Asthma is an allergic condition resulting from the reaction of the system to one or more allergens. It is the most troublesome of the respiratory diseases. The asthma patient gets frequent attacks of breathlessness, in between which he is completely normal.
Asthma is an ancient Greek word meaning " panting or short-drawn breath". Patients suffering from asthma appear to be gasping for breath. Actually, they have more difficulty in breathing out than breathing in and it is caused by a spasm of the smaller air passage in the lung. The effect is to blow the lungs up because the patient cannot drive the air properly out of the lungs before he has to take another breath. All asthmatics have more difficulty at night, especially during sleep.
The onset of asthma may be abrupt or gradual. Sudden onsets are often preceded by a spell of coughing. When the onset is gradual, the attack is usually brought on by respiratory infection. A severe attack causes an increase in heart-beat and respiratory rates and the patient feels restless and fatigued. There may be coughing, tightness in the chest, profuse, sweating and vomiting. There may also be abdominal pain, especially if coughing is severe. The wheezing sound identified with asthma is produced by the air being pushed through the narrowed bronchi.
Asthma is caused by a variety of factors. For many it is due to an allergy which may be caused by weather conditions, food, drugs, perfumes and other irritants which vary with different individuals. Allergies to dust are the most common. Some persons are sensitive to the various forms of dust like cotton dust, wheat dust and paper dust, certain types of pollens, animal hair, fungi and insects. Foods which generally cause allergic reactions are wheat, eggs, milk, chocolates, beans,potato and beef.
For others, asthma may result from psychic factors. According to some studies about 25 per cent of the young asthmatics have in common a "deeper-seated emotional insecurity and an intense need for parental love and specific protection." Heredity also plays an important role, and it has been estimated that when both parents have asthma or hay fever, in more than 75 per cent cases, the offspring also have allergic reactions.
Asthma has also been attributed to malnutrition. According to late Dr. Royal Lee, a nutrition expert, malnutrition in general, with adrenal insufficiency, hypoglycemia and intolerance for carbohydrates are the factors leading to asthma in adults. Dr. Carl J. Reich of Canada also considers asthma as a maladaptive state of the body due to deficiency of certain nutritional elements.
The modern medical system has not been able to find a cure for asthma. Drugs and vaccines have only a limited value in alleviating symptoms. Most of these are habit forming and the dose has to be increased from time to time to give the same amount of relief. They also tend to make asthma chronic. Allergy - which is the immediate cause of the asthma - itself is an indication of lowered resistance and internal disharmony caused by dietetic errors and a faulty style of living. The real cure, therefore, lies in the stimulation of the functioning of slack excretory organs and appropriate diet patterns to eliminate toxic and waste matter and reconstruct the body.
To begin with, the patient should fast for three to five days on lemon juice with honey. During this period the bowels should be cleansed daily with a warm water enema. After the fast, the patient may resort to an all-fruit diet for a further five to seven days to nourish the system and eliminate the toxins. Thereafter, other foods may be gradually added to the diet. Further short fasts and periods on all-fruit diet may be required in certain cases at intervals of two or three months depending upon the progress being made.
A vegetarian diet is best for asthma. Ideally, his diet should contain a limited quantity of carbohydrates, fats and proteins which are acid-forming foods, and a liberal quantity of alkaline foods consisting of fresh fruits, green vegetables and sprouted seeds and grains. The breakfast may consist of fresh fruits with prunes or other dried fruit. Steamed vegetables with whole wheat bread or chappatis may be taken for lunch and dinner may consist of a large salad of raw vegetables such as cucumber, lettuce, tomato, carrot and beets with cottage cheese, prunes or other dried fruit. The last meal should preferably be taken before sunset or at least two hours before going to bed.
The patient should avoid foods which tend to produce phlegm, such as rice, sugar, lentils and curds as also fried and other difficult -to-digest foods. He should also avoid strong tea, coffee, alcoholic beverages, condiments, pickles, sauces and all refined and processed foods. Initially, milk and milk products should be totally avoided. After noticeable recovery, a small quantity of milk may be added in the diet.
Asthmatics should always eat less than their capacity. They should eat slowly, chewing their food properly. They should drink eight to ten glasses of water every day, but should avoid taking water with meals.
Asthma, particularly when the attack is seve re, tends to destroy the appetite. In such cases, do not force the patient to eat . He should be kept fasting till the attack is over. He should, however, take a cup of warm water every two hours. An enema taken at that time would be beneficial.
Honey is highly beneficial in the treatment of asthma. It is said that if a jug of honey is held under the nose of an asthma patient and he inhales the air that comes into contact with the honey, he starts breathing easier and deeper. The effects lasts for about an hour or so. This is because honey contains a mixture of ‘ higher ‘ alcohols and ethereal oils and the vapours given off by them are soothing and beneficial to the asthma patients. Honey usually brings relief whether the air flowing over it is inhaled or whether it is eaten or taken either in milk or water. Some authorities recommend one year old honey for respiratory disease.
A recently completed study by Dr. Robert D. Reynolds Ph.D., a researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has shown that a vitamin B6 deficiency contributed to an asthmatic condition and the intake of even 50 milligrams of this vitamin twice a day can relieve the wheezing and other symptoms. Says Dr. Reynolds, " The daily B6 supplements stop the wheezing in about a week and the asthmatic attacks themselves occur less frequently and are of shorter duration. "
The patient should also follow the other laws of nature. Air, sun and water are great healing agents. Regular fasting once a week, an occasional enema, breathing exercises, fresh air, dry climate, light exercises and a correct posture go a long way in treating the disease.