asthma

  • Allergies And Fat

    Most people are well aware of the ever-increasing number of adults and children alike who suffer from obesity these days. It would be the understatement of the century to say we have a problem on our hands. It is also well known that there exists a strong link between diabetes and heart disease when it comes to our expanding waistlines, but new research is showing that our risk for suffering from allergies may be greatly increased with the size of our fat cells.

    In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report showing that about 34.9 percent of the U.S. population today is obese, which accounts for a whopping medical treatment cost burden of about $147 billion.1 Since that time, the obesity problem has continued to grow (no pun intended) right along with the costs.

    So what do all of these stats have to do with us clawing at the television every time we see another antihistamine commercial playing? A lot! It turns out that right along with the growing trend in obesity, we have also seen a drastic rise in the prevalence of allergies—especially those related to common foods. According to Food Allergy Research and Education, over 15 million people now suffer with food allergies.2 To put things in perspective, we need to first connect the dots and understand if and how obesity inhibits our allergic response and predisposes us to various allergies.

    The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has explored this concern through a publication based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.3 A sample group of obese subjects between the ages two and nineteen were chosen for the study. The researchers sought to look at the association between obesity and immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels. IgE level indicates the allergic activity that takes place in the human body. Based on the IgE activity, the researchers concluded that obesity could have a direct relationship with allergic diseases in children, particularly when it comes to food.

    Asthma and Obesity
    According to the latest stats from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 44,000 people have asthma attacks, 36,000 children miss school, 27,000 people miss work, and nine people die due to asthma every day. It is also considered a contributing factor for over 7000 deaths each year. The most concerning fact here is there is evidence to suggest obesity plays a major role in asthma by weakening the body’s allergic responses.

    A study published by Harvard School of Public Health indicated that adiponectin—a metabolic hormone produced by the fat cells, which has anti-inflammatory properties—could exert a positive reaction when it comes to allergic induced airway inflammation. Obese people tend to have lower levels of this anti-inflammatory hormone, which places them at a much higher risk for allergic asthmatic reactions.4 It is important to understand that when a person suffers an asthmatic attack, the difficulty in breathing is caused mainly because of excess inflammation in the airways. With the absence of adiponectin to alleviate this, the effect of the asthmatic attack goes somewhat unhindered in those who carry too much body fat on their frames.

    Ineffective Meds
    Even the medications such as inhaled steroids for asthma are less effective in overweight and obese children. A 4-year National Institute of Health (through its Childhood Asthma Management Program) study on overweight and obese children looked at hospitalizations and ER visits due to asthma. The study showed that inhaled steroids were less effective on the overweight and obese kids compared to children who were of normal weight.5 Asthma is the most common chronic condition in children today and is often triggered by allergies, which makes the ineffectiveness of medications due to obesity a concerning fact.6

    The question that we must ask ourselves is, “Does weight reduction help in controlling asthma and allergic responses?” A study by the University of Newcastle says, “Yes.” 7 The study was conducted over a period of 10 week pilot study where the weight of asthmatic children was brought down through dietary intervention. The results concluded that diet-assisted weight loss could drastically affect the clinical outcome of asthmatic obese children. So, ultimately, the impetus is on adaption of a healthy diet and active lifestyle, which ultimately helps our children and us stay lean, and living a leaner life also helps us control the rate of allergic reactions. Talk about a WIN, WIN scenario!

    References:

    1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Overweight and Obesity
    2. Food Allergy Research and Education, Food Allergy Facts and Statistics for the U.S.
    3. Visness CM, et al. Association of obesity with IgE levels and allergy symptoms in children and adolescents: Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005–2006. Feb 23, 2009
    4. Shore SA1, Terry RD, Flynt L, Xu A, Hug C. Adiponectin attenuates allergen-induced airway inflammation and hyperresponsiveness in mice. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2006 Aug;118(2):389–95
    5. National Academy on an Aging Society. Chronic conditions: a challenge for the 21st century. Num 1, Nov 1999
    6. Forno E, Lescher R, Strunk R, Weiss S, Fuhlbrigge A, Celedón JC. Decreased response to inhaled steroids in overweight and obese asthmatic children. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Mar 2011; 127(3): 741–749
    7. Jensen ME1, Gibson PG, Collins CE, Hilton JM, Wood LG. Diet-induced weight loss in obese children with asthma: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the British Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
  • Allergies: An Integrated Approach

    Allergies include a variety of bodily reactions to our external and internal environments. There are cellular, biochemical, and tissue reactions with histamine, lymphocytes, antibodies, and more. These often include reactions to agents such as:

    • Pollens, weeds, dust, molds and animal hair (dander).
    • A multitude of foods, most commonly cow’s milk, wheat (gluten), eggs, yeasts, and a variety of sometimes others like peanuts and almonds, corn, soy, tomatoes, and what might bother you. There are several types of food reactions, and only one or two may be actual allergy.
    • Chemical agents lead to inflammation and immune reactions.
    • Invasive microbes, such as yeasts, parasites, viruses, and bacteria and the reactions they cause, also setting off the immune system to fight them.

    Allergies trigger specific chemical responses in the body such as the release of histamine from our cells, causing the familiar allergic reactions–redness, swelling or discharge, itching, and sometimes pain. Hay fever, asthma, and eczema are classic allergic disorders. Other manifestations of allergies involve the skin (urticarial or “hives”), the nose and sinuses (allergic rhinitis or “hay fever”), the digestive tract, as well as most other systems of the body.

    Another process triggered by allergic reactions in our body causes autoimmune diseases, which involve the immune cells and the production of tissue-specific antibodies. As examples, these inflammatory reactions can affect the joints (rheumatoid arthritis) or the thyroid gland (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis). Allergies can also affect our mental and emotional states, affecting brain chemicals and causing anxiety or depression. Also, the presence of infection or inflammation may trigger the immune system with allergy-like reactions.

    In mainstream medical treatment, allergies are diagnosed from skin prick testing and then treated with desensitization injections and avoidance of the reactive agents. Blood tests can also show increased antibodies to specific agents. Often, this treatment is used along with drug therapy to control the immediate symptoms. The drugs have been primarily antihistamines that block the histamine effect, like Benadryl (sedating), Claritin and Zyrtec (these two less sedating); but nowadays the stronger corticosteroid drugs are employed earlier to suppress the immune/allergic responses in the body. Decongestant drugs may also be used.

    In my experience, this type of approach may be needed for long term or extreme cases. However, in many situations, being allergic is a state of reactivity that is also the body’s response to its constant high level of congestion or imbalance. From a natural medicine point of view, most allergic symptoms are seen as the body’s attempt to cleanse itself and detoxify. In Chinese medicine, it is an imbalance of the elements that most commonly comes from Liver energy stagnation (congestion and stress on the liver), frustration and suppressed anger, and resistance to change.

    I take an integrated approach to allergies (as I do to most illnesses). Clearly, allergies can result from a number of causes. Many people develop allergic reactions in response to stressful times in their life–as they age, when they move to a new area, after experiencing certain illnesses, or following exposure to certain chemicals. In terms of the health of our digestion, there are many factors that may contribute to our allergic state: our overall diet; the overuse of certain foods; the general health of the intestinal tract, or the presence of parasites or the overgrowth of yeast, specifically Candida albicans. The health as microbial balance in the gut, the biome or “microbiome” is a powerful collection of mostly bacteria contributing to over health. (Review The Detox Diet or other books on these topics to understand the gastrointestinal effect on overall health.)

    For example, I have had an allergic potential for most of my life. I say “potential” because I could be very allergic but I am not. While growing up in Michigan, I had hay fever every year and a variety of skin rashes. Here in California, at times I have been allergic to weeds, dried grasses, pollens, and dust in the spring and summer. However, I have also noticed for the past 30 years that when I really pay attention to my lifestyle, I can be pretty much allergy-free. That means eating a clean diet high in fruits and vegetables, doing cleansing fasts, exercising regularly, and keeping my stress low.

    In fact, when I did my first 10-day Master Cleanser/lemonade fast in 1975 and then changed my diet, I was clear of allergies for many years. You can get further information on this cleansing/healing process in my books, Staying Healthy with the Seasons and Staying Healthy with Nutrition. I have also overseen many thousands of people on cleansing fasts and ear “infections,” I guide them and their parents in a nutritional approach. Getting those kids off cow’s milk products is often the first step in reducing allergies and congestion, particularly in the nose, sinuses, and ears. Avoiding refined foods, sugars, and chemical additives, particularly food colorings, may also help. Adding a children’s multivitamin/mineral and extra vitamin C, about 250–500 mg 3–4 times daily may also reduce the allergies.

    For adults, I suggest higher amounts of vitamin C (1000– 1500 mg 3–4 times daily) during an infection or hay fever season along with about 250–300 mg of Quercitin 2–3 times a day as a special bioflavonoid shown to have an antihistamine effect in the body. Another option is to use a vitamin C supplement that contains a mixed bioflavonoid along with a separate quercitin (150 to 250 mg), both taken several times daily. I have often seen this program improve allergic symptoms and reduce the need for medications.

    For people who are concerned about food reactions, some helpful eating guidelines are the following:

    • Eat whole, unprocessed foods
    • Diversify your diet
    • Rotate foods and don’t eat any one food every day
    • Eat only non-allergenic foods at first

    A non-allergenic, or allergy elimination diet could include the following foods:

    • All fruits, except citrus
    • All vegetables, except corn and tomatoes
    • Brown or white rice
    • Turkey (ideally organic, free-range)
    • White fish—e.g. halibut, sole, swordfish (mercury concern)
    • Almonds or walnuts, and sunflower or pumpkin seeds

    Other natural therapies are also helpful. The use of acupuncture and herbs can be effective; homeopathic remedies can also help minimize or clear allergies. I cannot suggest specific remedies, however, because the remedies are based on the specific symptoms of an individual at a given moment in time.

