis which basically fall under one of three categories, 1) mechanical arthritis, in which there is a structural degeneration of one or more of the joint components such as bone or cartilage, 2) inflammatory arthritis, in which the body’s immune system attacks something in the joint tissues it doesn’t like and 3) arthritis as a result of both structural damage and inflammatory processes. I think it’s safe to say that many with arthritis, no matter what the type, suffer from pain caused by a combination of structural damage and inflammation. Sometimes the structural damage comes first and sometimes the other way around but eventually, you end up with both processes acting to cause arthritic pain.

The vast majority of medications for the treatment of arthritis deal with the inflammatory component. When the inflammation is reduced, the pain associated with it is lessened. The same is true with herbal remedies. In this and in the article which follows, we will learn about the commonly used herbal therapies for arthritis, explore how they work, and sift through the available research on their use.

First, I’d like to talk a bit about glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. They are both popularly used these days by many arthritis sufferers. Many people I know swear by their effectiveness and use them faithfully for arthritis relief. There is research that indicates they are effective. They are not herbs, though, but rather are glycosaminoglycans, chemical substances that are the precursors to healthy joint cartilage. Because they have no particular anti-inflammatory properties, there is no reason not to also use an herb or conventional medication along with them in order to help alleviate the inflammatory component of arthritic pain.

Speaking of herbs…

White willow bark was used for pain and fever relief for centuries by the Europeans and later by American colonists. It is literally extracted from the bark of a white willow tree and is also known as “natural aspirin”. There is a good reason for that nickname. Chemically, it is nearly identical to aspirin.

White willow bark contains salicin, a precursor chemical that, once ingested and absorbed, is transformed by the body into salicylic acid which has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. (Aspirin, by the way, is acetyl-salicylic acid. Not much of a difference, chemically speaking.) Because one ingests a precursor to the active ingredient and not the active ingredient itself, the onset of action for pain relief is slower than with, say, taking aspirin. The side effects can be expected to be similar to those with aspirin. Needless to say, it’s probably not a good idea to take white willow bark and aspirin together unless you want a very big stomachache.

The recommended dose of white willow bark is 1-3 grams of dried bark taken three times a day. The bark is steeped into a tea before consumption. This translates into a daily dose of salicin of between 60 and 120 milligrams (an average aspirin is 325 milligrams). Somehow this doesn’t seem to be enough medication to make any difference. In fact, one source I found revealed that one would have to drink a quart of tea made from superior grade white willow bark (containing 7% salicin) to consume the equivalent of two aspirins. Of course, herbalists can justifiably argue that there may be other constituents in white willow bark that work along with the salicin to impart anti-inflammatory pain relief to its users. I suspect this is the case. In any event, it might be worth looking into if you are interested in herbal relief for arthritis. As always, read labels carefully before purchasing any product.

If you’ve been enjoying the benefits of herbal tea and would like to expand your experience with eastern medicine, consider booking an acupuncture appointment with AB Acupuncture.

Acupuncture and Fertility

Outlined below is some of the evidence gleaned from recent studies in the area of fertility and acupuncture.

Acupuncture has become widely recognized as an effective treatment for fertility issues such as unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant, polycystic ovary syndrome, male infertility, etc. Acupuncture can be used on its own or in conjunction with orthodox reproductive medicine (assisted reproduction – see IVF below). In one study acupuncture was shown to be as effective as fertility drugs at assisting pregnancy; [The numbers in square brackets refer to references below]. In other clinical trials comparing acupuncture to drug or hormonal treatments, acupuncture was shown to enhance pregnancy rates (when compared to controls) for example to 69% (vs. 40%), and 65% (vs. 45%), and ovulation rates by 87% (vs. 70%)and 60% (vs. 25%). One study demonstrated 95% pregnancy rates after 5 cycles using acupuncture.

Studies have also shown that there are fewer side effects and abortions with acupuncture, hormone levels, and follicular development is better [8-10] and endometrial thickness is improved.

Acupuncture has been shown to increase uterine and ovarian blood flow and to positively affect hormonal disturbances such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and anovulation.

The above studies suggest that acupuncture is a useful therapy for those wishing to get pregnant.

The Basis of Acupuncture

Acupuncture theory is based on the idea that our bodies can become imbalanced as a result of our physiology, environment, or emotions. These imbalances eventually lead to diseases such as infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, or other anovulatory conditions, not to mention conditions such as premenstrual syndrome and painful periods. By arriving at a diagnosis the acupuncturist can set about repairing the underlying imbalances that are causing the problem and therefore restore the individual back to health.

Treatment:

I usually recommend an initial series of between 4 and 6 weekly treatments in order to begin the process of rebalancing the body. After this, it would be typical to have two treatments per monthly cycle, one at approximately 10 days and one at 21 days until pregnancy is achieved.

Assisted IVF

The use of acupuncture with IVF has become routine in most units today, underlining the popularity of this approach. Recent studies have shown that using acupuncture in conjunction with IVF increases pregnancy rates to 41% compared to the more typical 26% without acupuncture. Acupuncture has been shown to increase blood flow to the womb, relax the muscles of the womb to prevent cramping (and consequent expulsion of the embryo), and also reduce the general anxiety associated with the IVF procedure.

And After you become pregnant!

Acupuncture is a safe, effective, and drug-free way of treating illness during pregnancy. For example, it can help with pregnancy-induced morning sickness and back and pelvic pain during pregnancy. Acupuncture can also turn breech babies with an 80% success rate thus avoiding the need for a cesarean section. If you’d like to try the treatment for yourself, visit AB Acupuncture here.