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Asthma affects up to 10% of the world’s population and is on the increase in the industrialized world due to increasing levels of pollution in air, water and food. It is more common in children under 10 years of age and in people who live in urban environments.[1] Generally speaking, the younger a person is the more likely asthma will be caused by food; the older a person is the more likely the trigger is inhaled allergens.


Causes Dietary Factors, Smoking, Allergies, Infections
See Also Respiratory Conditions, Food Reactions, Herbicides and Pesticides, Hypochlorhydria, Environmental Allergies
Books Books on Respiratory Conditions
Articles Articles on Respiratory Conditions

Naturopathic Assessment

Article Nutritional Supplement Therapy Improves Oxidative Stress, Immune Response, Pulmonary Function, and Quality of LIfe in Allergic Asthma Patients: An Open-Label Pilot Study , Alt Med; 2012;Vol17(1)
Article Use of a Standarized Extract from Echinacea angustifolia (Polinacea) for the Prevention of Respiratory Tract Infections , Alt Med; 2012;Vol17(1)
Check out this book Asthma and Bronchitis (By Appointment Only)
Article Petasites hybridus (Butterbur root) Extract in the Treatment of Asthma in An Open Trial , Alt Med; 2004;Vol9(1)

Causal Factors

In order to stimulate the innate ability of the body to heal the causes of disease must be identified and addressed. A detailed assessment is required to determine which factors are contributing. Asthma can be triggered by a wide number of factors. Individuals, especially children, with asthma typically have a history of food, environmental or chemical sensitivities early in life. Also, those that tend to suffer from asthma would also be classified as having a reactive or sensitive immune system.


  • Food is one of the most common causes for the onset and ongoing triggering of asthma symptoms. It plays a role with respect to
  • Early weaning of newborns and the introduction of solid food too early are contributing factors.
  • Physical activity and excitement may induce asthma symptoms especially when there is a Vitamin D deficiency


  • Emotional State
  • Anxiety, stress or being emotional upset can trigger or worsen existing symptoms


Article Do Environmental Toxicants Contribute to Allergy and Asthma? , Alt Med; 2012;Vol17(1)
Article The Effect of Inhalant Allergies and Chemical Sensitivities on Asthma, Vital Link; 2007 Fall
  • Environmental allergens..[5]
  • Close windows overnight to prevent pollens from drifting into the house.
  • Use air conditioning to cool, dry and clean the air in the home.
  • Minimize early morning outdoor activity when pollen levels are highest (0400-1100h).
  • Close vehicle windows when travelling.
  • avoid outdoor activities on windy, dry days when pollen and dust are blowing around.
  • Dry laundry indoors to prevent pollens from adhering to linens and clothing.
  • Air pollution, water contaminants, and soil contaminants are also common causes for the onset and ongoing triggering of asthma symptoms.
  • Air contaminants..[5]
  • Limit or reduce intensity of outdoor activities on days with high ozone levels or other air pollutants, if necessary.
  • Prohibit buses, cars and other vehicles from idling on or adjacent to school property.
  • Avoid grass cutting during school hours (reduce exhaust emissions and fumes).
  • Advocate for Air Quality Monitoring and Improvement programs.
  • Encourage anti-idling practices for all vehicles and non-road engines on the school property.
  • Carefully consider grill and barbeque use and location when planning events.
  • Encourage children to play away from traffic and parking lots.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds.[5]
  • Substitute safer products as often as possible.
  • Store and use potentially toxic school supplies as directed on labels.
  • Remove opened containers of paint and other products to a storage area away from students and staff.
  • Comply with WHMIS legislation.
  • Utilize integrated pest management techniques to reduce the need for pesticides.
  • Use the least toxic compounds (labelled low VOC or zero VOC).
  • Asthma symptoms can be triggered by infections.
  • Wash hands frequently, and before touching nose and mouth.
  • Use alcohol-based, waterless cleansers for cleaning your hands when they are not visibly soiled and/or soap and water are not available. (Recommendation: Centre for Disease Control).
  • Avoid social gatherings/visits when people are known to be sick.
  • Do not share food, drink glasses or eating utensils.
  • Cold or dry air
  • Warm and humidify cold air before breathing in through the nose. (Use a scarf or hand over the nose and mouth to create a pocket of warm, humid air).
  • Limit or adjust intensity of outdoor activity during extreme weather conditions (cold, humid, hot stormy or windy days).
  • Use air conditioners, dehumidifiers, fans and other appliances to maintain comfortable indoor environments.
  • Move scheduled activities indoors or substitute with another to maintain exercise routines when necessary.
  • Schedule daily activities to take advantage of best weather conditions.
  • Other Environmental Factors