    My book, The False Fat Diet, looks at food reactions and provides you with a simple method for reducing all allergic type reactions. Also, I usually do a guided 10-day juice cleanse group at my office each spring. It’s a very uplifting, rejuvenating, and healing process. It’s a good and worthy experience to initiate, especially if you could get a few friends or family members to do it along with you. Be Well.

  • De-scents-itize Your Home and Office Part II

    In the July issue (page 28) I reported on the dangers of synthetic chemical fragrances, the number of people affected in one way or another, symptoms manifested from fragrance exposure, and current research on their toxicity.

    This month I’m listing the most common chemicals so that you can use this as a guideline and, hopefully, begin to take seriously the “toxic soup” to which we have all become exposed. Don’t simply “buy into” the marketing campaigns instead of being informed about what you put on your body and the health consequences… remember…what goes on the skin goes in the body!

    I have devoted my life and private practice to victims of chemically-induced immune system disorders—counseling those whose immune systems can no longer protect them from chemicals. I believe that it’s a matter of decreasing tolerance—the more you’re exposed to the less the organs of detoxification can process and eventually we become allergic to substances we previously tolerated.

    Use the following information for your health, those around you and the health of the planet. Remember also that your perfume could be someone else’s poison when they’re immune system is already compromised.

    No one group works harder at consumer education than the Environmental Working Group (EWG); I have supported and followed their research for many years. The incidents described below were reported by the EWG and provided for your education with full credit.

    When sprayed or applied on the skin, many chemicals from perfumes, cosmetics and personal care products are inhaled. Others are absorbed through the skin. Either way, many of these chemicals can accumulate in the body. As a result, the bodies of most Americans are polluted with multiple cosmetics ingredients. This pollution begins in the womb and continues through life.

    Numerous other products used daily, such as shampoos, lotions, bath products, cleaning sprays, air fresheners and laundry and dishwashing detergents, also contain strongly scented, volatile ingredients hidden behind the word “fragrance.” Some of these ingredients react with ozone in indoor air, generating many potentially harmful secondary air pollutants such as formaldehyde and ultrafine particles (Nazaroff 2004).

    People have the right to know which chemicals they are exposed to. They have the right to expect government to protect them, especially vulnerable populations, from hazardous chemicals. In addition to required safety assessments of ingredients in cosmetics, the laws must be changed to require the chemicals in fragrance to be fully disclosed and publicly accessible on ingredient labels.

    Product tests initiated by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics [safecosmetics.org/] and subsequent analyses, detailed in this report, reveal that widely recognized brand-name perfumes and colognes contain secret chemicals, sensitizers, potential hormone disruptors and chemicals not assessed for safety:

    • SECRET CHEMICALS: Laboratory tests revealed 38 secret chemicals in 17 name-brand products, with an average of 14 secret chemicals per product.
    • MULTIPLE SENSITIZERS: The products tested contained an average of 10 chemicals that are known to be sensitizers and can trigger allergic reactions such as asthma, wheezing, headaches and contact dermatitis. All of these were listed on product labels.
    • MULTIPLE HORMONE DISRUPTORS: A total of 12 different hormone-disrupting chemicals were found in the tested products, with an average of four in each product. In each product, six of these chemicals mimic the hormone estrogen, and the seventh is associated with thyroid effects. Some of these potential hormone disruptors were listed on labels; others were undisclosed and were uncovered in product testing.
    • WIDESPREAD USE OF CHEMICALS THAT HAVE NOT BEEN ASSESSED FOR SAFETY: A review of government records shows that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not assessed the vast majority of fragrance ingredients in personal care products for safety. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), an industry-funded and self policing body, has assessed only 19 of the 91 ingredients listed on labels or found in testing for the 17 products assessed in this study. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM), which develop and set voluntary standards for chemicals in the “fragrance” component of products, have assessed only 27 of the 91 ingredients listed on labels or found in testing for the 17 products assessed in this study, based on a review of assessments published in the past 25 years.

    Products in these samplings were tested by Analytical Sciences, an independent laboratory in Petaluma, California. The lab found, in all, 40 chemicals in the tested fragrance products. Thirty-eight of these were secret, or unlabeled, for at least one of the products containing them, while the other two were listed on all relevant product labels. Ingredient labels disclosed the presence of another 51 chemical ingredients, giving a total of 91 chemical ingredients altogether in the tested products, including hidden and disclosed ingredients combined. Of the 17 products tested, 13 were purchased in the U.S. and four in Canada.

    Thirteen Most Common Chemicals Found in Fragranced Products


    (based on EPA study)

    1. ACETONE
    Found in…cologne, dishwashing liquid and detergent, nail enamel and remover.

    Facts…On the lists of the EPA, RCRA, and CERCLA as Hazardous Waste—“Inhalation can cause dryness of the mouth and throat; dizziness, nausea, loss of coordination, slurred speech, drowsiness, and, in severe exposures, coma—acts primarily as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant.

    2. BENZALDEHYDE
    Found in…perfume, cologne, hairspray, laundry bleach, deodorants, detergent, Vaseline™ lotion, shaving cream, shampoo, bar soap, and dishwasher detergent.

    Facts…Narcotic. Sensitizer. Local aesthetic, CNS depressant. Irritant to the mouth, throat, eyes, skin, lungs, and GI tract—causing nausea and abdominal pain. May cause kidney damage. Do NOT use with contact lenses.

    3. BENZYL ACETATE
    Found in…perfume, cologne, shampoo, fabric softener, stickup air fresheners, dishwashing liquid and detergent, soap, hairspray, bleach, after shave and deodorants.

    Facts…Carcinogenic (linked to pancreatic cancer). Dangers from vapors: irritant to eyes and respiratory passages, produces cough. In mice: hype-anemia of the lungs. Is absorbed through the skin causing systemic effects. Do not flush into the sewer or septic tank.

    4. BENZYL ALCOHOL
    Found in…perfume, cologne, soap, shampoo, nail enamel and remover, air fresheners, laundry bleach and detergents, Vaseline lotion, deodorants, and fabric softeners.

    Facts…Irritant to upper respiratory tract. Other symptoms include: headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drop in blood pressure, central nervous system depression, and death, in severe cases, due to respiratory failure.

    5. CAMPHOR
    Found in…perfume, shaving cream, nail enamel, fabric softener, dishwasher detergent, nail color, and stickup air fresheners.

    Facts…Local irritant and CNS stimulant readily absorbed through body tissues, irritant to eyes, nose and throat, causes dizziness, confusion, nausea, twitching muscles and convulsions. Avoid inhalation of vapors.

    6. ETHANOL
    Found in…perfume, hairspray, shampoo, fabric softener, dishwashing liquid and detergents, laundry detergents, shaving cream, soap, Vaseline lotion, air fresheners, nail color and remover, paint and varnish removers.

    Facts…showing symptoms that include: fatigue, irritant to eyes and upper respiratory tract even in low concentrations. Inhalation of ethanol vapors can have similar to those characteristic of ingestion. These include an initial stimulatory effect followed by drowsiness, impaired vision, ataxia, and stupor. Known to cause CNS disorders.

    7. ETHYL ACETATE
    Found in…after shave, cologne, perfume, shampoo, nail color, nail enamel remover, fabric softener, and dishwashing liquid.

    Facts…Narcotic. On the EPA Hazardous Waste List warning of the following health effects: irritant to the eyes and respiratory tract, headache and narcosis (stupor), defatting effect on the skin and may cause drying and cracking, may cause anemia with leukocytosis and damage to liver and kidneys. Wash thoroughly after handling.

    8. LIMONENE
    Found in…disinfectant sprays, bar soap, shaving cream, deodorants, nail color and removers, fabric softeners, dishwashing liquid, air fresheners, after shave, bleach, paint and varnish removers.

    Facts…Carcinogenic. Warnings include: prevent contact with skin or eyes because it is an irritant and sensitizer, wash thoroughly after using this material and before eating, drinking, or applying cosmetics, do not inhale limonene vapor.

    9. LINALOOL
    Found in…perfume, cologne, bar soap, shampoo, hand lotion, nail enamel remover, bleach powder, fabric softeners, shaving cream, after shave and solid deordorant.

    Facts…Narcotic. Causes respiratory disturbances, attracts bees, depressed heart activity and causes CNS disorders. In animal tests: ataxic gait, reduced spontaneous motor activity, depression, development of respiratory disturbances leading to death.

    10. METHYLENE CHLORIDE
    Found in…shampoo, cologne, paint and varnish removers.

    Facts…It was banned by the FDA in 1988, yet no enforcement is possible due to trade secret laws protecting the chemical fragrance industry. It’s on the Hazardous Waste lists on the EPA, RCRA, and the CERCLA. When absorbed, it is stored in body fat, metabolizes to carbon monoxide, reduces oxygencarrying capacity of the blood, causes headaches, giddiness, stupor, irritability, fatigue, tingling in the limbs, and CNS disorders.

    11. A-PINENE
    Found in…bar and liquid soap, cologne, perfume, shaving cream, deodorants, dishwashing liquids, and air fresheners.

    Facts…Sensitizer (damaging to the immune system).

    12. G-TERPINENE
    Found in…cologne, perfume, soap, shaving creams, deodorants, and air fresheners.

    Facts…Causes asthma and CNS disorders.

    13. A-TERPINEOL
    Found in…perfume, cologne, laundry detergents, bleach powders, laundry bleaches, fabric softeners, stickup air fresheners, Vaseline lotion, cologne, soap, hairspray, after shave, and rollon deodorants.

    Facts…Highly irritating to mucous membranes, aspiration into the lungs can produce pneumonitis or even fatal edema, causes excitement, ataxia (loss of muscular coordination, hypothermia, CNS and respiratory depression, headaches, and repeated or prolonged skin contact can cause serious skin disorders.

    WHAT’S IN A LABEL?
    Since companies can get away with incomplete labeling, follow these guidelines to ensure healthy choices.

