Asthma is a reversible respiratory condition that involves the narrowing or swelling of the airways and the production of excess mucus. Asthma can range in severity from very mild to extreme cases and it can evolve over time. For example, some children have very intense asthma when they are young, and as adults, it becomes milder. In children, asthma can cause difficulties when it comes to playing with friends, participating in activities and sports, cause difficulty sleeping and may interfere with their normal school life.
Asthma has been continually rising over the last few decades. Though there is a genetic component to being at risk for asthma, a wide variety of internal and external environmental factors often play the biggest role in a child developing asthma. Other factors include being overweight, exposure to chemicals and allergens, early infections of the lungs such as a cold, bronchitis or pneumonia, being exposed to smoke, as well as the mother’s health during pregnancy and early life. These exposures may lead to the child’s immune system being upregulated or put into an autoimmune state.
Signs of Asthma
- Shortness of breath
- Pain or tightness in chest
- Allergic symptoms – red eyes, runny nose
- Recurrent Coughing
- Excess Mucus/build up
- Cold or dry air
- Environmental contaminants such as chemicals, dust, gas, smoke
- Outdoor allergens such as pollen, mold, grass
- Food allergies
- Intense emotions
- Sulfites and preservatives
- Some painkillers
- Excessive hygiene or antibiotic use
- Air quality in home or office
- Dust Mites
- Pet Dander
- Food Additives
- Hormonal Changes
- Medications (colouring/dye)
- Chemical cleaning products
- Laundry detergent
- Air fresheners
- Synthetic Essential Oils (make sure you are getting your essential oils from a clean, non-synthetic source)
- Grass, ragweed, etc.
- Air pollution
- Car exhaust
- Air temperature
- Change in weather
The mother’s health during pregnancy and in the early stages of the baby’s life can have an impact on the child’s risk of developing asthma.
Obesity – During pregnancy may increase the risk of a child developing asthma
Inflammation – any inflammatory state could have an impact on the immune system of the developing baby
Breastfeeding – breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months of life can greatly reduce your baby’s risk of developing asthma and allergies by strengthening the immune system
Smoking and Second-Hand Smoke Exposure– should be completely avoided as it is directly related to an increased risk of asthma in children
Diet During Pregnancy & Lactation
The Mother’s diet can help to reduce the risk of asthma in her baby and contribute to the healthy immune system development.
Reduce sugar intake – high sugar intake has been linked to an increased risk of allergies and asthma
Avoid allergens - Some people suggest avoiding common allergens during pregnancy such as nuts, eggs, dairy and processed foods
Ensure adequate folic acid – which is important for the baby’s development
Eat fish and other sources of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) – EFAs are excellent at reducing inflammation and important components of cell membranes.
Vitamin D – low levels of vitamin D are related to an increased asthma risk
Try: consuming food sources such as fish, eggs, and mushrooms
Vitamin E – important support for the immune system
Try: consuming food sources such as greens, seeds, nuts, and grains
Soothing asthma in children
In infants and children, soothing and healing asthma should be gentle and thoughtful. Removing allergens and triggers, healing digestive issues, and supporting proper immune function are all excellent ways to help your child who is suffering from asthma.
Special Infant Considerations
Breastfeeding is best when possible to help build your child’s immune system. All of the same environmental considerations should be taken to remove possible sources such as dust, mold and chemical contaminants.
Remove allergens: removing both environmental and dietary allergens can help to reduce the immune sensitivity of the infant or child.
Heal the gut: Leaky gut can increase allergic response through the body and wreak havoc on the immune system. Leaky gut is often caused by a food allergy or sensitivity. Eliminating the allergen through allergy testing or an elimination diet may be the best option.
Probiotic-rich foods improve digestion, strengthen the microbiome and immune system
Try: feeding your child fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, natto, and tempeh
Fiber: helps the body to eliminate toxins and waste products from the body
Try: adding plenty of fruits and vegetables. A smoothie is often the best way to sneak extra fruits & vegetables into your child’s diet.
Antioxidants: antioxidant-rich foods help to strengthen the body’s immune system and reduce free radical damage from toxins.
Try: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, dark leafy greens
Omega-3 Fats: help to support the developing body and reduce inflammation
Try: wild caught fish and ground flax seeds which are high in omega-3 as well. Ground flax can easily be added to smoothies or yogurt and also provide an extra boost of fiber.
