The first Tuesday in May is designated World Asthma Day (WAD) by the Global Initiative for Asthma. This year, it falls on May 1, and this year’s theme is “You Can Control Your Asthma”.
To help raise awareness of the growing epidemic of asthma worldwide, the month of May has been designated “Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month” in the United States, with events and conferences being held nationwide.
One of the scariest things to experience is the suffocating feeling of an acute asthma attack. Perhaps even scarier is to be a helpless parent observing their child gasping for air, unable to take in enough oxygen, the child’s lips displaying the bluish tinge of the first signs of anoxia.
Fortunately, modern medicine has discovered a way to control the symptoms of an acute attack of asthma and have further developed methods to control the chronic symptoms, reducing the chance of acute attack hospitalizations.
In an acute attack of asthma, the symptoms are due to a three-fold blockage of the airways in the lungs. The inflammatory response of the immune system thickens the walls of the airways, reducing the diameter of the airway. The smooth muscles surrounding these airways begin to constrict, further reducing the space through which air is able to travel. Lastly, fluids are excreted into the airway as mucus is generated.
These mechanisms result in symptoms that include a tightening feeling in the chest, cough, shortness of breath and wheezing.
The response of the lungs to the asthma trigger is a normal response the body would create to protect itself from a noxious environment. If one were to be trapped in a burning home, for example, the smoke would be damaging to the lung tissue, so the body reacts in this protective manner. Where asthma is involved, the body over-reacts to some environmental trigger and adopts this protective mechanism.
Bronchodilator medications relax the smooth muscles. Inhaled steroid medications reduce the inflammation of the walls of the airways. Thanks to these developments in modern medicine, we are able to control the frequency and severity of asthma attacks over time and often manage to save lives in acute situations.
Unfortunately, these drugs result in adverse side effects over time, considered a ‘necessary evil’ to keep us alive.
What our conventional medicine has failed to ask, let alone to determine, is why is the body responding this way? How do we train it not to respond this way to such inoffensive triggers? The same question can be asked of any allergy.
This is where Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has the answer and the advantage in treating Asthma. The hyper-immune response is a function of a weakness of certain internal organ energetic systems according to TCM. Treatment entails first clearing the Lung of accumulated Phlegm and Heat, then strengthening the body to stop creating these ‘internal pathogens’. Over time, treatment will result in a stronger immune system and a higher tolerance to the triggers causing asthma.
It is time for us to put more research into the TCM approach to treating asthma so that we can arrive at a system equipped with the means not only to save lives in an acute attack, but also to retrain the body not to over-react to its asthma triggers.
There’s my suggestion going into World Asthma Day.