    • Choose products that list all ingredients, not generalized ones.
    • Examine the list of ingredients to check that the word fragrance does NOT appear. Essential oils should be listed separately.
    • Be prudent because even if the label advertises “un-scented,” most manufacturers use masking agents that block our ability to perceive odors; so not only is the fragrance still in the product, but even more chemicals are present to mask other chemicals.
    • Avoid phthalates and parabens (often listed as methylparabens), they disrupt reproductive and thyroid function.
    • Always inspect labels because formulas change.
    • Since no legal definitions exist for natural, nontoxic, and hypoallergenic, those words don’t signify a healthier product unless every ingredient is identified.
  • De-Scents-itize Your Home For Health’s Sake, Naturally!

    Synthetic Fragrances are MORE Powerful in Summer Months…

    What do the following people have in common?

    • People with allergies (50 millions in the US)
    • People with asthma (15 million in the US)
    • People with chronic severe headaches (45 million in the US)
    • People with sensitivities (10 to 30 million in the US)

    Did you know…

    • Current research shows three in five people respond negatively to synthetic fragrances?
    • Your perfume (or fragranced product) may be another’s poison?
    • You do not have to be wearing perfume, cologne, or a scented product to be negatively affected by it—it merely has to be airborne within approximately a 20-foot perimeter.
    • Fragrances were studied for their effect with chronic lung disease, particularly asthma. Study results differ, but some data suggests as many as 75 percent of known asthmatics (i.e. approximately 11 million people in the U.S. alone) have asthma attacks triggered by fragrances.
    • A number of studies show how fragrance affects the brain.. Because of the strong connection between scent and memory, we know that fragrance products can cross the blood brain barrier. This is important because it means fragranced chemicals have the potential to affect, and possibly damage, brain tissue. This kind of effect is called neurotoxicity. For example, Linalool, the most abundant chemical in perfume and fragrance products, is known to cause lethargy, depression, and life-threatening respiratory effects.
    • As an example of how powerful the effects of fragrance can be in the brain, one Japanese study showed that an organic citrus fragrance was more effective in alleviating depression than were prescription anti-depressants—the fragrance has psychoactive properties, placing it in the category of psychoactive drugs (i.e. Prozac, Valium, Elavil, etc.).
    • Fragrance chemicals enter the body through inhalation, ingestion, the nose and mouth, and absorption through the skin—then absorbed into the bloodstream and transported throughout the body. Individual sensitivity to the effects of fragrance chemicals varies widely from no effect at all to severe symptoms for those who are hypersensitive or have compromised immune systems.

    Children are significantly more susceptible than adults to the effects of fragrance chemicals, yet fragrances are added to nearly every baby and cleaning product on the market. A parent who wears perfume or uses scented products may well be poisoning the air their children breathe. Exposure to fragrances may result in the child having difficulty concentrating, learning disabilities, hyperactive behavior, and even growth retardation and seizures in extreme cases. Even if you think avoiding fragranced products will protect your child, evidence shows that fragrance chemicals can be stored in the body, showing up in breast milk in the nursing mother. A frightening prospect indeed!

    Symptoms experienced as a result of exposure to synthetic fragrances of any kind, include, but are NOT limited to:

    • sneezing, nasal congestion
    • watery eyes, blurred vision
    • headache (especially migraine)
    • sinus problems
    • anxiety
    • wheezing (especially in asthmatics)
    • shortness of breath
    • inability to concentrate
    • brain-fog
    • dizziness
    • convulsions
    • nausea
    • hyperactivity (especially in children)
    • sore throat, chest tightness, chronic cough
    • tremor(s)
    • extreme fatigue
    • lethargy
    • muscle pain and tenderness to touch
    • sleep disturbances (from insomnia to un-restorative sleep)
    • drowsiness
    • blurred vision and extreme difficulty focusing

    The Human Ecologist published a member survey fill-in-the-blank questionnaire, to gauge member perceptions of their health-related concerns. Responses began to come back almost immediately by return mail, and are still arriving in the HEAL office. A significant percentage of all respondents reported difficulties with exposures to fragrances used by others. Here are some verbatim samples of how members filled in the blank in the following sentence:

    My most troublesome exposure is...

    • fragrance in all forms.
    • neighbors’ fragranced dryer exhaust in my yard which prevents me from enjoying a neighborhood walk or private time in my own yard.
    • perfume and hairspray on co-workers.
    • perfume, aftershave, cologne in the hospital, and in stores.
    • perfume (any fragranced product), because it keeps me from church and social gatherings, and from building a support system.
    • perfume in church and restaurants.
    • perfume, especially in public buildings and on people.
    • perfume everywhere.
    • fragrances, because everyone wears fragrance of some sort in public.
    • perfume- it’s ubiquitous.

    De-scents-itizing Your Home

    • Dryer Sheets—Try dryer balls, or safe reusable cloths made by Static Eliminator (at health stores and online). You can also use an aluminum foil ball in the dryer, 1/2 to 1 cup white distilled vinegar in the washer rinse cycle, or separate your synthetics and cottons when drying to avoid static cling.
    • Laundry Detergents—Use fragrance-free detergents and softeners from responsible companies. A safe and economical option is to use three reusable T-wave™ washer discs that will be effective through 700 wash loads…no detergent required! I’ve used mine for years and love them (haven’t purchased or used detergent in over eight years).
    • Air Fresheners—Instead of masking odors, identify and remove the source and properly vent.
    • Take shoes off at the door
    • Empty trash often
    • Open window or use fan in bathrooms or kitchen

    • Filtration—Air cleaners and purifiers are important to improve indoor air quality, especially for those individuals highly reactive or with compromised immune systems. Not all filters are the same. Avoid filters with plastic parts or materials that off-gas. A reputable company that makes HEPA filtration systems combined with other filtration materials, and customized for your specific needs, is available through your environmental health care professional built to filter your specific airborne pollutants.
    • Cleaning Products—The most inexpensive, safe cleansers are baking soda and water (for deodorizing), white distilled vinegar and water (for cleaning when mixed with water and a few drops of chemical-free dish-washing soap), Bon Ami (for scrubbing), and hydrogen peroxide (for disinfecting). I also recommend you consider using a washcloth moistened with silver hydrosol and carry in a zip-lock bag while on trips and away from home much easier and healthier than alcohol-based antibacterial agents that reduce our own body's defenses.
    • Essential Oils, Incense and Candles—A good alternative to synthetic scents is pure essential oils. They can be placed around the house (onto gauze, cotton balls, or a diffuser), worn as perfume, or used as a room and car deodorizer. Use a very small amount because those that are highly responsive may still react to essential oils because of a compromised immune system. When someone you know suffers from multiple allergic response syndrome (MARS.) do not wear any fragrance because the cellular memory recalls that fragrances are dangerous and does not differentiate between synthetic or natural oils and may still cause a serious allergic response until their body is again able to protect them and responses diminish.

    1. For candles, try soy, natural beeswax or, better still, battery-operated. Don't trust "unscented" because we know manufacturers can use other chemicals to mask chemical scents. A good alternative is battery-operated candles. I received some as a gift and have now gifted several to friends—the atmosphere they create is the same as regular candles without the health-depleting effects.
    2. Don't assume all incense is safe; it has combustible materials, may include contaminants, and may contain artificial fragrances and other toxic chemicals, including lead depending on country of origin.

    Yes, it does take effort to de-scents-itize your home. That said, it's more energy and cost-effective to stay well rather than get well, naturally.

    In next month's article, I specifically name the 13 most common chemicals found in fragranced products.
    Dr. Gloria—Your Health Detective

  • Fighting Asthma With Food and Supplements

    If you’ve ever seen someone having an asthma attack, you know it’s not pretty.

    And, according to those who suffer with it, it can be one of the most scary experiences in life.

    What Is Asthma?
    Asthma comes from Greek words meaning either “panting” or “sharp breath.” It’s a chronic disease that affects the pathways that carry air in and out of your lungs. Those airways become inflamed and very sensitive to any of a variety of substances (in air, food, the environment) that are irritating or allergenic. That’s one reason asthma is so often linked to allergies.

    When you have asthma, your immune system mistakenly identifies substances—pollens, dust, dander, foods, etc., as being dangerous and over-reacts, setting up a cascade of events that leads to inflammation in your lungs and a narrowing of your air passages. Muscles around the airways tighten up, less and less air can get in, the airways become even more swollen and narrow, and it becomes harder and harder to breathe.

    According to Alan Gaby, MD, unrecognized food allergy (and or food intolerance) is a contributing factor in at least 75 percent of childhood asthmatics and about 40 percent of adult asthmatics. “As early as 1959, Albert H. Rowe, MD, a pioneer in the field of food allergy, successfully treated 95 asthmatic patients with dietary changes alone,” says Dr. Gaby.

    At the top of the list of foods most likely to provoke asthma is dairy products. Other usual suspects include tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, chocolate, wheat, corn, citrus fruits and fish. Tartrazine (yellow dye #5) is believed to be a trigger for thousands of people. And according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, foods with sulfites — such as beer, dried food, processed potatoes, shrimp and wine — are known to trigger asthma symptoms in susceptible people.

    But are there foods and supplements that can help calm the symptoms of asthma?

    Actually, yes. Remember, asthma is an inflammatory condition, so making sure your diet contains foods rich in natural anti- inflammatories like omega-3’s (cold water fish, for example) is a really good idea. Researchers writing in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed research involving asthma and omega-3 supplements and stated, “fish oil supplementation may act to reduce inflammation and help open airways.” And research in the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases found that increased fish consumption and greater intake of omega-3’s in general (in relation to pro-inflammatory omega-6’s) reduced the chance of a child having asthma.

    The plant flavonoid quercetin—found in apples and onions— is highly anti-inflammatory as is the spice turmeric. “In my experience, increasing the intake of plant-based fat (avocado, extra virgin olive oil, almonds), fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help considerably,” says Registered Dietitian and “Good Morning America” contributor Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, MS. Sass also feels that taking probiotic and omega-3 supplements can really help.

