The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) defines asthma as a chronic lung condition that inflames and narrows the bronchial tubes aka the airways. It causes recurring episodes of wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, and chest tightness. This disease usually hits a person during childhood; however, it impacts the people of all ages.
Asthma symptoms may be mild sometimes and would diminish on their own, but they can continue to worsen. When these symptoms get intense, it means the sufferer is having an asthma attack. It is very important to treat the symptoms immediately when they surface. In this way, you prevent the symptoms from intensifying and becoming a severe asthma attack. A severe asthma attack requires medical emergency and can be fatal.
Simple Steps to Managing Your Asthma
There is no cure for asthma, and it can hit you anytime. However, you can play an active role in managing this disease by acquiring the proper knowledge. Here are a few ways to manage your asthma:
1- Be Mindful of your Triggers
A trigger is anything that makes you suffer from asthma symptoms by irritating your sensitive bronchial tubes. Maybe your cat or the dust around you is setting your asthma off. Or it may be cold weather, smoke or pollen that is making you suffer. Furthermore, you can have more than one asthma triggers, and they may be different from another person’s triggers.
Also, sometimes your triggers may not cause any symptoms. That is because the sensitivity of your bronchial tubes varies day to day. If you are managing your asthma well, your triggers are less likely to cause any symptoms.
If you are exposed to more than one asthma triggers, the symptoms can get intense. For example, if you are smoking thirdhand and are cold too, you may develop severe symptoms. That is another reason why sometimes you develop asthma symptoms and sometimes you do not.
Nevertheless, if you know what things trigger asthma symptoms in your body, you may be able to alleviate your condition. In most of the cases, your triggers may be obvious.
However, in some cases, they would be difficult to identify. In that case, try maintaining a diary of your activities and symptoms to pinpoint your not-so-obvious triggers.
You must also know that it is impossible that you avoid all the triggers. Therefore, take your preventer inhaler every day and use a written self-management plan.
2- Stay Active
There is a presumption that physical activity can bring asthma attack. However, this is not the case. In fact, physical activity bodes well for managing your asthma. Exercise improves blood flow and lung capacity. It also has a soothing impact. In addition to that, physical activity renders fewer chances of asthma and enables you to cope with the asthma symptoms. Experts recommend that brisk walk for 30 minutes on most days of the week keep you fit and healthy.
Furthermore, if you get wheezy while you exercise, it means that you are not controlling your asthma well. Heed your physician on this matter. There is also a kind, i.e., Exercise Induced Asthma. Even this kind does not stop you from physical activity.
You should engage in activities with frequent breaks and those involving warm moist surroundings. Such activities include but are not limited to walking, swimming, tramping, martial arts, tennis, tai chi, aerobics, and so on.
However, do not forget taking your reliever inhaler before doing exercise. Taking 1-2 puffs of your reliever inhaler would be sufficient to keep you going through the exercise.
3- Take Caffeine
This is good news for coffee and tea lovers, those who have asthma. If you have asthma, experts encourage you to take more and more amounts of caffeine. According to them, black tea and coffee have active biological chemicals that help in the expansion of bronchial air passages aka bronchodilation.
Caffeine is also related chemically to theophylline, a drug used to alleviate asthma. According to a study published in the Cochrane Database of Systemic reviews in 2010, caffeine improves the function of air passages for up to four hours in people who have asthma.
4- Quit Smoking
If you have not considered it yet, do it now. Smoking, be it firsthand or thirdhand is aggravates your asthma. It is one of the significant asthma triggers. Cigarette smoke has 4000 harmful chemicals, and if that does not stop you from smoke, know that it is disastrous for asthma too. It intensifies the asthma symptoms and can even lead to an attack.
If you want to manage your asthma and decrease the odds of an asthma attack, you have to stop smoking. Here is why:
- It impacts the functioning of your liver.
- It multiplies your sensitivity to other triggers like chemicals, pollens, etc.
- It raises the need for asthma medicines and makes your routine asthma control challenging to achieve.
- It exposes you to the risk of permanently damaged airways, as you are very likely to develop chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
what happens when you quit smoking:
When you have finally given up smoking, you would feel the difference yourself. Here’s what happens:
- You are going to experience fewer asthma symptoms. Your lungs will clear out within a few days you have stopped smoking. However, you may experience your asthma symptoms going worse immediately after you quit smoke. You should not be demotivated by it and consult a doctor on this.
- After three days, your airways would start relaxing, and breathing will become more comfortable.
- The results of no smoking will become prominent after three to nine months as your liver will increase its functioning by 10 percent giving you more energy to do your tasks.
- Odds of your asthma attack tend to become fewer as smoking is one of the significant risk factors for the attack.
It is worth mentioning here that thirdhand smoke, i.e., you are in the company of someone who is smoking, has the same impact as firsthand smoke does.