  • smoking is a common cause an aggravating trigger for asthma.
  • Household Products
  • Chemicals in household or gardening supplies can trigger asthma.
  • Household Factors.[5]
  • Note: Dust and dust mites cannot be totally eliminated, however, the number of mites can be reduced by following prevention strategies. Focus initial reduction strategies in the bedroom.
  • Minimize objects that accumulate dust.
  • Delegate weekly vacuuming, if possible, or wear a mask.
  • Wait 20 minutes for dust to resettle before using the room, after vacuuming.
  • Dust surfaces frequently with a damp cloth.
  • Maintain relative humidity level<50%. (A hygrometer is a useful, inexpensive method for measuring and monitoring indoor humidity levels).
  • Use a vacuum with HEPA filter.
  • Encase mattresses and pillows in dust-mite resistant covers.
  • Pets and Other Animals / Insects.[5]
  • Animals
  • Allergens are found in secretions from saliva, feces, urine ans skin of cats (most common), dogs, rabbits, horses, other furry animals and birds. They are commonly found in upholstery, carpets and clothing.
  • In most outdoor school settings this will be less of a problem, but should be considered in special circumstances (field trips, veterinary colleges, etc.). Take appropriate measures to avoid or limit exposure as much as possible.
  • Remove animal from environment.
  • Isolate pet from bedroom and main living areas of the home.
  • Limit exposure to pet or pest.
  • Wash hands with soap and water after handling the animal.
  • Seek expert service and advice to remove any animals and clean up any areas infested by unwanted rodents.
  • Insects
  • Remove garbage from kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Clean up all food crumbs or spilled liquids immediately.
  • Wash dishes, cooking equipment and counters promptly after use.
  • Keep counters, sinks, tables and floors clean and clear of debris.
  • Seal cracks and openings around or inside cabinets.
  • Store garbage in covered containers.
  • Employ professional eradication services.
  • Occupations with increased risk
  • The occupations that are associated with increased risk of asthma or that are linked to a worsening of underlying asthma include:[5]
  • Aircraft manufacturing industry due to the presence of cobalt, vanadium, chromium, platinum, nickel, metal-working fluids and amines such as triethanolamine (TEA), diethanolamine (DEA), triethylene tetramine (TETA)

Medical interventions

  • Vaccinations
  • The pertussis vaccine can trigger asthma.[6]
  • Prescription Medications
  • Aspirin can induce asthma in children.[7] can trigger asthma


  • Asthma and breathing pattern disorders share some of the same signs and symptoms and as many as 30% of those labeled asthmatic, suffer from hyperventilation. Those who suffer from inflammation and narrowing of the airways typical in asthma can benefit from training the muscles of respiration. Asthmatics typically have thicker smooth muscles in their airways and they tend to breathe 2 to 3 times more than usual at rest. This type of work has been shown to strengthen healthy breathing patterns, reduce shortness of breath upon exertion, and often reduce or eliminate the need for medications.[8]

Diagnostic Testing

Related Symptoms and Conditions

It is common for individuals that suffer from asthma to also have the following symptoms or conditions.

  • Digestive disturbances including:
  • Vitamin D deficiency.[10],
  • Relative deficiencies of cortisol and epinephrine
  • Low DHEA


Asthma is characterized as:[11]

  • Type 1 hypersensitivity immune reaction which causes inflammation of the upper respiratory airways.
  • constriction of the bronchioles, bronchospasms and the production of viscous sputum that can lead to ventilatory insufficiency.
  • blockage of beta-2 adrenergic receptors of pulmonary smooth muscles cells
  • cyclic nucleotide imbalance in airway smooth muscle
  • release of inflammatory mediators from mast cells

Common Symptoms

The symptoms of asthma may be intermittent (less than two attacks a week) or persistent (greater than two attacks a week or severe enough to disturb activities of daily living) and can be mild, moderate or severe. If mild symptoms are not addressed, they can potentially escalate into serious and sometimes life-threatening asthma episodes. Most common symptoms include:[11]

  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling of tiredness in the chest, especially at night or in the early morning
  • Coughing or spitting up of viscous mucous which can cause tightness of neck muscles and difficulty speaking
  • Prolonged expiration phase with generalized wheezing and musical rales
  • Unusual restless, irritability or fatigue in conjunction with the above symptoms.

If asthma symptoms are untreated they can cause:

  • Sleep problems or restlessness
  • Impair physical activity and affect learning

Serious Symptoms Asthma attacks can be life-threatening. The following are severe asthma symptoms:

  • Breathlessness resulting in difficulty speaking.
  • Tightening of the muscles in the neck.
  • Grayish or bluish colour in the lips and fingernail beds.

It is important to seek medical care immediately if any of these symptoms are present.

Naturopathic Treatment

Article Oral Magnesium Again Reported to Help Asthma Sufferers in a Randomized Trial, 2010 September Natural Medicine [1]

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. Asthma is generally considered a chronic disease with acute exaberations. Prevention is the primary goal for the management of asthma, hence it is important to determine what triggers any episodes. Naturopathic treatments focus on decreasing symptoms during an episode and on decreasing the severity and frequency of asthma attacks.

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.