    Another supplement that might be helpful is the oil of the shea nut. Shea nut oil extract with a high-tripertene content has been shown in over 30 clinical studies to be highly antiinflammatory. I’m very excited about this newly available supplement and will be talking about it a lot in future issues.

    Low intakes of vitamin C from food or supplementation can lead to increased risks for asthma. A 2005 study done by researchers from the Asthma and Allergy Research Institute in Australia found the blood concentrations of vitamin C were markedly lower in patients with severe asthma. A review article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded, “symptoms of ongoing asthma in adults appear to be increased by exposure to environmental oxidants and decreased vitamin C supplementation.”

    So asthmatics have a higher need for vitamin C than do members of the general population. One to two grams of vitamin C have been shown in studies to be the most helpful. This level is also helpful for those suffering from allergy or an excess of production of histamine.

    Foods high in vitamin C include peppers (green and red), kale, leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, guavas, orange or grapefruit juice, kiwis, peaches, oranges, strawberries and pineapples.

    Following a Mediterranean diet has been shown to improve asthma control, possibly because of the high content of omega-3’s and vitamin C. A 2008 study in the Journal of Allergy found that high adherence to a Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of non-controlled asthma by a whopping 78 percent. Controlled asthmatics had significantly higher intakes of fresh fruit in their diet.

    While you may not be able to completely wipe out asthma symptoms with food, emerging evidence points to the fact that higher intakes of omega-3s and vitamin C from food (especially fresh fruit) and supplements can certainly help. And, since these foods are so good for you anyway, they certainly couldn’t hurt!

  • Food Allergies Can Cause Asthma

    Asthma is one of the most common medical conditions in North America. The prevalence of asthma has increased significantly over the past few decades. There are a number of possible reasons for the increase in asthma rates including increased pollution in the atmosphere. However, there is another cause that is often overlooked; food allergies. In this article we will discuss how food allergies can cause or exacerbate asthma.

    About 3½ years ago Vincent came into the office with a chronic hacking cough that had been present for over 10 years. It was the kind of cough you could hear outside the building. He had been through a battery of tests and his doctors had concluded that it was due to his asthma. He had been taking inhalers for over 10 years but no matter how much or how often he used them the cough just wouldn’t go away. Asthma typically involves inflammation in the lungs and constricted airways in the bronchioles. The cause is often unknown and unfortunately most conventional treatments involve merely trying to decrease inflammation and dilate the bronchioles with inhalers. Unfortunately, the inhalers which typically contain corticosteroids do not treat the actual cause of the inflammation.

    When I first met Vincent we went through an assessment as part of the initial consultation. We found that he had chronic constipation, heartburn, hives, and eczema. This immediately made me suspicious of food allergies.

    The naturopathic approach to treating asthma involves identifying the possible causes of inflammation in the body. One of the most common causes of inflammation is food allergies. The type of food allergy that is most likely to be overlooked is called a Type II Delayed Sensitivity Reaction. This type of allergy involves the production of an immunoglobulin called IgG, which attacks the offending food. The symptoms of Type II allergies are usually chronic and present slowly over time, which makes it very hard to determine their presence. The symptoms can be highly variable but typically involve inflammation somewhere in the body.

    The best way to identify Type II Delayed Sensitivity Reactions is to run a blood test for IgG. This test identifies how much IgG is produced by your white blood cells when they are exposed to specific foods. For example, if a person is allergic to milk their white blood cells will produce high levels of IgG when they are exposed to milk. However, they will not produce high levels of IgG when they are exposed to other foods if there is no allergy to those foods.

    When I explained the potential connection between food allergies and asthma to Vincent he decided to have the IgG test. When the results came back from the lab we learned that Vincent had a number of allergies to various foods. Vincent immediately decided to avoid these foods to see what would happen. I am happy to report 3½ years later Vincent’s cough has not returned.

    If you have been diagnosed with asthma but are not happy with your treatment you may want to consult a physician who is trained to identify Type II food allergies. Like Vincent, your asthma may have a hidden cause you have not looked for in the past.

  • Getting to the Root Cause of Allergies and Asthma

    There is a definite substantiated connection between allergies and asthma. Studies indicate their underlying mechanisms may even cause each other. Up to 38 percent of patients with allergies have been diagnosed with asthma, and 78 percent of those diagnosed with asthma have allergies. Both as a physician and as a former allergy and asthma sufferer myself, I’ve witnessed the tie between the two conditions.


    I have believed for years they are all related to an overgrowth of a very common organism found in every one of us in our digestive tracts: Candida albicans. In my practice, I routinely and successfully guide allergy and asthma patients through a nutrition plan that dramatically reduce or completely eliminate their symptoms. I’ll touch on highlights of that plan, but first a few words on the individual conditions.

    Types of Allergies
    During an allergic reaction, your immune system is doing its job, but it’s overreacting. Typically, allergic individuals have developed an excess of the antibody IgE when exposed to a certain allergen. This ultimately results in the release of histamines and leukotrienes, causing the annoying allergy symptoms.

    Thirty percent of all adults and 40 percent of children suffer from hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, which is characterized by nasal congestion and itchy eyes. Alternatively, or additionally, an allergic reaction can involve rashes and other skin conditions and, in extreme cases, anaphylactic shock. Reactions can occur due to allergen exposure via inhalation, injection, ingestion, or through skin contact. The symptoms can be very diverse, but usually involve the nose, eyes, lungs, and skin.

    If you have a diagnosed allergy, you’ve probably heard it categorized as an inhalant, infectious (gets worse when you’re sick), insect, drug, physical agent (such as cold, heat, or exercise), contact, or food allergy. A food allergy is different from a food sensitivity; the allergy is usually severe and causes a very noticeable reaction. Both the allergy and the sensitivity can respond well to complementary treatments though.

    Understanding Asthma
    Characterized by shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing, asthma involves the combined effects of inflammation and muscle dysfunction in the airway. The inflammation cascade creates mucus, which worsens the obstruction, resulting in more inflammation—resulting in a vicious cycle. Asthma can be allergy-induced, but it is not always an allergic condition. Regardless, it is related to allergies in that both are the result of an over-reactive inflammation process.

    Asthma can be mild (about 50 percent of cases) which may require medication only as needed, moderate (40 percent of cases) sometimes requiring daily medication, or severe which involves frequent daily symptoms that need to be controlled carefully through daily medication. Severe asthma is the most life-threatening, however, all types can result in a lifethreatening attack and ought to be taken seriously.

    In the past, people usually were diagnosed with asthma as children and so understood the condition well by the time they were adults. But, increasingly, there are more cases newly diagnosed in adults.

    Where is this all coming from?
    Chances are your physician has discussed allergens or key irritants that you need to avoid or manage to help prevent your allergy or asthma from flaring up. Triggers are wide-ranged and can include: aerosol, pollution, dander, certain medications, estrogen, extreme temperatures, dust mites, smoke, pollens, molds, sulfites, specific foods, heartburn, chemicals and strong emotions. Other less avoidable triggers include your own heredity, viruses, and exercise.

    Managing triggers can be exhausting. Ultimately, it doesn’t do anything to actually remedy your condition. The trigger isn’t really the cause either. The cause is an over-reaction in the immune response. Remember the earlier comment about gut health? Let’s come back to that concept.

    There are more than 250 species of yeast—they are found in almost every baked good and we eat them all the time. More than 150 of these species are harmless parasites in our bodies. We all have Candida in our bodies; it normally lives in the gastrointestinal tract, the mouth, and the vagina as a part of the normal flora in the body.

    The trouble begins when there is an overgrowth of Candida. It lacks chlorophyll and is not able to produce its own food, so it acts like a parasite. This is usually kept under control by probiotics, the friendly bacteria in the body. Probiotics use yeast as food. As long as there is a good balance of the two, there is no problem. Candida overgrowth can occur due to dietary issues, chemical exposure, stress, or antibiotic use— Candida is a fungus; antibiotics do not kill it, but they can kill probiotics.

    Similar factors can also cause a condition called leaky gut. Imagine the cells of the gut, lining the interior in a honeycomb pattern. With leaky gut, there are gaps in the honeycomb where cells have broken down. Poorly digested food particles, pathogens, and yeast can now pass through into the body. Candida may wander to other parts of the body where it should not be, such as the lungs and sinuses. It causes inflammation and can result in chronic stuffy nose, sinus headaches, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and even muscle aches.

    With patients who struggle with allergies and asthma, and those who test positive for more than 10 food sensitivities, I can almost always assume the presence of leaky gut and treat for it accordingly. A Healing Phase Diet, which permits the gut to totally mend itself and rules out sources of yeast and foods that feed yeast, will last three months as long as you keep to the requirements. Straying even a little can draw out the healing period to six months or more.

    Similar to other cleansing diets you may know about, the basics of this nutritional approach are a little more intensive and involve:

    Ruling out sugar in all its forms. These are food sources for yeast, which includes all syrups, honey, molasses, chemical sweeteners, and fruit. Tomatoes, commonly mistook as vegetables, are fruits that need to be avoided too. Sushi rice usually contains sugar to make it sticky. Skip the lunch meats and processed foods—almost all have sweeteners in them; read labels.

    Ruling out all yeast and fungus sources. Refrain from consuming mushrooms and yeast-containing baked goods (if it rises, it contains yeast). Avoid vinegar and condiments containing vinegar; try using olive oil and lemon or lime juice to make your own salad dressing. Avoid all fermented foods, alcohol, dairy products (especially cheeses), and smoked and processed meats.

    Opening your mind to all the things you CAN eat! Most of the foods you’re avoiding are ingredients in highly processed foods. You’ll find yourself cooking healthier wholefood meals by default once you rule out the ingredients that have been keeping you in a state of inflammation and Candida overgrowth. (See the article “What CAN I Eat?” on page 12 to learn more)

    Supplementing with multivitamins, natural anti-candida herbals, and probiotics. In my practice, I recommend Alphabetic as a multi and build my patients’ vitamin program from there. Grapeseed extract, Caprylic acid, and garlic are effective anti-candida supplements. For establishing healthy probiotics, I use Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics 12 PLUS, a vegetarian probiotic blend that has extensive research supporting it.

