We all shop in-store sometimes, so has this ever happened to you? Walked into a shop and the sales associate looked uninterested. She was preoccupied with her phone and let the other sales clerk wait on me. Something wasn’t quite right. Upon further questioning, I discovered she had been hospitalized four times in the last year with asthma, she’s allergic to cats and many other things including whatever’s outdoors. After talking to her, I learned she takes just meds for asthma and that’s it. She wasn’t aware of anything else she could be doing to help reduce her asthma events.
Is this what her life should be like? One asthma episode after another? Or guessing what’s causing her allergies? I felt sorry for her and wondered if there was something she could do to help herself. There’s got to be a way to improve her chances of reducing allergies and asthma.
There is, but let’s take a quick gander at allergy triggers and why folks are allergic or asthmatic in the first place.
Indoor allergy triggers
If you’re allergic, do you know what your triggers are? According to the book, The NEW Allergy Solution,1 Common allergic triggers and irritants are:
1.) dust mites
2.) mold spores
3.) cat dander
4.) dog dander
5.) feather or down
8.) outdoor pollen brought indoors
9.) strong scents- potpourri, cleaning products, room fragrances, scented candles, etc.
All the above irritants can cause allergic reactions and trigger asthma symptoms. When my daughter was young she was triggered by cats, dogs, feather or down, apples, and strong scents. As she aged, strong scents and cat and dog dander are now her biggest complaints.
Why are people allergic?
There are two schools of thought:
Genetics plays is a big determining factor. If your parents had allergies, chances are pretty darned good, you’ll have allergies, too.
Second, the environment may play a significant role.1
For instance, If you live with a relative who smokes and has cats and you come in wheezing, it could be environmental triggers and not your genetic makeup. 1
What about asthma?
As far as asthma, if you have asthmatic relatives and a strong disposition to allergies, there is a chance you could be asthmatic too. For my daughter, both sides of her family had hay fever. I wheezed as a child. She has allergic asthma.
What is allergic asthma?
In allergic asthma, when your immune system responds to various allergens, a host of symptoms, such as swelling and inflammation around the airways, flooding of mucus, and a triggering of classic asthma symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, may ensue.1
Can you reduce your sensitivity to allergies and allergic asthma?
Your body is inflamed when you have asthma and allergic asthma, so anything you can do to reduce inflammation is a good thing. Here are several helpful ideas, backed by research, to help you see how to lessen your responses.
Ponder your food choices
In a paper titled, The Role of Nutrition in Asthma Prevention and Treatment, the authors discovered nutritional studies that controlled asthma well. Basic ideas included eating more fruits and vegetables, some reduction in meat and dairy consumption, plus weight management could play a role in reducing asthma.2
It was found high consumption of raw fruits, particularly apples and oranges, was helpful. Also, a Japanese study found five servings of raw vegetables a week kept the patient’s asthma well controlled.
If these simple ideas were helpful, what other food-related information is available that wasn’t mentioned?
1.) Choose your fats, wisely
I am reading a book called Grain Brain. It’s about gluten but it also touches on saturated fats and “good” fats versus “bad’ fats.
Simply put bad fats are those with Omega 6 fats and good fats have Omega 3. Our bodies need Omega 3 and not Omega 6. For example, extra virgin olive oil contains Omega-3 fats.
But why mention fats at all? Well, did you know: ”Few people understand that saturated fat plays a pivotal role in a lot of biochemical equations that keep us healthy….They contribute to the protection of our lungs, …and immune system. In your lungs, one particular fat, 16-palmitic acid, creates lung surfactant, reducing surface tension so that your alveoli- the tiny air sacs that capture oxygen from your inhalations and allow it to be absorbed into your bloodstream-are able to expand.”3 Wow, pretty important if you have asthma don’t you think?
Fat intake is confusing for sure since there seems to be opposing views and research. Grain Brain, sets the record straight on what fats your body needs, like saturated fat. It’s an excellent read.
Which oil to choose?
Oils such as canola oil (rapeseed), and vegetable oils such as those made of corn, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, peanut, or soy are not good to consume. They are full of Omega 6 oils, which are found in abundance in all sorts of fast food, restaurant food, and on grocery store shelves. We have an overabundance of Omega-6 oils in our diet and this harms our health.
Choosing extra virgin olive oil is a little tricky
With so many different brands of oil olive on the market, how do you know which is the best one to buy? Well, EvooGuy.com does. The website states, “The US olive oil industry is rife with mis-labeled product many producers call “extra virgin” grade oil.” The site offers suggestions on what brands to buy in the US and which brands are high quality from other countries. He wrote a book titled Extra Virgin Olive Oil that explains his findings.
