Management and Treatment of Asthma With Traditional Chinese Medicine. Asthma affects approximately 15 million Americans today.
Asthma is a pulmonary disorder characterized by wheezing and dyspnea due to obstruction and inflammation of the airways. Asthma may be triggered by allergy, exertion, irritant particles, weather, psychological stress, etc. There are many causes of asthma. Allergens such as pollens, smoke, alcohol, house dust and animal hair may trigger an asthma attack. Asthma may also be induced by non‐allergy related factors such as exertion, cold air, stress, anxiety, crying, hearty laughing, and viral infection. Common morbidity associated with asthma includes sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, gastro esophageal reflux, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and hyperthyroidism.
In western medicine asthma is diagnosed based on the characteristic episodes of wheezing, coughing, dyspnea or chest tightness interspersed with asymptomatic intervals. Objective confirmation is made with repeated spirometry tests performed over symptomatic and asymptomatic periods. Spirometry is a device that measures the breathing capacity of the lungs and is helpful in making the diagnosis, monitoring the effectiveness of the treatment assessing the severity of the illness, and Tradition Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM has been treating asthma for thousands of years. In 1979, the World Health Organization listed forty diseases that can benefit from acupuncture. Respiratory tract diseases, including asthma and bronchitis, were included on that list. There are many studies relating to the success of acupuncture and Chinese herbs for the treatment of asthma in last twenty years. For example, in 1993, the Department of Anesthesia and Intensive Care at the University Hospital of Vienna, Austria, reported a study that concluded that after ten weeks of acupuncture treatment, over 70% of long‐standingasthma patients achieved significant improvement. In TCM, asthma is called "xiao chuan" which means wheezing and dyspnea, respectively. Chinese medicine classifies xiao and chuan as two separate illnesses with different treatments. Xiao (wheezing) is characterized by a whistling sound during breathing, increased respiration rate, yspnea and inability to rest in a horizontal position. Chuan (shortness of breath) is characterized bydyspnea, constant opening of mouth to grasp air, raised shoulder, flared nostrils and inability to rest in a horizontal position. Patients with xiao (wheezing) generally will have chuan (shortness of breath), while patients with chuan (shortness of breath) may or may not have xiao (wheezing). In Western medicine, wheezing and shortness of breath are both considered as symptoms which may be present in many different types of pulmonary syndromes such as asthma, acute bronchitis, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
According to TCM the following are some factors that may trigger an asthma attack: • External pathogenic factors, such as cold or heat, commonly induce asthma attacks. Lung dominates the Qi (energy) and manifests on the skin. As the environment affects the skin, the change is reflected in the Lung. As the Lung is attacked, its function to regulate water passage becomes impaired, water begins to stagnate and phlegm starts to form. Asthma attacks due to the invasion of external pathogenic factors are most likely to occur when the temperature is cold or if there is a rapid change in weather. External pathogenic factors mayalso include pollen, cigarette smoke, and any other allergens. • Diet can also trigger an asthma attack. Raw and cold food may injure the Spleen and tend to contribute to the stagnation of fluid circulation and the increase in the production of phlegm. Heavy, sweet, and greasy food tends to create phlegm and heat in the body. Fish, crabs, shellfish and other seafood have also beennoted to increase the likelihood of asthma attacks as well. • Congenital weakness and chronic illness are also common causes of asthma. Children with asthma generally have congenital Kidney Qi deficiency. On the other hand, chronic illness, such as patients with chronic cough and recurrent cold/flu, are likely to have Lungdeficiency. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs may help to: • system improve and balance the immune•• reduce allergic reaction reduce bronchial inflammation • tic nervous system in order to expand the walls ofadjust the sympathetic and parasympathe• the airways reduce and withdraw mucus and phlegm• increase the capacity of the lungs.
In most cases, acupuncture and Chinese herbs are very effective. After a series of treatments, asthmatic symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath are reduced. The frequency of an asthmatic episode can also be minimized. In fact, many people can usually resume an active lifestyle. The symptoms of asthma can vary. Some people may have only slight chest tightness or coughing and wheezing, while some may have even more serious symptoms such as shortness of breath and otherbreathing difficulties. It can be life threatening during a serious attack! The airways can become so constricted that not enough oxygen can get to your vital organs. Therefore, you should always keep a quick‐relief inhaler with you at all times, even if your symptoms are under control. Please remember that asthma is about long‐term management. Get checkups and treatments regularly. Contact your acupuncturist about an asthma treatment plan. You should always try to keep your environment under control. Prevent asthmatic triggers, such as household dust mites, pets, smoke, mold, pollens and high humidity. Prevent and treat common colds and respiratory viral infections in their early stages. Also, watch your diet and try to avoid dairy and sugar. It is also wise to manage your stress and not let asthma control you. Take action now. You could control asthma.
Lisenced Acupuncturist Soheila Beberness, NCCAOM certified, M.S.