According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 12 people have asthma. That accounts for 7.7 percent of all adults and 8.4 percent of all children.
And sadly, it’s a chronic disease that has been steadily increasing in people of all ages, sexes and racial groups since the 1980s. In fact, according to the CDC, the number of Americans with asthma grew 28 percent from 2001 to 2011, and the numbers continue to rise.
Although scientists haven’t determined exactly why people develop asthma, many experts believe that the rise in allergies and asthma may be due to climate change, which is causing a rise in pollen levels, as well as increased air pollution in cities, and the overuse of antibiotics.
If you’re one of the many people who suffer from asthma, you know that the fall can be an especially tough time to keep your asthma symptoms under control. Not only does colder weather mean more time spent indoors, where you’re more likely to be surrounded by common asthma triggers like dust mites and pet dander, but it is also the start of cold and flu season, which can also make your asthma symptoms worse.
Thankfully, Tanya Tanzillo, a functional medicine practitioner at the Center for Holistic Medicine, says there are many lifestyle changes you can make to help keep your asthma symptoms under control, and to lessen the chance that you’ll have to reach for that inhaler every day.
- Don’t open the windows
Now that we are experiencing cooler nights, you may be tempted to open the windows instead of running the air conditioning. However, open windows can allow in more pollen into your home, which can trigger asthma symptoms. Ragweed usually starts to pollinate in August and can last until the first frost, which may not happen until the end of October.
- Don’t let your pets sleep on the bed
We all love our pets, but if you’ve got asthma, it’s time to kick ’em off your bed. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, the proteins found in a pet’s dander, skin flakes and saliva can aggravate asthma symptoms.
- Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
You may not realize that what you eat has any affect on your asthma, but according to Tanzillo, your diet can play a significant impact on your asthma symptoms. Here’s how it works: When someone with asthma breathes in foreign or toxic substances, the body’s immune system produces inflammatory molecules called leukotrienes, which constrict the blood vessels in your airways to try to block out the invaders. However, if you eat a diet high in flavonoids and carotene (which can be found in all colorful vegetables), you can boost your body’s immune system and stop the production of leukotrienes.
- Eat lots of Vitamin C
Several studies have shown that taking vitamin C can significantly reduce asthma symptoms, especially in children. Just as with flavonoids and carotene, vitamin C can significantly boost your body’s immune system and keep inflammation at bay, making it better able to fight off airborne toxins.
- Take a Vitamin D supplement
Vitamin D has many antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities and several studies have shown a significant link between vitamin D deficiency and asthma. Since we live in Chicago where it’s cold and we don’t get that much exposure to sunlight, Tanzillo says it’s especially important to take a daily supplement of Vitamin D. However, she recommends asking your doctor about the correct dosage for you.
- Eat fish or fish oil
You’ve probably heard that eating a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may support heart health, brain health and reduce inflammation, but did you know it can also reduce symptoms of asthma as well? Studies have shown that eating fish twice a week for older children can also significantly improve asthma symptoms. If you (or your kids) don’t get enough fish in your diet, you can always add a fish oil supplement instead.
- Get tested for food allergies
Tanzillo says another surprising cause of asthma symptoms may be food intolerances. Many people are aware that there are certain foods that can cause immediate allergic reactions in people – such as those who immediately can’t breathe as soon as they eat a peanut or shellfish. However, Tanzillo says there are other types of foods that people can tolerate at low dosages, but when they eat too much of them, they may cause your body to activate its immune response, which can lead to asthma attacks. Some foods that may lead to intolerances can be dairy, chocolate, meat, citrus foods, food coloring and more. Tanzillo recommends trying to be cognizant of what you are eating when asthma attacks occur and to come in to have a food allergy panel run to determine what may be triggering your symptoms.
Want to get more information about what may be causing your asthma symptoms? Schedule an appointment with Tanzillo today.