2.) What about wheat?
Doughnuts, cookies, pie, graham crackers, toast. You name it we love it. It sure tastes good but gluten can be bad for our health. Chronic Inflammation is a key factor in many health problems such as arthritis, allergies and asthma, cancer, celiac disease, and every other chronic disease. Wheat is inflammatory. And, by the way, If you haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease, it doesn’t mean you’re not allergic to wheat.
It takes a concerted effort to swear off wheat. It’s not easy because as Grain Brain explains, “there is euphoric pleasure following the consumption of a bagel, doughnut or croissant, you’re not imagining it-and you’re not alone. …once they gain entry, some of them can then bind to the brain’s morphine receptor to produce a sensorial high.” And, “The idea that gluten can change our biochemistry, right down to our brain’s pleasure and addiction center, is remarkable.”4
Another reason it takes a real sleuth to eliminate wheat from our diets is, that it also happens to be hidden in many products we eat like seasonings or even put on our body like hand cream.
Personally, after reading this book, I’m going to avoid it like the plague. Will it be easy? Thankfully there are enough gluten-free products out there, and alternative desserts you can make, so it’s doable. Reading ingredient labels is a must.
And briefly, the book explains what supplements to take to help your brain and body recover from gluten.
3.) What about sugar?
There are many arguments for giving up sugar but we’re not going to get into all the reasons why here, but consider this, The Case Against Sugar, states “If sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are the cause of obesity, diabetes and insulin resistance, then they’re also the most likely dietary trigger of these other diseases. Put simply, without these sugars in our diets, the cluster of related illnesses (stroke, heart disease, fatty liver disease and cancer) would be far less common than it is today; likewise other disorders that associate with these illnesses, among them polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), rheumatoid arthritis, gout, varicose veins, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease.5
Perhaps if you have asthma, reducing your intake of sugar could be beneficial in reducing your episodes. Asthma is personal, so only you would know.
4.) Could herbs help?
I use herbs in cooking, cut herbs from my herb garden, and spruce up tomato dishes with basil, but that’s about it. Well, hang on to your apron strings because using herbs to increase, change, and improve your health is a thing. A highly interesting thing.
Are you always cold? Hot? Well, herbs could help.
“The idea that we are all individuals, and that herbs, food and even lifestyle choices should be selected to match our particular needs, is found in all three of the major herbal systems of today” according to the book, Transform Everyday Ingredients into Foods & Remedies That Heal. The publication also states understanding how to match herbs to people is an integral part of using herbs successfully.6
The book states:
- herbs strengthen digestion
- herbs are high in antioxidants
- herbs support the nervous system
- herbs are antimicrobial
- herbs support the immune system
“Every person is born with a unique blend of four qualities, and the energy energetics of a person is often referred to as their constitution. A person's constitution exist within a new, moving scale, external influences, such as weather, food, illness medication, sleep, habits, and stress all have an effect on your evolving inner landscape. Think of your constitution is different shades of gray, rather than simply black and white, hot or cold.” We are all so different.
Helps for allergies and asthma
The book goes on to recommend herbs to use if you have seasonal allergies (holy basil, nettle, and astragalus). And for asthma use holy basil, coffee, thyme, and turmeric.
And finally, The author, Rosalee, says … the reality is, herbs, and spices will have the most dramatic and positive influence on your health if you maximize their use in your everyday life.
By the way, some recipes in the book (Spiced Carrot Cake) made without gluten and white sugar look pretty tasty.
5.) Let’s get physical
Besides nutritionally, what about taking care of your body from a physical standpoint? Many of those with allergies and asthma have anxiety (and I might add gluten can add to anxiety and depression). Some of the ways to de-stress are:
- physical exercise
- create a bedroom sanctuary to help you sleep well
Please note we are not recommending forgoing medications you need to control your allergies or asthma.
1 Bassett MD, Clifford, The NEW Allergy Solution
Fast, Long-Lasting Relief New York, Avery, 2017 pp 33, 36, 37, 69
2 Alwarith J, Kahleova H, Crosby L, Brooks A, Brandon L, Levin SM, Barnard ND. The role of nutrition in asthma prevention and treatment. Nutr Rev. 2020 Nov 1;78(11):928-938. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuaa005. PMID: 32167552; PMCID: PMC7550896
3 Perlmutter, MD David, Grain Brain, New York Revised Edition 2018 pp 108
4 Perlmutter, MD David, Grain Brain, New York Revised Edition 2018 ppg 74-75
5 Taubes, Gary, The Case Against Sugar, First Edition 2016 New York pg 18
6 De La Foret, Rosalee, Alchemy of Herbs Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Heal, California, 2017