Chinese medicine diagnosis The Chinese describe asthma as 'xiao' which means wheezing combined with 'chuan' which means breathlessness. Asthma can be caused either by:
Qi deficiency Deficient Lung Qi is most common, but deficient Spleen or Kidney Qi may also be a cause of asthma.
Phlegm Phlegm can be caught in the chest causing wheezing.
Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat Mild asthma can be exacerbated into a full-blown asthma attack by catching a cold or flu. The Chinese refer to colds and flu as Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat (see page 119). The Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat must be cleared from the body for a person to recover and bring the asthma back to manageable levels. If it is not cleared, the asthma will intensify and this will further weaken the already fragile Lungs (see also Colds and Flu on page 162).
Lifestyle changes which may prevent or improve asthma.
Diet. Many people with asthma have Phlegm caught in the chest but are not aware of it. Asthma symptoms can often be reduced by cutting out Phlegm and Damp-forming foods especially dairy products (see page 22) which create a lot of mucus. Oranges are also known to exacerbate phlegm on the chest. We can take care not to eat too much cold food or sweet foods such as iced fizzy drinks and chocolates as these can weaken our Spleen Qi, which in turn depletes the energy in our Lungs.
Some asthma is triggered by an intolerance to certain foods or food additives. Those who get an asthma attack after eating one or more foods can do the following:
1. try removing one or more of the suspect foods from the diet completely for a few weeks
2. notice if the asthma recedes during this time
3. if the asthma recedes, cut out the food(s) for a longer period and watch to see if the asthma abates still more.
Food allergies can occur by eating an excessive amount of one type of food over long periods or if at an early age we were given food that our digestive system was not mature enough to digest. If we crave one particular food this may be a sign that we are allergic to it. We may need to give up the very food we most enjoy in order to overcome the symptoms of intolerance.
We also need to eat a nourishing diet which is rich in fresh vegetables and grains (see page 18). This will strengthen our Qi and help to prevent asthma attacks.
Protection from the environment Most asthma sufferers know that catching a cold can intensify and trigger asthma which is otherwise latent. Wearing a scarf in windy weather, wearing a vest in the cold, covering the hands and feet and never leaving the chest exposed to the environment are all essential to anyone who has asthma. For more about protecting ourselves from the environment read Chapter 5, pages 111-134.
Over-activity and rest Inhalers allow many people with asthma to lead a normal life. However, an asthma attack is also a 'signal' that there is an underlying cause which needs to be dealt with. An inhaler temporarily alleviates the symptom but does not address the cause. Sometimes the relief gained from using an inhaler allows us to do more than is within our true capacity. This can ultimately deplete our Qi. Those who have asthma are advised to guard against doing too much and take regular rests.
Emotions Asthma can be aggravated by stress or emotional problems. If this is the case, we can take notice of the specific trigger. It can often be unexpressed frustration or anger but may also be grief, anxiety or other emotions. Once we know what provokes an attack we can examine our lifestyle and decide how best we can deal with the stress. We can also strive to avoid getting into situations which trigger the emotions. Read Chapter 3 of this book to find other ways of dealing with emotional strains.
Qigong and other exercises Mild exercise can often help people with asthma. For those who get no exercise at all, it is a good idea to start learning Tai Ji Quan or Qigong as this can strengthen the chest. Strong exercise is not recommended, especially if the lungs are weak, as this may put too much strain on them.
Good posture Asthma is sometimes caused or worsened by poor posture, especially during childhood. Children can be stooping over books, sitting on wrongly adjusted seats or watching television for long periods. In these situations they may not breathe properly because they are putting undue pressure on their chests. Adjusting the posture can be beneficial in these cases. Encouraging more breaks for activity can also help to encourage proper breathing.
Pollutants Pollutants in the air will exacerbate an asthma attack. Living in an urban area can be especially stressful on the lungs but country areas can also be polluted, particularly during crop spraying. Household paint and other products which contain strong chemicals can also give off noxious fumes which can trigger attacks and even household cleaners can cause problems. House dust mites are also said to be one of the most common causes of asthma attacks. It is important to keep the environment of anyone with asthma free of any of these particles and pollutants.
Smoking Anyone who has asthma is advised to stop smoking. Smoking weakens the Lung Qi and causes further difficulty breathing.