When asthma and stress come together, they can compound the symptoms of both. Fortunately, there are some natural ways to relieve both and get you breathing again.
Stress induced asthma can plague both children and adults. Stress is never the sole cause of asthma; stress, however, can trigger an attack. To understand stress induced asthma it is helpful to understand the physical factors involved in the asthma and stress.
Asthma symptoms include wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. During an attack, you may feel like you are being suffocated, because the muscles around your bronchial passages tighten, blocking the passage of air. Air moving through these constricted airways produces the wheezing sound so characteristic of asthma.
If you have asthma, you will also experience inflammation of the bronchial tubes; your airways swell, making breathing even more difficult. Your asthma attacks may be triggered by even small amounts dust, pollen, fumes, or animal dander. You will find you are much more sensitive to these environmental factors than people who do not have asthma. Stress induced asthma can also be triggered by an emotional upset.
The Relationship between Asthma and Stress
Western medicine has been puzzled over the mechanisms involved in stress induced asthma.
It is normal for stress to produce increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system; your blood pressure rises and your air passages dilate (open wider) in preparation to deal with the stress; after the stress, your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to return your body to a normal, calm state.
If you have asthma your body may respond to stress with more activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, than of the sympathetic nerve system. This constricts the airways and can lead to an asthma attack.
The reasons for this are not clear and so treatment in the West has centered on reducing asthma symptoms, rather than treating the underlying causes of the problem.
Alternative healing systems, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine approach asthma and stress with a holistic focus instead of a symptom-based approach.
Traditional Chinese Medicine: Build your Defenses
According to traditional Chinese Medicine, the three pathogenic factors of Wind, Cold or Heat are responsible for causing the muscle spasms which tighten the bronchial passages during an asthma attack. These factors are forms of energy. Wind causes imbalance in the bronchi and together with Cold or Heat causes the tightening of the breathing passages.
If you are having an asthma attack, you are in an acute Excess condition. During an attack, the aim of traditional Chinese medicine is to stop the Excess Wind and thus relief the attack. Once you are over the attack, you are considered to be in a Deficient condition.
In a Deficient condition, your body will produce Defensive Chi in the kidneys and your lungs will spread it throughout your body. Defensive Chi is energy produced by the body to ward off disease. The concept is similar to the Western concept of the immune system. Weak lungs or kidneys can cause a lack of Defensive Chi.
Long-term treatment of asthma involves efforts to stimulate Defensive Chi and build up your body’s resistance to the pathogenic factors of Wind, Cold, and Heat. Herbs and acupuncture are used to stimulate Defensive Chi and build up resistance. Acupuncture can also be used to relieve a patient in the midst of an asthma attack.
Acupuncture for Asthma and Stress
Chinese medicine recognizes that emotional turmoil and stress play a role in asthma.
Points for “calming the spirit” are used during acupuncture treatment for asthma. Acupuncture stimulates your body’s natural neuro-regulation of the bronchial airways. Acupuncture treatment to strengthen the kidneys and build up Defensive Chi has been shown to increase red blood cell count and produce other beneficial measurable changes in body chemistry
People undergoing regular acupuncture treatment report experiencing decreased tension and an improved sense of well-being. Asthma and stress both are relieved.
The Buteyko Breathing Method: Natural Relief for Asthma
Some people have found asthma relief with an alternative treatment developed in Russia. The Buteyko Breathing Method operates on the theory that people with asthma hyperventilate and this greatly contributes to their breathing problems
If you have asthma you unconsciously develop the pattern of rapid, shallow breathing known as hyperventilation. If you suffer from stress-induced asthma this can be a critical factor, since stress itself frequently causes hyperventilation. During hyperventilation your body is not receiving enough oxygen, but this is not the only problem.
Hyperventilation also deprives the body of carbon dioxide; while you probably think of carbon dioxide as simply a waste product of the breathing process, this gas is important in regulating your body’s use of oxygen. Without sufficient carbon dioxide in the blood, your body does not receive the chemical signals it needs to utilize oxygen effectively.
The aim of the Buteyko Breathing Method is to retrain asthma patients to breathe slowly and allow the body’s natural breathing regulation to ease their disease.
Break the Cycle
Asthma and Stress can become a vicious cycle. You are stressed by other factors and now the additional stress of asthma is added to the mix. Your fear of having an asthma attack may actually lead to a stress induced attack. Don’t despair. Explore your options. An alternative treatment may be your ticket to better breathing.