Health - Catch your Breath
by Mansi Agarwal
For millions, asthma is a way of life. Sakshi, a Delhi-based housewife, says, "My daughter is only seven years old. Day and night she coughs and gasps for breath. I do not want to feed her tender system with steroids, but I can't help it."
"My inhaler has become my best friend. I need to carry it always, otherwise I cannot live a normal life," says Akshay Goyal, a Delhi-based entrepreneur. Lives dependent on inhalers or medicines are far from ideal.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways within the lungs. An asthma attack occurs when airways become narrow and the muscles around them tightly contract. The membranes lining the inner walls of the airways become bloated and inflamed, and the glands within these walls produce excess mucus.
Asthma episodes can be triggered by a variety of factors, notably: change of season, hereditary factors, cigarette fumes, air pollution and allergens such as dust, pollen and nuts. The symptoms include heavy wheezing, cough, whose severity increases at night and early morning, shortness of breath and agitation.
There are many who feel that asthma is incurable. Independent healing systems outside the realm of conventional medical practice, however, offer a wide range of treatments for asthma; the success rate is attractive as well. And of course, there are no side-effects.
Several studies have shown yoga to be a powerful therapy to reduce the frequency and intensity of asthma attacks as well as to decrease medication use. Coherent practice of yoga postures and pranayama increases the lung's airflow, capacity and stamina. Matsyasana (fish posture) helps stretch the thoracic and lumbar region and encourages the lungs to expand and fill with air, thus increasing its strength. Sarvangasana is especially useful as the reverse position of the body drains out the phlegm and relieves congestion of the lungs.
Various pranayamas cultivate the ability to maintain a relaxed and controlled breath that can prevent or reduce asthma attacks. Dirga pranayama encourages slow and deep breathing patterns. Nadi shodana can provide relief from stress and emotional turmoil, which may also trigger an attack; for asthma triggered by cold air or sudden change of season, practise ujjayi pranayama, and for allergic asthma practise sitcari or shitali pranayamas. Kapalbhatti pranayama leads to reduction of mucus congestion and strengthens the lungs.
The kriya for the cleansing of the nasal path is known as jalneti. The aim of the process is to purify the breathing path from the nostrils to the throat.
"Asthma can be effectively cured by naturopathy," says Dr Brij Bhushan Goel, the President of the All India Nature Cure Federation. He stresses on the diet and prescribes a simple course to bid farewell to asthma.
For the first day, fast on warm lemon and honey water. Then diligently fast on soups of green vegetables and juices consecutively for the next six days. You may prepare soups and juices of white pumpkin, cabbage, carrot, beetroot, grapes, doop (a kind of grass), wheat grass and coconut water. For the following two weeks, follow an uncooked diet, which may include salads and sprouts. Take juice of basil leaves, ginger and honey, if suffering from acute asthma. Daily kunjal kriya, application of chest packs, steam bath and hot footbath have proved to be very effective. A concoction of mustard oil and camphor should be massaged on the back. The recovery procedure speeds up when complemented with regular practice of yoga.
Asthma patients should refrain from milk and milk products, if necessary take soya bean or sesame milk, always have dinner early and drink a glass of hot water before going to sleep.
The Goud family in Hyderabad administers fish medicine once every year on an auspicious day, primarily in the month of June. This treatment has gained immense popularity over the years since it offers the possibility of a total cure.
At first, the medicine, a yellowish-looking paste, is kept in the mouth of a live sardine fish, two to three inches in size, and the same is slipped effortlessly into the mouth of the patient. The live fish travels, fluttering its tail and fins through the throat and negotiates the congestion. Three doses of the extra medicine are given to the patients, to be taken after every 15 days. Strict diet control should be followed for 45 days.
The medicine has been found quite effective in providing a complete cure, if taken for three consecutive years. The authentic fish medicine is available only in Hyderabad, so beware of quacks.
Homeopathy is best recommended for chronic diseases such as asthma. Dr Kamal Puri, an honorary consultant at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi, says, "Asthma is often triggered by an allergic reaction, but hereditary factor may also be the cause." He adds, "There are certain basic drugs such as aconite, ipecac, natrum sulph, pulsatilla, antimonium tart, bryonia, which are prescribed to asthmatic patients, depending upon the cause. The focus of homeopathic treatment is on curing the disease rather than administering short-term relief from the underlying symptoms." He states that there are no hard and fast dietary restrictions, but too much curds and rice may trigger a reaction. Major allergens such as nuts and chocolates may be avoided.
"In acupuncture, asthma is categorized into three types, namely, lung asthma, spleen asthma and kidney asthma. The causes of the three types of asthma vary; lung asthma is caused due to pollution or unhygienic conditions; spleen asthma due to faulty diet and kidney asthma due to hereditary factors," says Dr Sunita Kapur. She adds, "The first step is to diagnose what type of asthma one is suffering from, through a special diagnostic machine called 'acujing' which determines the lack of chi (vital energy) flow to lungs, spleen or kidney. Very fine hair-thin disposable needles are pierced onto specific points on the body, corresponding to the type of asthma one is suffering from."
According to Dr Kapur, during the treatment, it is easier to get a positive response if the asthma patients come during the antecedent stages. If the body is used to steroids, it does not respond so well. A simple dietary restriction is imposed only in the case of spleen asthma, wherein the patients have to refrain from indulgence in dairy products, fried and fatty food, and preserved food.
Ayurveda refers to breathing disorders as swasa. Asthma can be related to an imbalance of any of the three doshas, vata, pitta or kapha.
Kapha-type asthma is the most common and most serious, wherein the system gets clogged with too much mucus. An excess of cold, heavy, moist foods, and overeating precipitates the condition. Attacks may be present with a dampish cough, following an asthmatic episode.
During a pitta type asthma attack, excessive thirst and inner body heat is generated and breathing becomes difficult.
When a vata imbalance is dominant, the throat is aggravated. There is dryness, which shrinks the bronchial trees and leads to poor air circulation.
Purification therapy should be performed in accordance with the patient's condition and strength. Following proper preparation, patients may undergo vamana, virechana, basti and nasya therapies. Snehana (til oil massage) and Swedana (sudation with medical decoctions) should supplement the purification therapy.
Pungent herbs such as cloves and black pepper dry up excess mucus secretion; they could be kept in a corner of the mouth and sucked slowly.
Choose from any of the above therapies and breathe easy. As a child I suffered from chronic asthma. Alternative therapies worked for me; they might work for you as well.
All India Nature Cure Federation: 011-27482211
Dr Sunita Kapur (acupuncture): 09811667192
Dr. Kamal Puri (homeopathy): email@example.com
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