Thursday, January 19, 2006

Why is Asthma Increasing ?

Asthma is increasing worldwide and higher numbers of deaths from asthma in affluent countries worry authorities. Hospitalization for asthma has increased by 50% over the past 20 years, and deaths from asthma in the United States have increased to 5,000 per year. It is suggested that mortality is particularly high in lower socioeconomic groups who are exposed to higher levels of air pollution and have poorer access to early and effective medical care. Air-borne particulates may be major factor in the increasing morbidity from asthma.

The US Center for Disease Control in Canada reported a threefold increase of asthmatic deaths over 20 years, mostly in teenagers and young adults. Patients with delayed pattern food allergy have the most severe and persistent inflammatory form of chronic asthma.

Asthma is a form of reactive lung disease with many variations. In the past, medical textbooks divided asthma into outside and inside forms. Extrinsic (outside) asthma tended to occur in sudden attacks triggered by exposure to airborne materials. Intrinsic (inside) asthma seemed to occur repeatedly or continuously for no apparent reason.

Airborne allergens and chemicals cause respiratory disease - inflammation in the nose and in the lung. Lung inflammation is often expressed as asthma. Air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, can play a role in the exacerbation of airway disease in asthmatics and may contribute to the overall increase in asthma morbidity in recent decades. The most serious airborne problems at home are cigarette smoke, dust, molds, and house dust mites.

Food allergy is a hidden cause of asthma. Food-induced wheezing is sometimes recognized in infants who often have food allergy especially to cow’s milk. Asthma and eczema often go together in infants and young children. Food allergy is seldom recognized in older children, adolescents and adults and diet revision is almost never considered in the treatment of asthma. This is a tragic oversight.

Since asthmatics are often allergic and hypersensitive individuals, it is common for an asthmatic to react to both airborne and food triggers and to develop more complex sensitivities as they progress along the disease path.

The good news is that complete diet revision lead to a remission of some if not all chronic symptoms. Asthma that seems to originate inside the body (intrinsic asthma) should be treated as food allergy until proven otherwise. This assumption should lead to careful diet revision. Our patients usually have asthma with associated symptoms that suggest a whole-body food allergy problem. A comprehensive management plan will include solving the food allergy problem, solving airborne allergy and toxicity, and providing the right medication, at the right doses and at the right time when preventive efforts fail.

Please see the Book of Breathing by Stephen Gislason MD