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  • Writer's pictureKimberly King, MS, CNS-c

Lifestyle Solutions to Ease Asthma


3 ways to ease asthma infographic

There are over 25 million children and adults in the United States living with asthma. Managing these symptoms with nutrition, supplements, and medications (as prescribed by your healthcare provider) can all contribute to an increase in quality of life.  In addition, many lifestyle changes can be implemented to support an even better outcome and quality of life. These are a few great places to start.




Work with a Nutritionist (We would love it to be one of us from Ross Nutrition Team!)

There are many ways the diet can impact how you feel. When asthma is present, certain foods may help you feel better, and some may make you feel worse. For example, vitamin C has been shown to support the hydration of airways and as an antioxidant, can help decrease free radical damage in our cells (2). Vitamin C is found most often in citrus fruits, red peppers, tomatoes, and leafy greens (3). Some dairy products, like milk, on the other hand, have been shown to increase inflammation and may not be the best choice for someone diagnosed with asthma (2). It is not always clear how to make these changes, or if they're the best choice for you, especially with so much information constantly being shown to you (hello, social media!). It is a challenge to sort through the “nutrition noise”, as we like to call it. Our nutritionists can help work with your specific needs and nutrient requirements to ensure you are able to stick to a plan and know for sure what is best for your body.  


exercise infographic

Exercise

Exercise is probably one of the most notable triggers for asthma in children and adults alike. However, slowly incorporating an exercise routine into your lifestyle habits has increasingly been shown to have protective effects for those with asthma (1). Oftentimes, working with another healthcare professional alongside a nutritionist is a wonderfully effective and efficient way to tackle an ailment from multiple angles. This concept is true when combatting asthma as well. One collaborative healthcare professional to consider is a yoga instructor. A certified yoga instructor works by incorporating breath work with low-impact movements that facilitate balance and relaxation (4). It has been shown that this combination improves and relaxes airways (and other areas of the body holding stress) while increasing quality of life. Yoga can be practiced in as little as 20 minutes per day to see positive benefits (4).


Spruce up your Environment

Creating cleaner air and removing potential airborne triggers can provide some relief for asthma sufferers.


environment infographic

HEPA Filters or Air Purifiers: This helps captured allergens, dust, mold, and even viruses from circulating in the air. There are many high-quality options to explore, with various price points. Minimally, be sure to change the air filters on your HVAC system regularly to help keep your air clean inside the home.  

Plants: Natures air cleaners! Live plants can help purify the air---and bring nature indoors! (Some even say it helps reduce stress.) Be sure to be careful in the plant choices. Some can be toxic to pets. Choose not-toxic plants like spider plants, palmer palm, or African violet to name a few.


Remove rugs: Rugs trap pollutants, dander, mold, dust, dirt, and more. All of these can exacerbate asthma symptoms.


No Smoking or Exposure to Second-Hand Smoke: This likely comes without needing an explanation, so I will leave it at that!


infographic for stress management

Stress Management

Exercise is a great form of stress management, however, there are other ways to decompress that have also been shown to support asthma as well. For example, meditation using guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, or deep breathing exercises help to relax muscles and calm our minds and bodies. A recent study showed a 32% decrease in asthma-related symptoms in just 8 weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) practices in those with an asthma diagnosis (5). One way to practice deep breathing MBSR may be to incorporate halotherapy, also known as salt therapy. This is the act of breathing in micronized salt particles that become dispersed throughout the respiratory tract. Doing so creates an environment where bacteria and other viruses have a hard time surviving, thus creating a healthier respiratory tract. It also helps to thin and reduce mucus that can be common with asthma/ allergy related symptoms (6). People can experience this in specific salt rooms that are popping up across the country or even easier-try Symphony Natural Health’s portable ceramic Original Himalayan Crystal Salt Inhaler. Use this daily for 10-30 minutes while you are enjoying your favorite TV show or enjoy the quite time to enhance stress management, focusing on your breathing in of the salt.



Sleep

sleep infographic

Lastly, the body restores and resets while asleep to ensure you are ready for the upcoming day. A recent study estimated that just under 40% of those being treated for asthma had some level of insomnia, which can increase asthma symptoms and further impact their quality of life (7). These are a few of my favorite ways to ensure the best sleep.

