The incidence of childhood asthma and other forms of asthma seems to just keep rising. According to the statistics maintained by the National Institutes of Health, the prevalence of asthma across all age groups and races nearly doubled between 1980 and 1995. For children ages 4-14, there was an increase of over 75%, and for children between the ages of 1 and 4, the increase in the prevalence of asthma was a shocking 160%. The rise in the incidence of asthma is so disturbing that it is one of the conditions specifically mentioned in the U.S. governments Healthy People 2010 initiative. In fact, asthma treatment is mentioned in eight different objectives in that particular initiative.
The rise in the incidence of asthma has also meant a rise in the research devoted to asthma cures and treatments. While much of the research is into so-called ‘conventional treatments’, conventional medicine is increasingly turning to nutrition and other alternative types of medicine for inspiration – and in some cases, treatment options for children and adults diagnosed with asthma. These treatment options range from intensive education for both patients and families to dietary strategies that may reduce the severity and frequency of asthma attacks to health supplements that may supply missing nutrients to patients with asthma. In some cases, they may extend to biofeedback monitoring and even color therapy.
Why are such things being taken seriously enough to be worth the time and effort of scientists? Simply put, over the past few decades, modern science has learned that many of the ‘traditional’ treatments and therapies have a basis in fact. Doctors have gradually come to accept that diet and nutrition are key ingredients in healthy bodies and minds, and to believe that patients who take a proactive stance in their own treatment are far more likely to follow medical advice – and recover. When it comes to treating asthma, this has meant that more and more doctors are emphasizing environmental factors and diet as a way to reduce the frequency and severity of acute asthma attacks and help control chronic asthma.
In addition, there are some doctors that emphasize alternative treatments in addition to, or in place of more conventional medication and breathing treatments. These alternative treatments, especially when combined with conventional treatment, offer asthma patients the opportunity to live normal lives without fear of triggering acute, and sometimes deadly attacks. They may involve dietary changes – either to avoid foods that may trigger asthma attacks, or to include those that help relax and tone muscles, for instance. They may include using a biofeedback machine to teach an asthmatic child how to focus on and relax his own muscles and relieve ‘panic breathing’. Even health insurance companies, the bastion of conventional thinking, are loosening their regulations to allow payment for treatments like acupuncture, nutritional counseling and holistic treatment.
The one caution that most medical professionals offer is one that makes sense. Alternative medical treatments can be helpful in treating the symptoms and underlying causes of asthma – but they should not replace conventional medicine. If your doctor has prescribed medication, continue to take it as prescribed – and do be sure to consult your doctor if you are using any alternative treatments. Some can interfere with the effectiveness of your regular treatment plan – and others increase its effectiveness. Either way, it’s important that your health practitioner be able to monitor your condition and make adjustments where needed.