Author: Jonathan Clogstoun Willmott

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Friday, June 23rd, 2006 at 2:52 pm
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Asthma

By Jonathan Clogstoun-Willmott of the Edinburgh Natural Health Centre
Here we look at some of the many possible alternative ways to treat common problems

Over 400,000 people in Scotland and 5.1 millionpeople in the UK suffer from asthma. According to the National Asthma Campaign, this is the equivalent of one in thirteen adults and one in eight children, and the figures are rising. The causes are debated, however, careful management can help those with asthma lead a full and healthy life.
Charlotte Bates, 25, has suffered from asthma since she was a teenager. Fortunately, she now knows the triggers and is able to keep her condition under control. She explains, “I was 14 when I was first diagnosed. I used to do a lot of horse riding and skiing, and I found that I was getting more breathless when I exercised. After using a peak flow meter, my GP broke the news that I had asthma and gave me an inhaler to use. At first it was just a symptom reliever inhaler, but when I was 16 my asthma got worse and I went on to a steroid inhaler and was on that for about five years.
“My first attack was terrifying. I had been riding with my mum and a family friend and I suppose it was half asthma and half panic, because when you can’t breathe you panic and that of course makes it worse. Fortunately my mum was there and she knew what to do.
“The symptoms for me are sneezing, followed by itchy, watery eyes and then wheezing and my chest gets tighter, and I would need to use my inhaler to prevent a more serious attack.
“I went to see a medical herbalist when I was 21, and discovered I have a cat allergy and am intolerant to lactose. I grew up with cats, and noticed when I moved out of home, my asthma did improve.
“I have cut out dairy products, and since then I have been able to come off the steroid inhaler. I only very rarely need to use the other inhaler. The last time I did, was four months ago when I had a bad cold. I also know that when I visit my parents I will need to take antihistamine and my inhaler to keep it under control because of the cats.
“I used to get a lot of chest infections and my GP would just prescribe antibiotics and tell me to use my inhaler, but that just treats the symptoms and not the cause. The medical herbalist looked at my whole lifestyle. At one time I had eight chest infections in five months. But since seeing the medical herbalist four years ago, I have had just one infection.
“It takes about a month for something like lactose to get out of your system, and although it was difficult cutting it out of my diet, the fact that someone had told me I needed to and my parents were really supportive, it made it easier. “I can still eat chocolate or a little amount of dairy product now and again, but if I ate it over a prolonged period of time, my resistance would weaken and my asthma would get worse.
“My quality of life has definitely improved. I will always be wary, and never say that I am free of asthma or stop carrying my inhaler with me, but in comparison to ten years ago I am a different person.”

HERBAL MEDICINE
A medical herbalist takes a holistic view in the treatment of a patient with asthma. He/she will also take a full case history, taking into account the person’s general health- past and present, diet and lifestyle. As part of the herbal approach, a herbalist uses herbs to reduce the allergic responses, expel mucous from the airways, open the airways and ease breathing and tone the immune system. Ephedra sinica (Ma huang) is an example of one such herb. It contains chemicals which reduce bronchospasms and inflammation in the lungs as well as being an excellent anti-allergy herb. This herb is not available over the counter and can only be prescribed by a qualified practitioner.
A herbalist will also help the patient identify and deal with triggers such as reactions to certain foods. For example it is usually recommended that dairy products are avoided as they are mucous-forming and increase congestion in the respiratory system. If a patient is cutting out a food or food group, part of the herbal treatment will be to ensure the diet is well-balanced and not missing any important nutrients as a result of this.
Asthma can be triggered or worsened by respiratory infections. If this is the case a prescription will include herbs to boost the immune system and ideally prevent the pattern of recurring infections. If emotional stress is a trigger some relaxing nerve tonics may be included and stress management techniques discussed.
In common with other holistic therapies, herbal medicine should be thought of as a long-term way of managing and improving this chronic health condition. As asthma can be life-threatening, a herbalist will always work alongside a patient’s existing medication, such as inhalers, and should never be thought of as a substitute.
Julie McGregor
Napiers Herbal Healthcare
35 Hamilton Place, Edinburgh, EH3 5BA
0131 315 2130 julmcg@hotmail.com

OSTEOPATHY
Osteopathy may not be the first approach that many people would consider as a therapy to help asthma but there is good research evidence to show that it can help. Osteopathy cannot cure asthma nor can it directly affect the course of the condition but it can help a person’s ability to breathe. People with asthma tend to breathe with the upper part of their chests and during an attack will tend to over-breathe in the effort to get more air in. This causes the muscles to over-work and they become very tight. An osteopath will try to restore the normal length of the muscles of respiration in the chest and neck and therefore relax them. It is likely that the joints of the neck and upper back are also tight and these can be restored to their normal movement. Once the muscles and joints have been returned to their normal function then breathing becomes easier to do, even during future attacks.
The osteopath will help you achieve a good posture and to avoid hunched and rounded shoulders. The most important thing to help alleviate an asthma attack is to try to relax and most especially to breathe out, slowly. This allows air to be taken in more effectively and helps prevent over-breathing and hyperventilation. It may take a little time to maintain the muscles at their normal length and an osteopath can provide some simple stretches to maintain the improvement. Such treatment can be given to anyone of any age and can be a useful addition to a normal regime of medication.
A D Patterson BSc (Hons) Ost Med, DO, ND
Registered Osteopath & Naturopath
Framework Osteopaths Ltd
West Lothian Osteopathic Practice
Law House, Fairbairn Place, Livingston,
West Lothian, EH54 6TN
01506 20 25 26
email: adpatterson@lineone.net
If you consult an osteopath make sure that they are registered with the General Osteopathic Council.

HOMEOPATHY
Asthma, a paroxysm of the bronchial tubes, is accompanied with breathlessness, coughing and a feeling of constriction and suffocation. These constrictive and suffocative feelings are alarming and can be life threatening. No one condition in your body exists separate from any other and it follows that if you have asthma all bodily processes need to be considered, so your homeopath will need to take a full case history. For example, your homeopath will need to know if your digestive system is working well and if you have had skin problems, such as dry, flaky or itchy skin. Clearly what happens to your skin on the outside has implications for what happens to your skin on the inside – in your throat and lungs.
Prescription of the correct homeopathic remedy by a qualified homeopath can help you to relax so that symptoms are lessened. Simple breathing exercises can improve the column of air on which your breathing depends and so increase your breathing capacity and your confidence. Symptoms treated with the appropriate remedy reduce the feelings of suffocation and constriction. Homeopathic treatment may reduce your susceptibility to asthma but it can take time to change the presenting situation. It is not likely to clear overnight if you have had it for years, but treatment can change the direction of your healing processes and help you move forward to better health.
You must NEVER stop using inhalers abruptly. You should NOT be tempted to self-treat by going to the chemist and choosing a homeopathic remedy for yourself if you have asthma.
Helen Campbell, MA BA MNCHM
RSHom,
Homeopathic Practitioner and
Coordinator of Edinburgh University
Settlement Homeopathy Project
Southpark House, 28 Station Road,
Armadale, West Lothian EH48 3LH
01501 730935 and
h.campbell@homeopathy-soh.org

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