Most of us take breathing for granted. While everyone must breathe to stay alive, it happens unconsciously and we only notice it when we have a cold or another illness that makes breathing difficult. Asthma is a health problem affecting millions of people in the United States alone. While there are medications available, many people with asthma still suffer from debilitating symptoms and even have to seek emergency medical care just to stay alive. New research on vitamin D and asthma suggests that taking this supplement along with your current medications can reduce your daily symptoms, your number of asthma attacks and the amount of rescue medication that you need to breathe.
The Physiology of Asthma
Although many people have asthma, it is often misunderstood. Asthma is not a minor disease, but rather one that can lower your quality of life and even cause death when left untreated. Asthma is a disease affecting the passages that carry air to your lungs. Asthmatic people have airways that are prone to inflammation, which can reduce the amount of air that both enters and exits the lungs. Many asthmatics have low level chronic inflammation, but also sometimes experience an asthma attack. In an asthma attack, the inflammation increases quickly and compromises the ability to breathe. In many cases, this can be life-threatening.
The symptoms of asthma are primarily caused by inflammation of the airway passages. Symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing. Some people can identify triggers that cause an asthma attack to happen, such as seasonal allergies, dust, or aerobic exercise. Although the risk of having an asthma attack is 100 times greater during the night, for many asthma sufferers, the attacks appear to happen randomly. While treatment regimens vary for each unique individual, they usually include daily medication to reduce chronic inflammation as well as rescue inhalers that can be used when an attack is beginning. When these medications fail, steroids are used to immediately open airways. While many people can manage their disease effectively with modern medicines, others struggle with symptoms regularly and live in fear of a deadly attack.
Vitamin D and Asthma Attacks
Because asthma can be difficult to manage effectively and the medications have intense side effects, many people are searching for natural remedies to help them breathe easily. New research on vitamin D and asthma suggests that this vitamin may help to prevent severe attacks. People who add vitamin D to their current asthma treatment regimen may see their number of attacks reduced by half. Six percent of people in this study using just their standard medications had to get medical care for an attack while three percent of the group that took additional vitamin D required this help. In addition, people taking vitamin D needed steroids less often.
How can vitamin D make such a difference in the number of asthma attacks? The exact mechanism remains unclear, but previous studies have found that vitamin D deficiencies are linked to worse asthma symptoms. It is possible that many asthma sufferers are suffering from a vitamin deficiency that worsens their symptoms, which is easily treated. Researchers noted that it is not clear whether vitamin D supplements will reduce attacks in people who already have high levels of this vitamin in their bodies.
Natural Approaches to Treating Asthma
Because asthma is difficult to treat even with the best modern medication regimen, many people are turning to natural remedies to improve their breathing. Antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E may help by reducing overall inflammation levels in your body. Caffeine can help some asthma sufferers, as it dilates air passages. While some of these supplements may be effective, every asthma sufferer is different and has a treatment plan tailored to their needs. It is important to talk to your physician before adding a new treatment to your current plan.
A variety of modern studies are finding that chronic diseases, even potentially deadly ones like asthma, can be effectively treated with safe and natural remedies. Vitamins and minerals are essential to our health, so supplements can often make a huge difference. Getting a wide variety of essential vitamins may be a breath of relief for many asthma sufferers.