5- Take the Right Diet
You can also manage your asthma by taking the right kind of foods. However, there is no such evidence that eating certain foods has an impact on the frequency or the severity of the asthma attacks. Still, a good diet improves your overall health and ultimately asthma symptoms.
According to a research, replacing fresh food like fruits and vegetable with processed foods can be linked with the rise in asthma incidents in the recent decades.
Nutrients that you should add to your diet
One cannot simply deny the role of food in the asthma management as food relates to allergies, which along with food intolerance contribute to asthma symptoms.
Here are the foods that you should add to your diet in order to manage your asthma. You must keep in mind that these foods do not have any direct link with asthma control, but they improve the functioning of your liver, which ultimately alleviates your asthma conditions.
1. Vitamin A
A recent study has shown that children having asthma tend to have lower levels of Vitamin A as compared to the children who do not have asthma. Not only this but also higher levels of Vitamin A in the blood of children with asthma improve their lung function. Foods you should take to consume vitamin A are sweet potatoes, broccoli, leafy greens like spinach and kale, and carrot.
2. Vitamin D
According to the Vitamin D Council, children between the age of 6 and 15 can have their asthma attacks reduced by consuming adequate amounts of Vitamin D. Some great sources of Vitamin D include salmon, eggs, fortified orange juice, and milk.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, children of age between 11 and 19, having low magnesium levels also have low liver volume and flow. Foods for increasing the magnesium levels are spinach, salmon, dark chocolate, and pumpkin seeds.
Foods that you should avoid
Along with taking foods that help improve the liver function, avoiding foods that can trigger the asthma symptoms is also important to manage your asthma. Here are a few such foods:
1. Artificial Ingredients
If you are planning to control asthma, you should know that you have to make many lifestyle changes. The major among these changes is to avoid processed and fast foods. These foods contain flavorings, colorings, and above all chemical preservatives. Some people having asthma are allergic to this stuff.
Salicylates are found in some herbs, spices, coffee, and tea. A few people can be sensitive to these compounds. However, it is a rare incidence, and you need to check with that.
3. Foods Causing Gas
Consuming foods that cause gas or eating in extravagant amount can pressurize your diaphragm. The problem aggravates if you have acid reflux. The pressure can result in chest tightness and asthma symptoms. That is why you should have meals in moderation and steer clear of food items like garlic, onions, beans, cabbage, carbonated drinks, and fried foods.
Sulfite is a kind of preservative and has the potential to aggravate the asthma symptoms. Foods like dried fruits, wine, shrimp, bottled lemon, lime juice, and maraschino cherries contain sulfites, so you have to avoid these.
5. Common foods that cause you allergy
If you have food allergies, you are most likely to have asthma. If so, you have to avoid consuming foods like tree nuts, shellfish, dairy products, and wheat.
6- Get a Written Asthma Action Plan
Managing your asthma on your own is a good thing, but you cannot be on your own without consulting your doctor. Chalk out a written asthma action plan with the help of your doctor. It should be inclusive of all the information that you are going to require in managing your asthma.
If you implement a written asthma action plan, your chances of getting an asthma attack needing medical assistance become pretty rare. By having such a plan, you will have all the information about your asthma in one place.
However, your asthma action plan should include the following:
- The number of puffs you have to take from your preventer inhaler and how often you need them in a day.
- Your triggers, i.e., things that worsen your symptoms.
- The symptoms that make you use bronchodilator inhalers.
- Symptoms that make you go to your doctor.
- Signs and symptoms telling that you are having an asthma attack.
- What you should do if you have an asthma attack.
7- Take your Prescribed Medicine
These tips and recommended diet are meant to alleviate your asthma; they are not to be considered as a treatment for the condition whatsoever. Taking your medicines as prescribed is critical to your health and keeping an asthma attack at bay.
Never drop your medication until your doctor says so. You also need to know that there is no cure for asthma, these medicines are to ensure that your daily life keeps going seamlessly.
If your doctor has prescribed you a preventive inhaler, you need to take it even if you do not have any asthma symptoms. It helps you control the asthma symptoms and prevent you from any unwanted emergency. Keep your inhaler where you keep your toothbrush so that you use it when you brush your teeth (twice a day).
Asthma affects a person’s day to day life, as it disrupts your breathing. However, it is easier to keep a check on if one is mindful of his/her lifestyle and dietary patterns. This respiratory condition requires a proper plan to follow so that your life keeps going without trouble. Along with taking medicine, you should also focus on what you eat and what you do.
Most of the things that keep a check on your symptoms are the ones you should do even without asthma. For instance, ditching your smoky little friend is indeed the need of the hour. Similarly, avoiding processed foods is a lifestyle change that you should incorporate with or without asthma. Nevertheless, making these changes becomes vital to your health if you have this ailment.