One of the most basic yet profound things you can do to transform your health is to practice deep, mindful breathing. Not only does it power up your cells with fresh oxygen, but it calms your body and transforms your stress response to promote thriving vitality.
In many ways, taking the time to breathe deeply is one of the simplest possible prescriptions—but for anyone with asthma, allergies or other respiratory conditions, it’s not so simple.
In the U.S., as many as 37 million people have asthma or another chronic respiratory condition like COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). And as we’re seeing with so many other inflammatory conditions, these numbers are on the rise.
Asthma is one of the most common of these conditions, characterized by inflamed airways that become hypersensitive to allergens, toxins, and other inhaled particles. This in turn generates more inflammation, triggering episodes of coughing and wheezing.
It also makes you more susceptible to serious respiratory infections.
There is no conventional cure for asthma or COPD, but conventional treatments—like steroids—help suppress inflammatory reactions. While these medications are often necessary and can be life-saving, there are also evidence-based integrative approaches that I’ve used in my practice to help control lung inflammation and balance immunity to reduce flare ups.
These strategies can help improve and protect your respiratory function, whether you have asthma, seasonal or environmental allergies, or just want to give extra support to your lungs for better oxygenation, immunity and overall vitality.
Turn Down the Dial on Allergies
Quite often, lung inflammation is just one manifestation of a larger allergic response. This could be a reaction to environmental toxins like pesticides, or responses to household allergens like mold and dust mites. Food sensitivities and allergies are also linked to allergic airway responses.
The first step in controlling asthma should be to identify allergies. Reducing or eliminating exposure to allergenic foods, the most common being dairy, soy, gluten, and eggs, as well as other common allergens, can reduce symptoms.
If allergens are airborne, an air purification system can also help. Allergies and sensitivities can be detected through a variety of tests ordered by an allergist, or by selectively eliminating specific foods or environmental triggers, and noting any improvements and changes.
Balancing your immune response is a fundamental approach in reducing allergic reactions. It’s also one of the most important strategies for long-term health, including protection against immune overreactions to dangerous pathogens.
One study found a link between chronic bacterial infections and asthma. Researchers in Australia examined patients with asthma or rhinosinusitis and found bacterial infections in 83% of participants. Many of these patients had Staphylococcus aureus, the close relative to antibiotic-resistant MRSA, as well as other drug resistant bacteria.1
These findings further underscore the importance of a balanced immune system when dealing with asthma. In my experience, I’ve found that balancing immunity with strategic approaches is one of the best ways to address both acute and chronic infections, and the inflammatory conditions they may fuel.
There are a number of powerful botanicals that can help you reduce airway inflammation, control asthma flare ups, and increase your ability to breathe deeply. Here are some top recommendations:
Mushrooms—Medicinal mushrooms are well-known for their ability to balance immunity, modulate inflammation and provide numerous other benefits. One variety, Cordyceps sinensis, has been shown to reduce airway inflammation and hypersensitivity.2
Herbs—Ginger can be useful to treat asthma. One study found that ginger can open up airways by relaxing smooth muscle. I also recommend the herb Lobelia, which supports breathing and the cough reflex. Lobelia also synergizes with ginger to support lung function.3,4
Modified Citrus Pectin—One area of increasing research shows that Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP) is a critical supplement to help prevent overwhelming lung inflammation. That’s because this specific form of MCP is the only available agent shown to block the destructive actions of the powerful inflammatory alarm-protein, galectin-3. When galectin-3 in the body is out of balance, it directly promotes our most serious inflammatory and fibrosis-related (uncontrolled scar tissue build up) conditions, including cancer, heart and kidney disease, organ failure and immune dysregulation.
A growing number of studies shows how galectin-3 fuels asthma and lung inflammation, and can end up driving the deadly cytokine storm in many acute infections. As the most-researched galectin-3 inhibitor, MCP is an essential strategy to promote healthy inflammatory and immune responses—in the lungs and throughout the body.5
Honokiol—This powerful natural extract is purified from Magnolia officinalis bark, and offers potent anti-inflammatory support for respiratory health. Honokiol has an affinity for the lungs, and studies show it helps to control asthma.6 Importantly, honokiol is also shown to reduce fibrosis in the lungs, making it a critical respiratory support agent.7And, in a powerful one-two punch, data shows that Modified Citrus Pectin and pure honokiol work synergistically together for even greater anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immune-balancing support.8
Eat. Drink. Breathe.
Diet and proper hydration are also critical aspects of a healthy respiratory system. The Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, olive oil, lean protein, legumes and whole grains, is known for its anti-inflammatory effects. People who adopt the Mediterranean diet often have lower risk of heart disease, cancer and other inflammatory conditions.
This dietary approach can work for respiratory health as well. A study from New Zealand found that asthma patients who switched to a Mediterranean diet did better than those who stayed with their existing food plan.9
Foundation to Thrive
A healthy respiratory system is your foundation to thrive, delivering life-giving oxygen and removing cellular waste. Because respiratory conditions like asthma have such a huge impact on quality of life, reducing the frequency and intensity of flare-ups can be life-changing. Regardless of where you are in your health journey, strategies to support optimal breathing can help protect you against serious respiratory issues and infections, while infusing your entire being with greater vitality.
- Cleland EJ, Bassiouni A, Wormald PJ. The bacteriology of chronic rhinosinusitis and the pre-eminence of Staphylococcus aureus in revision patients. Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. 2013;3(8):642-6.
- Chiou YL, Lin CY. The extract of Cordyceps sinensis inhibited airway inflammation by blocking NF-κB activity. Inflammation. 2012;35(3):985-93.
- Townsend E, Siviski M, Zhang Y, et al. Effects of Ginger and Its Constituents on Airway Smooth Muscle Relaxation and Calcium Regulation. American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology. 2013; 48 (2):157-163.
- Stansbury J, Saunders P, Zampieron E. The Use of Lobelia in the Treatment of Asthma and Respiratory Illness. Journal of Restorative Medicine. 2013; 2 (1):94-100.
- Reham Elkolaly, Dareen Ali, Galectin-3 : marker of airway inflammation in bronchial asthma. European Respiratory Journal. 2018; 52 (suppl 62) PA954.
- Hong T, Min H, Hui Z, Yuejian L, Lixing Y, Liang XZ. Oral administration of honokiol attenuates airway inflammation in asthmatic mouse model. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2018;31(4):1279-1284.
- Pulivendala G, Bale S, Godugu C. Honokiol: A polyphenol neolignan ameliorates pulmonary fibrosis by inhibiting TGF-β/Smad signaling, matrix proteins and IL-6/CD44/STAT3 axis both in vitro and in vivo. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2020;391:114913.
- Ramachandran C, Wilk B, Melnick SJ, Eliaz I. Synergistic Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Effects between Modified Citrus Pectin and Honokiol. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:8379843.
- Sexton P, Black P, Metcalf P, et al. Influence of Mediterranean diet on asthma symptoms, lung function, and systemic inflammation: a randomized controlled trial. J Asthma. 2013;50(1):75-81.