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What is Causing the Asthma Epidemic?

In the United States, asthma cases have increased bymore than 60 percent since the early 1980s, and asthma-related deaths have doubled to 5,000 a year. Whatis causing the asthma epidemic and what can we doto stem the tide?People in their 30s and older can remember that whenthey were young, it was very unusual for even onechild in school to have asthma. Schoolchildren nowoften know several kids with asthma in a single class.The rapid increase in the number of young people withasthma was brought home to Dr. Scott Bautch, memberof the American Chiropractic Association’s (ACA)Council on Occupational Health, when he went to afootball game with his 13-year-old son: “Someone onthe field had a breathing problem. It was hard to seewhose son it was, and 15 parents ran to the field withinhalers.”

What Causes Asthma?

So far, researchers don’t know why cases of asthmaare increasing at such an alarming rate. They hypothesizethat a combination of genetics and some nonhereditaryfactors— such as increased environmentalexposure to potential allergens — plays a role. “Thirtyyears ago, Windex was the only cleaning solvent usedby a few people. Now, we have a special cleaning solventfor every object,” says Dr. Bautch. “In addition,furniture and carpets are produced with formaldehydeas a preservative, and people breathe it,” he says.Decreased air quality is coupled with the allergy-friendlymodern house design, says Dr. William E. Walsh,MD, FACC, an allergist practicing in Minnesota: “Fiftyyears ago we lived in old, drafty houses, and thebreeze dried and freshened the air, and cleared outmold and other allergens. Nowadays, oursuper-insulated houses don’t breathe adequately.Making basements into a living space increases moldexposure because mold grows in any basement.”Food has become another source of exposure to allergens.“Food manufacturers put more preservatives infoods now to store them longer,” says Dr. Bautch.Researchers hypothesize that an increase in vaccinations,cesarean births, and antibiotic intake may beplaying a role, too.

How Can Asthma Be Treated?

Asthma is a chronic disease; it can’t be cured —onlycontrolled. For best treatment results, both the primarycare physician and an asthma specialist, such as anallergist or pulmonologist, should be involved.According to experts interviewed for the article, thetreatment program, in addition to medication intake,should include reducing exposure to the substancesthat induce acute episodes and identifying specificallergens that affect the patient.

Non-Allergen Causes of Asthma

Allergens aren’t the only culprit of asthma attacks.Stress factors — such as moving to a new home, orchanging jobs — may induce or aggravate asthmaattacks. Even emotional expressions such as fear,anger, frustration, hard crying, or laughing can causean attack as well. To reduce the patient’s stress leveland improve the patient’s quality of life, alternativetreatments should be incorporated into the treatmentprogram. Various relaxation techniques, such asbiofeedback, meditation, yoga, and stress management,as well as massage, chiropractic manipulation,breathing exercises, and acupuncture can be helpful.

Chiropractic Care

Can Help“Doctors of chiropractic can give a full-scale evaluationto asthma patients; assess their physical and neurologicalstatus, their lifestyle, diet, and stressors; andhelp the patients increase motor coordination, andimprove the work of respiratory and gut muscles toincrease the quality of life,” says Dr. Gail Henry, a chiropracticneurologist, who practices in Houston, Texas.“Doctors of chiropractic can be a great addition to thehealthcare team treating the asthma patient.”Talk to your doctor of chiropractic about other ways toimprove your quality of life. Doctors of chiropractic aretrained and licensed to examine and treat the entirebody with emphasis on the nervous and musculoskeletalsystems. They also help people lead healthier livesby focusing on wellness and prevention.

Tips to Alleviate Asthma Symptoms

• Use air filters to help clean air in yourhome.

• Cover mattresses and pillows with dustcovers and use hypoallergenic bed clothingto reduce exposure to dust mites.

• Get checked for viral respiratory infectionsand different medical conditions, such asflu, rhinitis, sinusitis, and gastroesophagealreflux. Endocrine factors, such as menstruation,pregnancy, and thyroid disease,may exacerbate asthma, as well.

• Some medications—aspirin; beta-blockers,including eye drops; nonsteroidal antiinflammatorydrugs, etc.—can also precipitateor aggravate asthma symptoms.

• If your asthma is exercise-induced, anindividually prescribed exercise programcarefully chosen under the guidance ofyour primary health care provider or doctorof chiropractic should be incorporated intothe treatment plan.

• Avoid sulfites or monosodium glutamate(MSG) in foods. Since both additives areused in a wide variety of foods, carefullyread processed food labels and chooseMSG-free foods when eating out.

• Choose a more vegetarian-type diet.Animal proteins found in meat includearachidonic acid—a precursor for inflammation.

• Include foods with omega-3 fatty acids inthe diet—such as fish or fish oil.

• Supplement with vitamin C, which helpsreduce allergic reactions and wheezing.

• To reduce stress in your children, spendquality time with them and limit their exposure to TV programs that include violence.