 

Get natural light early in the day. Our circadian rhythm, or our internal clock, is influenced by light and darkness. By taking a walk early in the morning and/or at lunch, we are signaling its “wake” time. Later in the day, as it becomes naturally darker our body gets the message that it's time to sleep. Thus, making it easier to fall asleep (1). In Fall and Winter it can be helpful to use a Happy Light in the morning to mimic natural light and can help support sleep when natural light is much less abundant.


Develop a nightly routine. And stick to it. Going to sleep and waking at the same time every day (including weekends) sets the tone for our circadian rhythm to be better able to predict our sleep-wake cycles and become ready for sleep more easily (8).


Limit screen time a few hours before bed:  Blue light from screens greatly reduces our body's ability to sense darkness and, therefore, produces melatonin to allow for sleep.  To start, check if your devices come with a nighttime mode, which dims the screen and may even include a blue light filter. If not, Blue Light Filter Glasses can be a good option if you must use a screen (1).


Don’t eat within 2-3 hours of bedtime: Especially alcohol and fatty foods (1). Sleep is a time for our body to rest and restore. Digestion requires a lot of energy and, therefore, pulls focus from that restorative process. It also can impact blood sugar levels, causing you to wake up in the middle of the night (9).


Keep your bedroom between 60-67 degrees:  This helps to support REM sleep, where our body is in its deepest sleep (10).


Use an air purifier: An air purifier helps keep out pesky allergens that irritate our respiratory tract. It’s an effective way to help people breathe cleaner air and sleep longer (11).


Trouble sleeping: Consider adding melatonin to your nightly routine. We love HerbatoninPRO as it is the only plant-melatonin on the market. (Yes, other melatonin supplements are synthetic and you might not want to know where this comes from!)


Summary

Prioritizing lifestyle habits can have a profound impact on quality of life and symptom management for those living with asthma.

 

For more information be sure to check out the other blogs in this series:


Disclaimer: Remember to always speak with your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise routine. The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the guidance of your healthcare provider(s).

 

Written by Kimberly King, MS

Last reviewed and Updated June 28, 2024

 

 

References

1. Rakel, D. Integrative Medicine. 4th ed. Elsevier; 2017:450-456.

2. Chambial S, Dwivedi S, Shukla KK, John PJ, Sharma P. Vitamin C in disease prevention and cure: an overview. Indian J Clin Biochem. 2013;28(4):314-328. doi:10.1007/s12291-013-0375-3

3. Zajac D, Wojciechowski P. The Role of Vitamins in the Pathogenesis of Asthma. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2023; 24(10):8574. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms24108574

4. Mekonnen D, Mossie A. Clinical effects of yoga on asthmatic patients: a preliminary clinical trial. Ethiop J Health Sci. 2010;20(2):107-112.

5. Higgins ET, Davidson RJ, Busse WW, et al. Clinically relevant effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in individuals with asthma. Brain Behav Immun Health. 2022;25:100509. Published 2022 Sep 14. doi:10.1016/j.bbih.2022.100509

6.  risan-Dabija R, Sandu IG, Popa IV, Scripcariu DV, Covic A, Burlacu A. Halotherapy-An Ancient Natural Ally in the Management of Asthma: A Comprehensive Review. Healthcare (Basel). 2021;9(11):1604. Published 2021 Nov 22. doi:10.3390/healthcare9111604

7. Ali A, Kumari D, Kataria D, et al. Impact of Asthma on the Quality of Sleep in Young People. Cureus. 2021;13(7):e16098. Published 2021 Jul 1. doi:10.7759/cureus.16098

8. Alanazi TM, Alghamdi HS, Alberreet MS, et al. The prevalence of sleep disturbance among asthmatic patients in a tertiary care center. Sci Rep. 2021;11(1):2457. Published 2021 Jan 28. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-79697-x

9. Chung N, Bin YS, Cistulli PA, Chow CM. Does the Proximity of Meals to Bedtime Influence the Sleep of Young Adults? A Cross-Sectional Survey of University Students. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(8):2677. Published 2020 Apr 14. doi:10.3390/ijerph17082677

10. The Best Temperature for Sleep. Cleveland Clinic. Published November 16, 2021. Accessed June 22, 2024. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-is-the-ideal-sleeping-temperature-for-my-bedroom

11. Lamport DJ, Breese E, Gião MS, Chandra S, Orchard F. Can air purification improve sleep quality? A 2-week randomized-controlled crossover pilot study in healthy adults. J Sleep Res. 2023;32(3):e13782. doi:10.1111/jsr.13782

Images created using CanvaPRO. Licensed to Kim Ross Consulting, LLC

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