    Sometimes, major lifestyle changes like this seem overwhelming. But when compared to juggling medications and constantly avoiding triggers, most allergy and asthma sufferers are excited at the opportunity to breathe free naturally and bring their immune system back into a state of equilibrium. After the Healing Phase Diet it is also possible to go through a four-month careful reintroduction of many of the foods you’ve been avoiding.

    Dr. Fred Pescatore’s book, The Allergy and Asthma Cure provides in-depth description of the Healing Phase Diet and helpful recipes and menu plans. His book, Thin for Good, contains more cooking tips along with insight into the connection between yeast-overgrowth and weight management.

  • I m Finally Off My Asthma Inhaler...No Thanks to Big Pharma

    In 2012 I was a mess. Same with the year before. And the year before that. Truth be told, my body has been a mess in multiple ways for most of my life.

    No more.

    I am asthmatic, and have suffered a lifetime of severe allergies and sensitivities. During an annual physical, I watched my doctor's alarm when I told him I was using my asthma inhaler five to six times daily without getting relief. I soon found myself on a somewhat helpful but horribly dehydrating daily cocktail of two Benadryl, one 24-hour Claritin D, 10 mg of Singulair, and my asthma inhaler as needed. On one of my trips to the E.R. with an especially severe asthma attack, I was stunned to learn that I had developed a life-threatening allergy to steroids. What followed that E.R. trip was three and a half weeks missed from work, as my asthma attack blossomed into severe bronchitis, and I could no longer take steroids to reduce bronchial inflammation.

    I eventually got better. But despite my medications, I was still drippy, wheezy, and generally miserable every day. And that was just one of my serious health conditions.

    Eventually, I had an epiphany.

    In May 2013, I met with a colleague who happens to be vegan. Clutching my box of tissues and blowing my nose, I observed her radiant skin and boundless energy in stark contrast to the perma-mess that I had become, and had to ask myself what I was waiting for.

    I knew I needed to get off dairy for good and I had also read Dr. Richard Firschein, DO's theory in his book Reversing Asthma (Warner Books, 1996) that asthmatics have no business eating eggs, as the albumin is phlegm-producing. But egg and dairy are in so many dishes, and I anticipated that being vegan would be difficult and unpleasantly restrictive for me. So I stubbornly continued to resist change—eating my eggs and dairy, and feeling generally awful. Observing my colleague in that meeting, I decided I had had enough self-inflicted suffering. On that day I vowed to say goodbye to dairy and eggs. As I was already a vegetarian of 25 years, this meant I was essentially going 99 percent vegan (I still eat local raw honey to manage seasonal allergy symptoms). I also pumped up my leafy greens intake, and eliminated most processed foods.

    It was almost immediately apparent how beneficial this decision was for me. Within a mere three days I was mostly free of symptoms that necessitated taking those daily asthma and allergy meds. So on that fourth day, I stopped taking them. With each passing month, I have felt increasingly stronger as my body continues to detox. When pollen counts are high, I just eat raw, local honey and that manages my sniffles.

    But that huge benefit was only the beginning. In 1999, I had been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (P.C.O.S.), a hormonal imbalance that includes ovarian cysts and unpleasant, painful symptoms for which I was prescribed birth control pills (despite having my tubes tied in 1995 - how ironic). I had tried going off the Pill several years after my diagnosis, only to have my symptoms re-awaken with a fury. Since eating cleaner, I was curious to try again and see what would happen.

    According to the Harvard Gazette's interview of Dr. Ganmaa Davaasambuu, a scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health, cows are milked approximately 300 days a year, and are pregnant for most of that time. When a cow is pregnant, her hormone levels are significantly higher, and those hormones are in her milk. When we eat dairy, we ingest a lot of extra hormones, presenting a variety of potential health consequences. As the Gazette article reports, "Dairy…accounts for 60 to 80 percent of estrogens consumed."

    Realizing that I had rid myself of unwanted excess hormones once I stopped eating cheese, I decided to really walk on the wild side and go off the Pill. And would you believe that not only was I P.C.O.S. symptom-free, but I also had regular periods for the first time ever? One month later, when my body was behaving like one in hormonal balance, I realized that my mood was much improved. Consequently, I was ready to try the final step of my experiment: going off my antidepressant. I suffered from depression since age five, and had been medicated for the past twenty years. But, I had also eaten lots of eggs and dairy for most of my life. I had tried going off my medication once before - it was a disaster, and I went right back on it. But not this time. Now, as I decreased my dose to zero, I noticed that I felt…FINE, for the first time in my memory. Talk about liberating. I was shaken to my foundation, in a good way.

    After reporting this story to my amazed and supportive doctor last July at my annual physical, I couldn't help sharing with him how moved I was by the experience I never dreamed would be mine: walking out of his office empty-handed, with no prescriptions.

    Ironically, the healing power of food is hardly news. In the late 5th Century, B.C.E., Hippocrates, widely regarded as the father of Western medicine, said, "Let food be thy medicine, and medicine thy food." Even Hippocrates and his contemporaries understood that the effects of food can range from toxic to healing.

    Now, bio-individuality is surely real, and everyone is different. But what my body clearly needed was to get off the eggs and dairy. All it cost me to free myself from five daily medications that I evidently did not necessarily require was my willingness to forego eating the foods that made me sick and to add in a whole variety of new delicious foods that supported my health. Did I miss my cheese? For the first week, I absolutely did. But after that, I must confess that I no longer wanted to eat the way I used to, as nothing tasted better than feeling my new clarity and vibrancy!

    I had such a life-changing improvement in my health, made possible not by some modern miracle drug, but by thoughtful food choices. I hope that others who are suffering like I was can consult with their health professionals and embark on a similar healing journey.

    In future, I will be writing about the health benefits of whole foods, and I will share easy-to-prepare, delicious recipes to make your path to feeling great simple and enjoyable. Eating well doesn't have to be difficult, and it's my pleasure to share in your journey to optimal health.

    Marney White is a Holistic Health Coach living on Long Island, NY. She helps empower her clients to reach their wellness goals through an education in whole foods, including guided tours of the health food store and in-home cooking classes. You can read more about her and her programs at www.BeNourishedNow.com, and follow her on Facebook at Be Nourished Now, Inc., and on Twitter @Marneycakes.

  • Is Your Hectic Lifestyle Making You Sick ?

    Face it. Life is a balancing act. Between work, relationships, parental duties, staying fit, academic efforts, maintaining friendships, community involvement and personal fulfillment, it’s a wonder most of us can even find time to catch our breath. Yet we soldier forward with all our obligations and commitments because we have to, and in most cases, we want to. But when life gets so hectic the stress of it all impacts our mental and physical well-being, it’s time to take action.

    Becoming familiar with the ways different types of stress can affect our minds and bodies, specifically our immune system, as well as learning about the available tools that have been clinically proven to manage the impact of stress on the immune system, are proactive steps toward keeping healthy. Lessening the impact of harmful invaders on our immune system entails not just strengthening it to combat the bacteria and viruses that cause common illnesses, but also ensuring that our immune system’s response to such external stimuli as allergens is not too strong—as asthma and other long-term health implications can result. In short, keeping our immune systems in check, but more importantly, in balance, is imperative to our overall health.

    How Stress Affects the Immune System
    While many aspects of our daily lives can negatively impact our immune systems—a less-than-optimal diet, travel, pollution, changing seasons, overexertion during exercise, lack of sleep and even the normal aging process—stress can also interfere with a healthy immune system.

    Certain physiological changes occur to help an individual cope with stress. Chronic activation of the neurological pathways associated with stress result in the production of hormones and neurotransmitters/ chemicals, which then alter the function of certain cells of the immune system. These altered cells cause the immune system to respond improperly, either by over-responding or under-responding, to bacteria, viruses, allergens, fungi and parasites.

    In addition to impacting the human immune system, stress that is mismanaged and remains too high for prolonged periods of time can lead to a variety of symptoms associated with very serious illnesses, including heart disease, anxiety disorders, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, respiratory disorders, accidental injuries and cirrhosis of the liver. Stress has been linked to all of these illnesses, all of which are leading causes of death in the United States.

    Types of Stress
    There are certain types of stressful events and situations called “stressors” that our bodies react to in different ways. Surprisingly, not all types of stressors negatively affect us. “Acute stressors” are time-limited and temporary. Public speaking and academic testing are examples of short-term stressors that temporarily boost, or over-stimulate, the immune system. The body quickly adapts itself to respond to short-term stressors through the “fight or flight” response by releasing such chemicals as adrenaline that enable our pupils to dilate, our awareness to intensify, our sight to sharpen, our impulses to quicken and our immune system to mobilize and increase activation. Much of the time increased immune system activity is a benefit to us, as it helps to ready the body for challenges, but in some cases an over-reactive immune system can result in allergies, asthma, chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases.

    “Sequential stressors” include major events that give rise to a series of related challenges, such as the loss of a spouse or a natural disaster. “Chronic stressors” are ongoing, persuasive demands that force people to restructure their identity or social roles and have no end in sight. Examples of such stressors include caring for an aging spouse or elderly parent, being victim of an event that leads to a permanent disability or fleeing a third-world country because of violence or war.

    Both sequential and chronic stressors suppress, or under-stimulate, the immune system, leaving the body open for attack and more vulnerable to illness. Other manifestations of these types of stress include: fatigue and exhaustion; headaches or migraines; neck and back pain or stiffness; gastrointestinal problems (nausea, diarrhea, constipation or colitis); chest pains or palpitations; sleep disturbances; family conflicts; job tensions; and a change in sexual energy.

    A Tool for a Balanced Immune System: EpiCor
    While we may be able to employ various proven tactics to reduce our stress level, such as exercise, meditation, acupuncture and/ or massage therapy, the fact remains that certain amounts of stress will be present in our lives; especially in today’s increasingly over-scheduled society. So, if escaping our stressors is not an option—and for most of us it’s not—we may need some extra help in keeping our immune system in balance while we deal with daily stress.

