Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways in the lungs. When it starts to develop, the airways swell due to the restricted supply of air. Consequently, they become extra sensitive to some substances a person might inhale. Its common symptoms include tightness in the chest, wheezing, breathlessness, and coughing.
Currently, around 15 to 20 million people are suffering from asthma in India as per the WHO estimation and the situation might worsen for the asthma patients if the level of pollution keeps mounting.
There are two types of asthma, namely “intrinsic” and “extrinsic”. While extrinsic asthma is caused by the exposure to allergens including pollen, mites, dust, tobacco smoke etc, intrinsic asthma is usually caused by an infection in the respiratory tract. Typically developing in childhood, extrinsic asthma is far more common than intrinsic asthma which affects only a small chunk of the population that too, after the age of 30. However, with obesity as one of the prime risk factors and chronic symptoms, intrinsic asthma is far more difficult to treat.
Asthma is diagnosed after a round of tests which are done after taking into consideration the entire medical history of the patient. After the enquiry, a physical exam is done which is followed by lung function tests to confirm asthma.
It becomes difficult for people suffering from asthma to cope up at night. They experience symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath which, in turn, affects their sleep. People with uncontrolled asthma usually experience these symptoms. If experts are to be believed, the circadian rhythm is the main culprit here. Additionally, nocturnal asthma can also be triggered by too much humidity, dirty pillowcase, a big meal before sleep, undiagnosed sleep apnea etc.
Food Allergies And Asthma
Patients suffering from asthma are asked to avoid certain food items as they may worsen their symptoms. Also, food allergies may trigger asthma. The basic definition of a food allergy encapsulates the over-reaction of the body's immune system to certain harmless proteins by releasing a chemical called, histamine. If someone has developed a food allergy, symptoms like hives, rash, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea may be observed. The food items like eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts (cashews, almonds, filberts, etc.), soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, and shrimp are usually associated with food allergies.
It is advisable for asthmatic patients to avoid foods which have omega-6 fatty acids and trans-fats in them as they trigger asthma symptoms and worsen the condition. Processed foods and some margarine must also be avoided.
Exercises For Asthma Patients
There is a wrong notion that physical activities can aggravate asthma. But the matter of fact is that some exercises are really helpful for asthma patients. Exercises like swimming help in building up the muscles used for breathing. Also, it increases lung function and cardiopulmonary fitness. Yoga is another amazing exercise for people suffering from asthma. Additionally, asthma patients can try other physical exercises like walking, biking, hiking, golf, gymnastics etc. to maintain their fitness regime. However, sports like cross-country skiing, ice hockey, and endurance sports like soccer and long-distance running may trigger asthma and hence, must be avoided.
Tips For Exercising With Asthma
- Before starting with your daily fitness regime, do some warm-up exercises.
- Wear a scarf or a mask over the nose and the mouth to keep yourself protected in the cold weather.
- If you also have some allergies, especially pollen allergy, it is better to stay indoors when pollen counts are high.
- Do not exercise outdoors if the level of pollution is high.
- Avoid exercising when sick.
- Do not overt exert yourself while exercising.
- In case of emergencies, it is advisable to carry an albuterol inhaler.
Whether we like to believe it or not, there is no natural treatment for asthma. However, most of its symptoms can be managed by natural therapies. Also, going for relaxation therapies like deep abdominal breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and biofeedback can help a great deal in case of emotional stress leading to an asthma attack. A healthy diet is, undoubtedly, helpful in improving asthma symptoms. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, mackerel, or cod must also be included in the diet.