Q & A with a Bend Naturopath
Q: My four-year-old son has recently been diagnosed with asthma. Hehasbeensickonandoffthroughouttheyear and has had such a hard time with his breathing. We have an inhaler for him – this works sometimes, but during severe attacks we have had to take him to the ER. Are there any natural remedies you could recommend?
A: As far as managing the symptoms of asthma, the inhaler approach is usually helpful, however this approach on its own, ignores the underlying factors causing asthma in the first place, and does nothing to work toward addressing contributing factors. The most common cause of asthma is a hyper-reactivity of the immune system that causes an inflammatory response, effectively narrowing the bronchioles in the lungs, causing the characteristic shortness of breath, wheezing, etc. The question then becomes, what is causing the immune and inflammatory response in the first place? Typically I recommend that patients run a series of blood tests to look for an answer to this question.
In many cases we discover there is a food, or group of foods that are contributing to this inflammatory process, and in other cases we find immune system antibodies elevated in response to something that is inhaled. Some common triggers here are house molds, dust, pet dander, pollen, etc. Once these immune system triggers are identified, steps can be taken to mitigate. Also, I find that kids that have an inflammatory response from one of these areas will also have asthma flare-ups during colds or flu, or other stressors.
In all cases, I recommend taking steps to make sure the digestive system is really healthy. Why worry about the gut when we are talking about the lungs? Over 75% of immune system activity and education is happening in our gut, and an unhealthy gut is commonly the cause of inflammation elsewhere in the body. A high-quality probiotic formula, as well as a supplemental source of essential fatty acids ( fish oil), are two great ways to address the gut-immune system connection. Addressing the already-mentioned possibility of food-sensitivities is also very important. Vitamin D is also a must-do for anyone with asthma, and is particularly helpful during non-summer months.
There are many other herbal, homeopathic, and nutraceutical treatments that can be very helpful, and some that address the lungs directly, but are always given to address the unique nature of the individual, with the goal of addressing underlying causes. While this approach is generally not quick- x, it does hold the possibility of lasting results, often times improving overall health in the process, and eliminates the quick-grab for the rescue-inhaler as the only solution.
Q: Even though my teenage son has acne, I am not overly worried. I assume this will clear up after puberty. Is it necessary to intervene other than with facial wash and benzoyl peroxide and are there other treatments out there that have no side effects?
A: While the surge of hormones that happens during puberty sets the stage for acne, there are other factors that can contribute to its severity, and this is where there is an opportunity to take action. Conventionally, the bacteria associated with acne are the area of focus, and this is why benzoyl peroxide products are a mainstay of treatment—to kill bacteria. In more severe acne, a dermatologist may prescribe a systemic antibiotic with the same goal in mind.
Looking at acne holistically though, we know there is also a strong inflammatory component that can be addressed if the teen is willing to pay attention to his/her diet. Famously, teens are not super conscientious about their diet, and may be consuming a lot of pizza, soda, burgers, etc. These are all pro-inflammatory foods and will contribute to more severe acne. Refined sugar alone contributes to bacterial overgrowth and is pro-inflammatory. This can be a very empowering experience for teens when they realize that including healthier anti-inflammatory foods, drinking more water, and minimizing pro-inflammatory foods actually means healthier looking skin (and often means feeling better as well!).
Additionally, a supplemental source of essentially fatty acids, like a good fish oil product, taken daily will contribute to an anti-inflammatory “tone” in the body, and can improve the health of the skin.
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