    One such all-natural tool that can be used in this capacity is a product called EpiCor™, which is comprised of metabolites that nourish and balance the body’s immune system. EpiCor strengthens resistance and maintains wellness before immune health issues develop by helping the body modulate its immune response.

    Just like the medical breakthroughs penicillin and X-rays, EpiCor was discovered by accident! When the parent company experienced minimal health insurance premium rate increases several years in a row and the incidences of employees using sick days were rare, a series of scientific studies were conducted. Findings confirmed that production workers who had been exposed to the ingredient experienced significantly higher immune activity than those workers who had not been exposed. EpiCor is unique in that just one 500 milligram capsule per day helps the immune system stay strong and healthy through balance. A strong immune system is not one that has only been stimulated or boosted. Those actions can certainly be helpful at specific times, but as we have just learned, there are times that the immune system can over-respond, leading to health issues. A strong immune system is one that is balanced and can respond appropriately, depending on the situation at hand. These two actions—boosting and suppressing—constitute EpiCor’s proven methodology known as “immune balance.”

    Research on EpiCor and What it Means to Us
    Unlike so many other immune health supplements, a bevy of scientific research supports EpiCor’s effects on the immune system. Favorable efficacy profiles have been observed for Epi- Cor in clinical trials, and studies at the cellular (in vitro) level have suggested its mechanisms of action. Multiple toxicological studies have been performed that prove the safety of EpiCor. In addition to finding that EpiCor has no contraindications, ongoing research has also confirmed EpiCor fights free radicals through its high antioxidant activity and helps to manage inflammation.

    Most recently, a published study found that EpiCor has a significant impact on the incidence and duration of the common cold and flu. Specifically, this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial found that taken once a day, a 500 milligram EpiCor capsule significantly decreased the incidences of cold and flu symptoms as well as observable symptom duration. These results translate into fewer sick days for people taking EpiCor, which is of great importance to American businesses dealing with health care costs, employee sick days and lost revenue.

    Now think of what this research on EpiCor means for our personal overall health which, as we have learned, is directly affected by our stress levels. If we are healthy, we are not staying home sick from work and falling behind. If we are healthy, we are more likely to be fully engaged when interacting with our partners, children and friends, thus strengthening those relationships instead of aggravating them by being over-stressed and irritable. If we are healthy, we have more physical energy to participate in personal fulfillment activities that interest us and allow us to decompress, such as gardening, cooking, exercising and reading. And finally, if we are healthy, we are not spending money on medial deductibles, treatments or unnecessary prescriptions, which is a major concern according to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) recent national survey reporting that money is the leading cause of stress for 75 percent of all Americans. The APA also found that 77 percent of people suffering from stress reported physical symptoms including fatigue, headache, upset stomach, muscle tension, change in appetite, teeth grinding, change in sex drive and feeling dizzy.

    Sound familiar?

    Isn’t it time we broke this vicious stress-illness cycle? Keeping our immune system balanced is the first step. In addition to giving our immune system the very basic things that help to keep it healthy—good nutrition and plenty of sleep—there are other things we can do to support it as well. One such thing is EpiCor. As an all-natural, safe and economical way of supporting the immune system, EpiCor just may be the key to a balanced and healthy life.

    References:
    • Jensen, G, et al. An anti-inflammatory immunogen from yeast culture induces activation and alters chemokine receptor expression on human natural killer cells and B lymphocytes in vitro. Nutrition Research (2007), 27:6, 327–335.
    • Moyad, M, et al. Effects of a modified yeast supplement on cold/flu symptoms. Urologic Nursing (2008), 28:1, 50–5.
    • Padgett, DA, et al. How stress influences the immune response.
    • TRENDS in Immunology (2003), 24:8, 444–8. Segerstrom SC, et al. Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychological Bulletin (2004), 130, 601–30.
  • Lung-Loving Strategies for Healthy Breathing

    Your lungs flank your heart like two guardians, delivering life-giving oxygen to your cells and expelling carbon dioxide, the waste product of energy production.

    The journey of inhaled air starts in the nose or mouth. From there, it flows into the windpipe and then enters the tubes of the bronchi — the muscular, branching structures in the lungs. Those branches narrow into hollow twigs called bronchioles.

    Each bronchiole ends in an alveoli, a two-way, microscopic air sac that absorbs oxygen and sends it into the bloodstream, and picks up carbon dioxide for disposal.

    Ahh . . . a breath of fresh air! Or maybe it’s aaah-choo. Because our respiratory system doesn’t always work like it’s supposed to. We can get upper respiratory infections, like colds, flu or pneumonia. The bronchi can become inflamed, clogged with mucus and go into spasm, triggering asthma.

    Asthma afflicts an estimated 27 million American adults and children, resulting in 500,000 yearly hospitalizations and 4,000 deaths from severe asthma attacks. And the problem is getting steadily worse. Over the last 25 years, the number of people with asthma has quadrupled and the numbers of deaths from asthma has doubled.

    Another respiratory problem is chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), which is usually caused by smoking. It has two main forms:

    1. Emphysema, in which the walls of the alveoli are injured and you’re constantly short of breath.
    2. Chronic bronchitis, in which you’re mucus-ridden, cough constantly, and breathe with difficulty.

    And there are many other acute and chronic problems that can bedevil the lungs, like acute bronchitis (a bacterial infection of the bronchi, usually occurring after a cold), or worse yet lung cancer.

    Fortunately, there are easy, natural ways to optimize lung function and help you breathe easier. Ways to thwart chronic respiratory infections, decrease inflammation, keep excess mucus in check, and relax the airways.

    In this article, I discuss a dozen, simple, lung-loving strategies, each of which is like a breath of fresh air.

    Optimizing Lung Function

    It’s important to know which area of lung function is associated with which specific lung health condition, and then take measures to optimize the functionality of that specific area.

    For those with asthma:
    Asthma represents a mix of spasm of the muscular airways combined with inflammation and increased mucus production. Allergies can aggravate both of these. Because of this, when optimizing lung health, it is especially important to focus on areas that calm muscles that are in spasm while balancing immune function. Things that help these include (the first two are most important):

    1. Take boswellia (1,000 mg daily). This herb helps balance the immune system. BosCur one cap 1–2 times a day can be especially helpful, as it has only the helpful components of the boswellia and has a form of curcumin which is highly absorbed. Both of these are very powerful immune balancers.

    2. Optimize vitamins and minerals. Many nutrients can optimize the health of your airways. They include vitamins B6 and B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and beta-carotene, along with the minerals magnesium, selenium and molybdenum — all of which you can find in the Energy Revitalization System vitamin powder. Instead of writing 3,000 words on why each of these can help and having you take 6–8 tablets a day, let’s keep it simple. Take the one drink a day of the vitamin powder for overall health.

    3. Support Adrenal Function. Just as prednisone (a synthetic cortisol steroid) helps asthma (with a slew of side effects), supporting your own natural adrenal cortisol production can help your breathing — but safely! A mix of licorice, vitamin B5, vitamin C, and adrenal glandulars will help support adrenal function and can be found in combination in Adrenal Stress End.

    4. Oil your alveoli. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish can cool down an overactive immune system and help the airways in your lungs stay relaxed. Tuna, salmon, sardines and other fatty fish are good sources of omega-3s. For a lungoptimizing fish oil supplement, I recommend Vectomega, which has a bioidentical structure identical to that found in salmon (it surprised me to realize that most fish oils are not bioidentical), dramatically increasing absorption. 1–2 tablets a day are all you need, instead of 8–16 of most fish oil capsules.

    5. Take lycopene (30 –45 mg daily). This powerful antioxidant from tomatoes is most important for those with exerciseinduced asthma. In one placebo-controlled study, it was significantly protective after one week’s use in 55 percent of people with exercise-induced asthma. Why not just eat tomatoes? You’d have to eat a pound a day to get an optimal dose! Vitamin C 500 mg a day also helps exercise-induced asthma.

    6. Settle your allergies. Have asthma triggered by allergies?

    These tips can help:

    • Consider NAET. A special acupressure technique called NAET can make your lungs less sensitive to possible negative influences, like foods that injure your immune system. To find a practitioner, visit the NAET website. NAET knocked out my lifelong hay fever in one 20-minute treatment!
    • Add an electrostatic air cleaner to your furnace. As I wrote in my book Real Cause, Real Cure (Rodale, 2012), this device pulls allergens out of the air, a big help if your lungs aren’t functioning optimally. Doing this in our home knocked out my daughter’s asthma almost overnight. Your heating and cooling service company can guide you in picking and installing a unit, which costs about $800. Smart tip: Be sure the air cleaner filters can fit in your dishwasher, and wash them the first of each month. If you can’t install an in-furnace air filter, an alternative is a HEPA air filter in your bedroom. It’s not as thorough, but it’s extremely helpful.
    • Take measures in your home to decrease allergen load. This can include treating for dust mites (any allergist can guide you on this) while also considering special plastic wraps that go around the mattresses to collect the dust.

    For people with emphysema and chronic bronchitis:
    Emphysema represents severe lung damage, most often from smoking, toxic chemical/substance exposures, or chronic bronchitis. It can cause significant shortness of breath, wheezing, and limitations in activity. In the past, emphysema was felt to represent almost entirely irreversible lung damage and chronic bronchitis was the step before emphysema. Fortunately, there does appear to be a significant reversible component to both these conditions, and at these levels of lung damage even small increases in lung function can translate into large increases in your being able to function. This means aggressively going after the inflammation and airways spasm as discussed above for asthma (especially optimizing lung function using treatments one to three above).

    Interestingly, optimizing the levels of a key antioxidant called glutathione has been especially helpful.