Lifestyle recommendations include:

  • The foods most commonly associated with asthma include: dairy, wheat, citrus, chocolate and bananas.
  • Diets that have been shown to be helpful include:
  • Ensure you drink adequate water.
  • Chiropractic manipulation, particularly upper thoracic manipulation and consequent changes in posture has been found to relax the diaphragm, thereby affecting breathing, which can help to ease asthma symptoms.[15]
  • Breathing exercises such as the Buteyko method has been found to help reduce medication useage and/or relieve or prevent hyperventilation-induced asthma.[16]

Naturopathic Therapies

Naturopathic Therapies for asthma include:

  • Homeopathics are commonly associated with the treatment of asthma.
  • Asthma is often considered a Lung Qi deficiency pattern.
  • Acupuncture can be helpful in the treatment of both acute and chronic asthma.


Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND [2]

  1. Pizzorno Joseph E, Murray Michael T, Joiner-Bey Herb (2002) The Clinician's Handbook of Natural Medicine. Churchill Livingstone
  2. Rancé F, Dutau G (Aug 2002) Asthma and food allergy: report of 163 pediatric cases Arch Pediatr;;9 Suppl 3:402s-407s. PMID: 12205816.
  3. Tan Y, Collins-Williams C (1982) Aspirin-induced asthma in children Ann Allergy;48:1-5
  4. Añíbarro B, Caballero T, García-Ara C, Díaz-Pena JM, Ojeda JA (Jul 1992) Asthma with sulfite intolerance in children: a blocking study with cyanocobalamin. J Allergy Clin Immunol;90(1):103-9. PMID: 1629495.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 The Lung Association Ontario. 2009 All About Asthma Triggers, A Practical Guide for Health Care Providers To order copies of this book:
  6. Odent MR, Culpin EE, Kimmel T (1994) Pertussis vaccination and asthma. Is there a link?’’ JAMA 272:592-593
  7. Tan Y, Collins-Williams C (1982) Aspirin-induced asthma in children’’ Ann Allergy 48:1-5
  9. van Huisstede A, Braunstahl GJ. Obesity and asthma: co-morbidity or causal relationship? Monaldi Arch Chest Dis. 2010 Sep;73(3):116-23. Review. PubMed PMID:21214041.
  10. Zosky GR, Berry LJ, Elliot JG, James AL, Gorman S, Hart PH (Feb 2011) Vitamin D Deficiency Causes Deficits in Lung Function and Alters Lung Structure. Am JRespir Crit Care Med; PMID: 21297070.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Pizzorno Joseph E, Murray Michael T (2000) A Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edition, Churchill Livingston
  12. Rossi A, Serraino I, Dugo P, et al. (Aug 2003) Protective effects of anthocyanins from blackberry in a rat model of acute lung inflammation. Free Radic Res;37(8):891-900. PMID: 14567449
  13. Lindahl O, Lindwall L, Spångberg A, Stenram A, Ockerman PA (1985) Vegan regimen with reduced medication in the treatment of bronchial asthma. J Asthma;22(1):45-55. PMID: 4019393.
  14. Barros R, Moreira A, Fonseca J, et al. (Jul 2008) Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and fresh fruit intake are associated with improved asthma control. Allergy;63(7):917-23. PMID: 18588559.
  15. Chaitow, L (2008) Naturopathic Physical Medicine: Theory and Practice for Manual Therapists and Naturopaths Churchill Livingstone
  16. Chaitow, L, Bradley, D, and Gilbert, C (2002) Multidisciplinary Approaches To Breathing Pattern Disorders Churchill Livingstone
  17. Lu Henry (1986) Chinese System of Food Cures, prevention and remedies Sterling Publishing Co. New York.
  18. Bichara MD, Goldman RD (Sept 2009) Magnesium for treatment of asthma in children. CanFam Physician;55(9):887-9. PMID: 19752254.
  19. Boon Heather, Smith Michael. 2009 ‘’55 Most Common Medicinal Herbs, Second Edition, Institute of Naturopathic Education and Research, Toronto.
  20. Gupta I, Gupta V, Parihar A, Gupta S, Lüdtke R, Safayhi H, HAmmon HP (Nov 1998) Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with bronchial asthma: results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, 6-week clinical study. Eur J Med Res;3(11):511-4. PMID: 9810030.
  21. Dorsch W, Ettl M, Hein G, Scheftner P, Weber J, Bayer T, Wagner H. (1987) Antiasthmatic effects of onions. Inhibition of platelet-activating factor-induced bronchial obstruction by onion oils. Int Arch Allergy Appl Immunol;82(3-4):535-6. PMID: 3570522.
  22. Heo JC, Nam SH, Nam DY, Kim JG, Lee KG, Yeo JH, Yoon CS, Park CH, Lee SH. (Sep 2010) Anti-asthmatic activities in mycelial extract and culture filtrate of Cordyceps sphecocephala J201. Int J Mol Med;26(3):351-6. PMID: 20664950.
  23. Gore KV, Rao AK, Guruswamy MN (Jan 1980) Physiological studies with Tylophora asthmatica in bronchial asthma. Indian J Med Res;71:144-8. PMID: 7380487.