Asthma – A Functional Medicine Approach
Functional medicine practitioners realize asthma attacks can be very stressful and a debilitating children’s health issue. Fortunately, asthma is a disease that can be managed fairly well, if not completely eliminated. At the Functional Medicine Center, we believe that suppressing the effects of asthma is not as important as determining the primary conditions that lead to an asthma attack. Functional medicine doctors are experts at determining and correcting the underlying process, because it is this process that will eventually lead to other symptoms and even disease later in life. A common factor that shows up in all of our asthma patients is stress. It is our goal to uncover the stresses unique to each individual. Determining theses stressors may be a cure for your child or at the least hinder the negative process that may lead to further diseases down the road.
As with every disease, stress is the major contributor whether it is structural, chemical and/or mental/emotional stress. Of the three stresses, chemical stress is the key player in this children’s health issue. A very high percentage of asthma sufferers have a food intolerance or allergy, specifically to dairy (i.e. cheese, cow’s milk, ice cream and yogurt). Most asthma patients have done the standard blood test and or scratch test to determine any allergies. However, these tests are not useful in determining DELAYED food allergies. Saliva testing is the gold standard for this type of testing, as it looks at the digestive tract itself.
Some parents have identified a food allergy/intolerance and eliminated it from your child’s diet and still not see life-changing results. Eliminating an allergen is doing half the work. The other half is repairing the damage caused by all the months and years of ingesting this food. Repairing and healing the body can be accomplished by way of medical foods and natural formulas that are prescribed by a physician.
How does a food allergen lead to the children’s health issue, asthma? First, when the gut repeatedly consumes an allergy it will start to get stressed. A stressed gut causes your child to revert to a “flight or fight” mode, which will cause the adrenal glands to start producing more adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol, if left high, will force your child’s body to become catabolic (breakdown) to its digestive tract, as well as many other organs, such as the brain. The breakdown of the gut has been coined “leaky gut” which then can lead to “leaky brain”. As the gut breaks down it starts to cause an inflammatory reaction in an attempt to wall off the body from the allergen your child is ingesting. Eventually the wall will crumble and the child will start to ingest larger proteins that the body can’t break down. This results in higher histamine levels, as well as other inflammatory markers that will not only contribute to asthma, but also to allergies like hay fever, rag weed and skin conditions. As a result you may start to see your child suffer from other children’s health issues like skin conditions or sinus infection. As your child is frequently attacked, their immune system will start to amplify and become stressed. When the immune system is stressed, it can become hyper and start attacking everything that moves. This then becomes an autoimmune disorder.
Adrenalin and steroids are usually prescribed for asthma sufferers. However, the body makes both. So why prescribe something your child naturally makes? Right now, your child may produce enough adrenalin and steroids, but still suffer the effects of asthma. This is because they are continually affected by structural, chemical and mental stress. Sooner or later their body’s receptors become desensitized to their own hormones. For example, have you ever walked into a smelly room and after a while, you can’t smell anything anymore? This is desensitization and it is a safety mechanism that your body has so it does not burn out its own receptor sites.
On the other hand, if your child is not making any adrenaline or cortisol they may be lacking the precursors to do so. By eliminating the stress that is putting your child in “fight or flight” mode the body can rebuild the precursors that produce these hormones. Which will have a positive effect on their children’s health issue, asthma.