  • Nutraceuticals for Asthma

    Nutraceuticals for Asthma Gene Bruno

    Asthma is a respiratory disorder in which breathing difficulty is caused by temporary narrowing of the bronchi, the airways branching from the trachea to the lungs. In many asthma patients, inflammation of the lining of the airways leads to increased sensitivity to a variety of environmental triggers that can cause narrowing of the airways, resulting in obstruction of airflow and breathing difficulty. In some patients, the mucus glands in the airways produce excessive thick mucus, further obstructing airflow. Attacks usually are brought on by allergic reaction to antigens such as grass and tree pollens, mold spores, fungi, animal dander, dust mites, and certain foods; attacks may also be caused by chemical irritants in the atmosphere, including cigarette smoke, or by infections of the respiratory tract. In addition, exercise provokes attacks in some asthma sufferers. Likewise, emotions do not cause asthma but can, in some, prompt symptoms.

    Conventional medical treatment of adult asthma can include prednisone, oral bronchodilators, and a variety of inhalers, which usually contain either bronchodilators or synthetic corticosteroids. While these treatments can be very effective in relieving symptoms, they rarely improve the health of either the lungs or the body in general. There are also nutraceuticals that can be used as part of a complementary approach to asthma treatment. This includes vitamin C, vitamin B6, magnesium, Ginkgo biloba, omega-3 Fatty Acids, and N-acetylcysteine.

    Vitamin C
    Research suggests that a diet low in vitamin C may be a risk factor for asthma.1 In fact, vitamin C levels of asthmatic children were found to be significantly lower than that for non-asthmatic children.2 Since evidence is accumulating that asthma may, in part, be a result of free radical reactions, and since vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help protect against these reactions,3 the importance of maintaining a healthy level of vitamin C intake should be emphasized. In fact, a review of scientific literature regarding vitamin C in asthma and allergy has revealed several studies that support the use of vitamin C. Significant results include positive effects on lung function tests, improvements in reactions to allergens, improvements in white blood cell function, and a decrease in respiratory infections.4 However, the same review revealed studies that did not show a beneficial role for vitamin C in asthma or allergy. Nonetheless, the general results are promising. Of particular interest is a study where 2000 mg of vitamin C was able to block exercise-induced asthma in eight of twenty patients.5

    Vitamin B6
    In one study, vitamin B6 levels were found to be lower in asthmatic patients than in non-asthmatics. In that same study, treatment with vitamin B6 caused patients to experience a dramatic decrease in frequency and severity of wheezing or asthmatic attacks while taking the supplement.6 A similar result was not seen with vitamin B6, however, in patients concurrently using steroids to treat their asthma.7 In any case, the use of the asthma drug theophylline has been found to decrease vitamin B6 levels in adult and children asthmatics.8,9Consequently, supplementation with vitamin B6 is a wise measure in asthmatics using theophylline.

    Magnesium
    Magnesium participates in a number of biochemical reactions that seem to be important when lung function is disturbed. A low intake of magnesium in the diet increases bronchial reactivity (a problem in asthma). Magnesium supplementation reduces bronchial constriction and pressure in certain lung disorders.10 Research has shown that asthmatics have lower levels of muscle magnesium;11 as well as increased excretion of magnesium specifically in those patients with using glucocorticoid therapy.12 Furthermore, evidence suggests that magnesium supplementation has value in reducing asthmatic symptoms.13 In one study involving 17 asthmatic patients, a high magnesium intake was associated with improvement in symptoms.14 The Journal of Asthma reported that significant improvement of the asthmatic condition after a 4-week stay at the Dead Sea, "may be due to absorption of [magnesium] through the skin and via the lungs, and due to its involvement in anti-inflammatory and vasodilatory processes." 15 In the interest of preventing magnesium deficiencies, which might otherwise contribute to asthma and other conditions, researchers in Israel even recommended adding it to the national drinking water.16

    Ginkgo biloba
    Ginkgo biloba extract has been found to improve clinical symptoms and pulmonary functions in asthmatic patients, and was concluded by researchers to be an effective agent for airway anti-inflammation.17 One mechanism by which Ginkgo works is that it contains ginkgolides, which are antagonists of the potent inflammatory agent called platelet-activating factor (PAF). PAF plays an important role in disorders such as asthma.18 Similar benefits with Ginkgo and asthma were seen in animal research as well.19

    Omega 3 Fatty Acids
    The fatty acid, arachidonic acid (AA), can be converted via an enzymatic process into pro-inflammatory substances. Omega 3 fatty acids (O3FA) are able to compete with AA for enzymatic metabolism, which results in less production of less inflammatory substances. This same mechanism holds true for the inflammatory process involved in asthma, and the beneficial role of O3FA in treating this disorder. This was demonstrated in a clinical trial where O3FA significantly decreased bronchial hyper-reactivity in patients suffering from seasonal asthma due to airborne allergens.20 Similar research with O3FA in asthma has also shown a reduction of symptoms.21,22,23

    N-acetylcysteine
    2,510 patients with acute and chronic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, and emphysema were given 200 mg, three times daily of the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC) (173 were given a lesser dose). All selected parameters (coughing, etc.) improved.24 NAC may work by more than one mechanism. Since free radicals play a major role in a variety of human disorders including asthma, NAC antioxidant activity may quench the offending free radicals.25 Another possible mechanism has to do with air pollution, since an increase in respiratory symptoms in relation to levels of particulate pollution has been well documented. Animal research has shown that some of the particulate pollution caused a secretion of cytokines (inflammatory substances), which in turn caused lung inflammation. That same research demonstrated that NAC reduced the cytokine secretion.26

    Vitamin B12
    Sulfites are substances that are often used as an additive in the food industry (e.g., wine often contains sulfites). Of interest is that four to eight percent of asthmatics are sensitive to sulfites, and may experience a sulfite-induced bronchospasm. Research suggests that Vitamin B12 is capable of totally or partially preventing the bronchospasm induced by sulfites.27

    References:

    1. Hatch GE, Am J Clin Nutr (1995) 61(3 Suppl):625S–630S.
    2. Aderele WI, et al, Afr J Med Med Sci (1985) 14(3-4):115–20.
    3. Florence TM, Aust N Z J Ophthalmol (1995) 23 (1):3–7.
    4. Bielory L, Gandhi R, Ann Allergy (1994) 73(2)89–96.
    5. Cohen HA, Neuman I, Nahum H, Pediatr Adolesc Med (1997) 151(4):367–70.
    6. Reynolds RD, Natta CL, Am J Clin Nutr (1985) 41(4):684–8.
    7. Sur S, et al, Ann Allergy (1993) 70(2):147–52.
    8. Shimizu T, et al, Pharmacology (1994) 49(6):392–7.
    9. Vermaak WJ, J Clin Invest (1996) 98(1):177–84.
    10. Bohmer T, Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen (1995) 115(7):827–8.
    11. Gustafson T, et al, Eur Respir J (1996) 9(2):237–40.
    12. Emel'ianov AV, Trofimov VI, Ter Arkh (1995) 67(12):31–3.
    13. Ziment I, Curr Opin Pulm Med (1997) 3(1):61–71.
    14. Hill J, et al, Eur Respir J (1997) 10(10):2225–9.
    15. Harari M, Barzillai R, Shani J, J Asthma (1998) 35(7):525–36.
    16. Bar-Dayan Y, Shoenfeld Y, Ann Med Interne (1997) 148(6):440–4.
    17. Li MH, Zhang HL, Yang BY, Chung Kuo Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih (1997) 17(4):216–8.
    18. Braquet P, Hosford D, J Ethnopharmacol (1991) 32 (1–3):135–9.
    19. Touvay C, Etienne A, Braquet P, Agents Actions (1986) 17(3-4):371-2.
    20. Villani F, et al, Respiration (1998) 65(4):265–9.
    21. Broughton KS, et al, Am J Clin Nutr (1997) 65(4):1011–7.
    22. Masuev KA, Ter Arkh (1997) 69(3):33–5.
    23. Masuev KA, Ter Arkh (1997) 69(3):31–3.
    24. Volkl KP, Schneider B, Fortschr Med (1992) 110(18):346–50.
    25. Leuenberger P, Schweiz Med Wochenschr (1994) 124(4):129–35.
    26. Kennedy T, et al, Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol (1998) 19(3):366–78.
    27. Giffon E, Vervloet D, Charpin J, Rev Mal Respir (1989) 6(4):303–10.
  • Reducing Indoor ALLERGENS—INCLUDING DUST MITES

    When I moved into my current home in Pacific Palisades, California, nearly 20 years ago, I was searching for nontoxic resources: paints, carpeting, and other furnishings. My search was mostly met with odd looks and raised eyebrows (ah, the olden days!). So I was overjoyed to find Mary Cordaro, just starting out on her path as a consultant on healthy, green home building and remodeling. She spoke my language! She became my non-toxic home guide to whom I referred friends and patients over the years: those with allergies, or simply, interested in green, non-toxic living. Mold, volatile chemicals, indoor and outdoor pollution—you name it, she’d have a resource.

    My latest concern, likely in response to those incessant commercials, is the existence of disgusting invisible dust mites that camp out in our mattresses, living off our skin flakes (yuck!). I asked Mary what she does for that and she referred me to this article of hers, which follows in its entirety.

    Written by Mary Cordaro

    One of the easiest ways to reduce our homes’ chemical loads is to remove shoes upon entering the house.
    Allergy sensitivities are on the rise. They’ve doubled since the 1970s, according to a 2005 study by the National Institutes of Health. Some of that increase may be because most of us spend up to 90 percent of our time indoors, meaning we are almost constantly exposed to airborne allergens in our offices, homes and cars.

    The most common home allergens are particulates and chemicals. Particulates include seasonal pollen, mold, dust, dust mites and animal dander. Indoor chemicals associated with allergies include formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds (chemicals that outgas from products such as plywood and fiberboard), conventional paint and finishes, and permanent fabric treatments. By improving air flow and reducing sources of particulates, chemicals and moisture, we can reduce our homes’ levels of typical airborne allergens. Here are some strategies.

    Particle Matters
    Many of the chemicals in our homes are tracked in from our shoes and pets’ feet. One of the easiest ways to reduce our homes’ chemical loads is to remove shoes upon entering the house. We can also reduce exposure to tracked-in grime by making bedrooms off-limits to pets.