Avoid Inflammatory foods
- Processed foods
- Added sugar
- Food preservatives such as sulfites
- Additives and food colors such as tartrazine and MSG
Chamomile: a gentle herb that is good for seasonal allergies
Try: preparing a soothing tea for your child
Nettle: a soothing and gentle herb that is helpful in reducing asthma symptoms.
Try: preparing a tea with nettle leaves and a bit of local honey
Elecampane Root: an expectorant that helps to dilate bronchioles and relieve symptoms of asthma. It is also an anti-inflammatory.
Try: a decoction with honey or use a tincture.
Ginger: antihistamine and natural anti-inflammatory
Try: decocting a lemon and ginger tea with some honey.
Mullein: acts on lungs to soothe irritated membranes
Try: making a tea from the leaves and again add some honey or maple syrup for sweetness for your child
Cordyceps: improve lung function, energizes the body and reduces bronchial secretions
Reishi Mushroom: strengthens the lungs, helps control stress, sedates your hyperactive immune cells that stimulate allergies
Garlic & Ginger: clear mucus, supports the immune system, anti-inflammatory
Children's Probiotics - Taken as needed in powder form.
Vitamin B6: asthma sufferers are often low in vitamin B6. It is an important component of the nervous system, liver detoxification and in immune system function.
Try: adding more B6 rich foods into your child’s diet such as chicken, salmon, sweet potatoes, spinach, and bananas.
Vitamin D: is an essential component in treating children’s asthma. Spending time outdoors is a great way to get vitamin D, but supplements are also available in the form of easy to use drops.
Try: spending time outdoors and use a D drop supplement designed for children.
Vitamin C: is an important antioxidant which is critical for immune function.
Try: supplemental vitamin C for children as well as adding rich sources of vitamin C such as bell peppers, broccoli, pineapple, oranges, and cauliflower.
Vitamin A (carotene): an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory vitamin that has been shown helpful in the treatment and management of asthma.
Try: foods such as spinach, kale, sweet potato, and carrots.
Magnesium: magnesium acts as a muscle and nervous system relaxant. It may assist in preventing coughing spells by relaxing the airways.
Try: magnesium-rich foods such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, and cashews or supplement with a magnesium drink such as “Natural Calm” before bed.
Zinc: of great importance for immune system support
Try: foods rich in zinc such as sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, turkey, lentils and quinoa.
Lycopene: reduce asthma symptoms in those who are affected by exercise/activity
Try: foods high in lycopene like watermelon, tomato, papaya, grapefruit, peppers, carrots & asparagus.
Acupuncture – is helpful in treating asthma. However, with very young children this therapy may be difficult as they are required to stay still for a period of time.
Chiropractic Treatment – some individuals find relief from asthmatic symptoms with the use of chiropractic treatment. Finding a chiropractor that specializes in children’s asthma would be recommended.
Allergy Testing – having your child’s allergies tested can be a great way to eliminate potential causes or triggers to their asthma symptoms
Pressure Points - Try going to a professional first or check out physiotherapists on youtube, let them show you how to work with pressure points. This is also a free therapy you or a family member can do on your own after you have learned how to do it. Eg: collarbone, breastbone, shoulder blade, wrist, the base of thumb and throat are all good pressure points you can work on to help ease your asthma symptoms.
Himalayan Salt Inhaler - small salt particles coat the bronchial tissues to reduce mucus, decrease inflammation, prevent irritation in the lungs and balance moisture levels. The best part about this inhaler is it is kid friendly!
Essential Oils - make sure these are pure, non-synthetic oils from a good source. Oils like eucalyptus, fennel, lemon, peppermint, and rosemary can open up the lungs, cut down mucus helping you create clearer airflow and loosen the buildup that you are unable to get out yourself
- Avoid triggers including environmental allergens and food sensitivities
- Use air conditioning or other air filtration systems at home to purify the air
- Clean your home regularly – remove dust, vacuum, wash curtains and linens
- Removing carpets & curtains if dust mites trigger asthma
- Reduce or eliminate pet fur
- Exercise and play
- Spend time outdoors
- Reduce stress
- Heal digestive issues – GERD can exacerbate asthma symptoms