Traditional Chinese Medicine
Understanding Asthma from Different Perspectives
Summary: In modern medicine asthma is considered an incurable, inflammatory condition of the airways that usually is triggered by airborne allergens, infections, emotions, temperature changes, pollution, dust mites, etc. To diagnose asthma usually lung function tests before and after bronchial dilator use are performed. An increase in lung function after using a fast acting bronchial dilator (such as Ventolin) will indicate that the airways are only temporarily restricted (as in asthma) versus more chronic restriction (as for example in emphysema). Blood tests for allergy markers are usually checked. NO (nitric oxide) may also be checked in the exhaled air, and these levels are often elevated indicating inflammation in the lungs. Your treatment will be aimed at reducing inflammation in the lungs (usually by taking daily "preventer" inhalers containing steroids) and by keeping your lungs dilated if necessary (rescue inhalers, such as Ventolin).
Summary: Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views asthma in the context of the whole body, including your constitutional strength, your emotions, and your life-style.
Not everybody's asthma is considered the same. For example one person may be diagnosed as having a weakness in their kidneys, which affects the lungs, and another person may diagnosed with an excess in the liver, which can also cause wheezing. A diagnosis is based on your symptoms, your body type, how you handle stress in your life, your pulse, your tongue, and many other factors that are ascertained during your first visit to a practitioner. Based on this diagnosis a treatment regiment will be designed for you that may include acupuncture, herbal teas or capsules, life style changes and dietary considerations. All of these things can be done simultaneously with your daily use of medications, such as your preventer and rescue inhalers. Over time the treatment may allow you to reduce your medication.
Summary: The Buteyko Method states that asthma is caused by a state of chronic hyperventilation which causes an imbalance of CO2 levels in your blood, as well as reduced Nitric Oxide levels. Both of these things result in bronchial constriction, and in people prone to it, this may result in asthma. Both CO2 and NO are powerful bronchial dilators. The Buteyko practitioner will observe your breathing and help you take a measurement called the Control Pause (CP) to assess your level of CO2. Then you will be instructed to learn how to rebalance your CO2 and NO levels by normalising your breathing - i.e. reducing your breathing volume and re-setting your respiratory centre to adjust to a more healthy level of CO2. Over time, by diligent practice of these exercises, your CP will increase and your asthma symptoms will reduce and your need for medication will reduce accordingly.