Breathe Easy

Words: Dr Richard FIRSHEIN

The right nutritional supplements can turn asthmatic kids around and place them on the road to recovery.

We all know how fickle kids are at the dinner table. As hard as you try to get your children to eat right, it’s difficult to make sure they get the nutrients they need through diet alone. I’ve worked with enough asthmatic kids to know that adding nutritional supplements can go a long way towards getting them healthy.

There are plenty of sceptics who don’t believe supplements can help people with asthma. And, I agree that more research is vital to increase our understanding of the power and risks of the many substances found in nutritional supplements. But, supplements aren’t just a fad. Consider folic acid. If a pregnant woman consumes enough folic acid [a common B vitamin], according to a study in The Lancet, the risk of her baby developing spina bifida is reduced to almost zero. The role of B vitamins in preventing cardiovascular disease is now recognised. Calcium can prevent osteoporosis.

Natural Supplements

As you will read below, I also believe that enough data have come into support the use of nutritional supplements in the treatment of asthma. In my experience, I have found that children are very responsive to supplements and that their lungs are so receptive that adding nutrients to their diet, or improving their diets makes a huge difference. I have watched patients take supplements and regain their health. If my experience is any guide, we are going to find that certain supplements are very powerful treatments for many people. Bear in mind, however, that too many supplements can be harmful and there is no excuse for overdosing.

Kelly was a twelve-year-old girl who loved soccer. When I first saw her in my office, she told me that she would find herself short of breath on and off the field. She didn’t always have the stamina for an entire game and often relied on her inhalers. Kelly frequently got colds and had already had to miss several games of the season when she came to me. I started her on vitamin C and magnesium. At the first sign of a cold, I instructed her to use echinacea, an herbal remedy often prescribed in Europe that’s thought to stimulate the immune system. I also helped her to begin working on all aspects of my ‘Breath of Life’ programme. By the end of the season, Kelly was able to play through the games, had reduced her asthma medications by half, and had stopped getting sick. She did so well that in the following year she was elected captain of the team.

Researched Nutrients

Many people use the words vitamin and supplement interchangeably. Technically, this is inaccurate. Supplements can be broken down into vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and a host of other compounds including bioflavonoids and isoflavones. I describe these in detail in my book, The Vitamin Prescription [For Life].

I will focus on the relatively small army of researched nutrients that can help to heal asthma. When I believe supplements are appropriate, I often start with an antioxidant such as vitamin C and the mineral magnesium. Other nutrients that I may prescribe for children include a general multivitamin, or antioxidant formula, N-acetyl-L-cysteine [NAC], selenium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids, or fish oils. As you will see below, there is an accumulating body of research indicating that people with the highest intake of these anti-asthma nutrients have the lowest rates of asthma.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that more is better. I see many people who take high doses of supplements randomly and think this will be the route to good health. But, some supplements in high doses can have adverse effects, including gastric irritation, or reflux. Excess vitamin C has been linked to kidney stones, and overdoses of magnesium can cause diarrhoea. A well-balanced group of supplements should be taken under the guidance of a physician, and your family doctor must be aware of any supplements that your child is taking. Then, you can be alerted to any potential interactions with other supplements, or medications. Doses should be discussed with your doctor. They may be higher or lower depending on a child’s specific needs. Supplements should be consumed in an age-appropriate form. Therefore, powders, tinctures, and chewable tablets may be more suitable for very young children, and capsules, tablets, and gels may be better for children over the age of ten.

Synergy, Not Just Replacement

It’s also important to remember that supplements do not replace drugs. Without exception, supplements should not be used in place of medication during an acute attack. In general, acute or life-threatening symptoms of asthma should be treated with medications. Supplements should be taken to prevent acute attacks from happening in the first place, complement medical therapy, and promote healing.

Dr RICHARD FIRSHEIN, DO, is the Founder-Director of The Firshein Center for Comprehensive Medicine in New York City. He is a leading innovator and authority in the field of preventative and nutritional medicine, integrating Western and Eastern medical practices. He is Board Certified in Family Medicine and has served as professor of family medicine. An internationally recognised leader in the field of integrative medicine and healthy aging, a cancer researcher, prolific author and writer, Dr Firshein has written several ground-breaking books, including the bestselling Reversing AsthmaYour Asthma-Free ChildThe Nutraceutical Revolution and The Vitamin Prescription [For Life]. This article is ©Dr Richard Firshein.

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