    To control allergens that do get in, vacuum frequently, including upholstered furniture, with a HEPA vacuum independently certified to capture at least 99 percent of particulates. This is especially important if you have wall-to-wall carpet or pets. If you don’t have a HEPA vacuum, open windows while vacuuming and for 30 minutes afterward, as non-HEPA vacuums can stir up allergens. You might also invest in a HEPA air cleaner that filters particulates such as dust, pollen, dander and mold. The best HEPA cleaners contain carbon for chemical filtering.

    Moisture Patrol
    Moisture helps create an ideal environment for mold and other allergens. One of the most common sources of indoor moisture is condensation from bathing and cooking. Run exhaust fans when cooking and for 30 minutes after bathing, even if your bathroom has a window. (Make sure exhaust fans vent to the outdoors.) While fans are running, it’s wise to crack a nearby window to provide a source of makeup air (see “This House Doesn’t Suck” below). Outdoor moisture may also lead to indoor mold. Make sure your home’s drainage directs water away from foundation walls.

    In basements, avoid materials mold thrives on such as drywall and carpet. Instead, choose hard materials such as concrete, ceramic, tile and stone. Keep moist basement air out of living spaces by installing an airtight seal around the basement door and caulking holes where plumbing and electrical wires pass from the basement to the ground floor. Also install weatherproofing around attic doors.

    Carpet cleaning and humidifying increase indoor moisture. If carpet doesn't dry quickly after cleaning, you may end up with low levels of mold you canft see or smell. Use chemicalfree cleaning methods that require the least water, and only clean carpets when humidity is low and you can open windows. If you hire professionals, ask them to extract as much moisture as possible. If you use a humidifier, use filtered water and clean the reservoir with three percent hydrogen peroxide before refilling to prevent mold and bacteria.

    Death to Dust Mites
    The average bed is home to 100,000 to 10 million dust mites. Along with their favorite food.our skin particles. mites thrive on warmth, moisture and darkness. Before making the bed, pull back covers and air bedding, reducing moisture. When itfs sunny, air bedding outdoors. Wash sheets in hot water weekly if you are dust mite-sensitive. Unless they are filled with organic or chemical-free wool, which is naturally mite-resistant, encase mattresses, pillows and comforters with nontoxic dust mite barrier covers tightly woven to at least 4.91 microns. Seek barrier covers that are free of PVC and antimicrobial, stain- or wrinkle-resistant treatments (see Resources).

    Increase Air Flow
    Unless you have seasonal pollen allergies or live in a highly polluted area, open windows whenever weather allows. Fresh air and sunlight are great remedies for high levels of particulates, mites, moisture and chemicals. For fast relief, open windows and turn on all exhaust fans. Whole-house fans ventilate your entire home. If you install one, make certain its exhaust is mechanically vented to the outdoors, not into the attic.

    This House Doesn't Suck
    When you turn on your furnace, air conditioner or exhaust fans, your home may become gnegatively pressurized,h an effect that causes indoor air to gsuck inh pollutants from basements, wall cavities, attics and crawl spaces. To prevent this effect, keep all interior doors open and crack one window on each floor when furnace or fans are running. Change furnace filters when you see grime buildup, or once every six months. 

    http://www.naturalhomeandgarden.com/health/allergens-indoor-allergies.aspx

    Mary Cordaro is president of Mary Cordaro Inc, where she works as a healthy home consultant and certified Bau-biologist. She lectures around the country.

    Resources
    Mary's company has grown along with the entire green industry and she remains my top resource here:

    Mattress barrier encasements - Miele/Nilfisk
    Allergy Store - HEPA room air filters
    Organic Mattresses - Honeywell Inc./IQAir
    HEPA vacuums - Mary Cordaro Inc
  • Solutions to the Children’s ASTHMA EPIDEMIC

    A few weeks ago, I shared my general concepts of Green Medicine involving three components: the use of dietary, nutritional and natural substances (what I call our personal green), living in a clean home and office (our local green) and working to keep the greater world in which we all must live clean for the health of us all (our global green). In this article I take a look at asthma—a specific, epidemic and potentially dangerous problem, particularly as the disease occurs in children, the most vulnerable of us all, and walk you though my “Green Medicine” approach to this disease.

    ASTHMA 101
    First, some basics. Asthma is a major health problem in the U.S., its incidence increasing yearly and with cases up a whooping 75 percent since 1980. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reports the disease afflicts 20 million Americans, and is responsible for nearly one fourth of all emergency room visits. Some nine million children under age 18 suffer from asthma, with some four million of these victims of serious attacks last year. The costs, in terms of missed time from school, are staggering; in 2002 for example, the disease accounted for over 14 million lost school days.

    To understand asthma, we need at least a basic primer in lung physiology. To live, we need to breathe, and with each inspiration, fresh air, and with it life sustaining oxygen, travels into the lungs within the bronchi and bronchioles, tubelike structures that reach into the furthest recesses of the lungs, the small alveoli. Here, our red blood cells absorb much needed oxygen and release carbon dioxide, good old CO2, a by-product of normal metabolism, which we then breathe out of our lungs with expiration.

    Now smooth muscle cells line all these air passages along what anatomists call the bronchial tree. These cells, when contracting, can actually reduce the diameter of the bronchi and bronchioles. Such activity can be of benefit, for example when we are exposed to severe pollution, or say smoke from a fire; with reduced air intake, we actually lessen our exposure to potentially dangerous materials.

    We also lose considerable water through breathing; just think of a cold day, and the white vapor that follows each expiration. That white smoke is water vapor, exhaled with each breath day and night. If we’re dehydrated—during a hike on a hot summer day, for example—we can lose a fair amount of water this way. So it makes sense that our lungs might slow down a bit to reduce the losses, and help keep our fluids in balance until we re-hydrate as needed.

    Asthma occurs when our bronchi and bronchioles overreact to irritating exposures in the air, or dehydration, shutting down air flow to the point we find ourselves struggling and fighting for each breath, sometimes, ironically, fighting even for our lives. Scientists recognize a variety of substances that commonly provoke asthma in susceptible people, including pollens in spring and animal dander, as well as a myriad of pollutants. These irritants can lead to an inflammatory reaction in the immune cells lining the bronchi, which in response release histamine and leukotrienes. It’s these molecules that then set off the smooth muscle contractions that can, if excessive, lead to asthma.

    Asthma’s Connection to the Environment
    Scientists aren’t sure why in so many people the bronchi overreact, but some suspect our constant exposure to increasing amounts of toxic materials in our air must be at least partially to blame. After all, our poor lungs must deal with a constant barrage of noxious materials in the air, literally thousands of different compounds, many of which are irritating to the lungs.

    Infection, which creates inflammation, cold air, even exercise can provoke attacks in asthma prone children and adults. Since we tend to lose considerable water vapor via breathing both when it’s cold outside, and when we’re breathing heavily during exercise, I suspect these situations result when we’re just not adequately hydrated, and our lungs desperately try to conserve water—perhaps too desperately.

    Standard treatments for asthma include steroids, which reduce inflammation along the bronchi, and bronchodilators, which relax the smooth muscle. In our office, we have some simple approaches to the problem that often help enormously, though I must advise any patient with asthma to follow strictly their doctor’s advice, and never change or stop medications without their doctor’s approval.

    Green Medicine Asthma Solutions
    First, as a simple intervention, I always make sure any patient with asthma understands the need to drink plenty of fluids. Considerable debate rages about the amount of water humans need, and a recent study just last week said we should only drink when we feel thirsty. But with asthma, often our thirst centers in the brain seem a little slow to react, so patients end up chronically dehydrated, even though they don’t feel thirsty. In my office, we advice anyone with asthma to drink at least 6–8 glasses of water daily.

    I have also had a number of patients who improved substantially with the addition of simple apple cider vinegar, two tablespoons in a glass of water 2–3 times daily. Apple cider vinegar contains ample quantities of acetic acid, which we quickly absorb and which quickly acidifies the blood stream. We find that with the blood slightly on the acid side, the inflammatory responses tend to subside, and broncho constriction lessens. And though much nutrition advice these days promotes low fat diets, we find many of our asthma patients do better with a fairly regular intake of, yes, red meat. There’s a reason, biochemically speaking, why red meat might help. Red meat contains nutrients called phosphates and sulfates that our bodies quickly convert to acid in the blood. Once again, a slightly more acidic blood seems to blunt the exaggerated inflammatory response so typical of asthma.

    But, whatever diet an asthmatic chooses to follow, the cleaner the food the better, and that means organic. Fortunately, we live in a time when few doubt that organic food, be it plant or animal, not only provides more nutrients than conventional, but is cleaner. For an asthmatic, I believe organic is the only way to go.

    In terms of our local environment, we always encourage our patients to think green. The fewer toxins in the environment, at home, in the office, and at school, the better an asthmatic patient will do. Use non-toxic cleaning agents, and if your house needs painting, use the gentler, greener low VOC paint readily available today. Patients often ask me to recommend air filters, but frankly, we find the best air filter to be plants—but of course, only those that won’t lead to an allergic asthmatic response! Scientists now know that plants very efficiently remove pollutants, even the nastiest, from the air around us. One article on reported that spider plants remove 96 percent of carbon monoxide, and 99 percent of nitric oxide, both noxious gases, after only 24 hours. Spider plants, philodendron, and aloe plants are among the most powerful pollution fights around. Plants also give off oxygen, as an added benefit for all of us. In my home and office, we have plants everywhere, and for good reason—not only do they bring a bit of nature to my city life, but they keep the air around me, my wife, and my patients clean.

    The cleaner the world, the less pollution and the better it is for all of us, but particularly, the better for asthmatics. Get involved with friends and community groups; help organize a tree planting initiative in your neighborhood. Join national organizations that fight to keep the earth clean. Small efforts can add up, bit by bit, and ultimately have a powerful global effect.