Does your child have asthma? Asthma is a common condition in Australian children, affecting over 11% of the population.
Doctors typically prescribe medicine to relieve the symptoms. But by taking a more holistic approach to your child’s asthma, you can start to address the underlying causes.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a condition that affects the lungs. The larger branches of the lungs become obstructed due to inflammation of the airway lining and constriction of the muscles around the airways. This leads to symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
The condition is immune in origin – it is caused by an immune system that is confused about how to respond to a trigger. Your doctor may prescribe medications to manage the symptoms, but these do not address the immune aspect of the issue.
What triggers asthma?
There are many factors that can trigger asthma symptoms. Your child may react to only one or two, or they may have issues with all of them.
- Cold, dry air – this is why many will flare over the winter time
- Intense exercise
- Food allergies and intolerances
- Environmental allergens such as pollen, dust and dust mites
- Pollutants such as tobacco smoke, perfume and chemicals in cleaning products
- Acute illness or infection
- Stress – you may find that your child gets wheezy or breathless after a tantrum, for example
There is a strong genetic component to asthma. Kids are much more likely to develop asthma if there is a family history of asthma and related conditions such as eczema and hayfever. But this predisposition isn’t a guarantee.
The link between asthma and gut health
Gut health is often overlooked when it comes to asthma. But it is one of the most important components to address.
Asthma is a condition of immune dysregulation. Because your child’s immune system is still learning how to react appropriately, they are more likely to experience allergic conditions such as asthma.
But why is your child’s immune system out of balance in the first place? There are a few reasons that link back to the gut, including:
- Low levels of ‘good’ bacteria and/or high levels of ‘bad’ bacteria
- Increased intestinal permeability (often known as leaky gut)
- Food intolerances and sensitivities
Each of these can prime the immune system to overreact to something that is not a true danger.
How can I address my child’s asthma?
If you’re looking to do more for your child’s asthma than using preventer medications, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s look at some ways you can take a more holistic approach to asthma.
Work on gut health
As gut health is a pillar for building immune tolerance, this is the best place to start. There are many ways to support a healthy gut, but some simple changes include:
- Increasing their intake of wholefoods, particularly veggies
- Reducing their intake of processed carbohydrates and sugars
- Encouraging outdoor play – the more microbes they are exposed to, the more the immune system learns about what is safe and what is not
- Only use antibiotics when absolutely necessary
Uncover hidden food intolerances
It’s common for food to be a trigger for asthma symptoms, and food allergies often coexist with asthma. But an underlying food intolerance could also be contributing to the gut health and immune imbalance leading to asthma.
Dairy is the most common food intolerance I see in children with asthma. Issues with dairy can also lead to more mucus production, which can further trigger symptoms.
It’s important to identify any foods that could be causing issues. Working with a qualified nutritionist can help you to narrow down the suspects, get testing done and do a trial elimination diet.
Reduce dust mites and other allergens in the home
Most children with asthma will be sensitive to environmental allergens. The most common issue I see in asthma is dust mites. You can get testing to confirm whether your child has a dust mite allergy. But there are also simple ways to reduce dust mites, such as:
- Wash bedding weekly in hot water
- If your child sleeps with soft toys, add those to the weekly wash with the bedding
- Vacuum regularly, including any upholstered furniture
- Dust using a wet or electrostatic cloth to prevent the allergens from becoming airborne
Other potential triggers found in the home include mould, pet dander/hair, chemicals and perfumes.
Manage their exposure to other triggers
Unfortunately, we can’t avoid all of the triggers of asthma. But you can look at ways to manage exposure to some of the triggers. Depending on your child’s triggers, this might mean:
- Sticking to moderate intensity exercise
- Avoiding tobacco smoke and outdoor pollution
- Switching to natural cleaning options at home
Consider nutritional supplements
There are a few nutrients that may be beneficial for children with asthma. They include:
Vitamin D – helps to balance the immune system
Probiotics – some specific strains have been found to benefit children with asthma
Omega-3 fatty acids – alleviates inflammation throughout the body and could reduce asthmatic symptoms
As with any supplementation, the right nutrients and dosage depends on your child’s specific case.
Looking for some professional support with your child’s asthma?
Get in touch with me today!