Asthma & COPD


Would someone please help relieve my wheeze?

Submitted by Timothy J. Callaghan, M.D. for COEM’s Website

The Environmental Medicine approach can often reduce or eliminate the need for medication to relieve acute and chronic asthma, and can help comfortably manage COPD.

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that affects 14 million adults and 6 million children, and is rapidly increasing each year. In America, there has been a 33 percent increase in asthma in the last 10 years!

What’s the story?

The basic story of asthma revolves around the airway “pipes” or bronchi that react to a “trigger,” become inflamed, develop muscle spasms and increased mucous production, and then narrow and constrict. This tightening produces the wheezing sound often heard and reduces the airflow and critical supply of oxygen needed for the body. Treatment is often with inhalers and steroids, and timing is crucial–severe asthmatics can die without their medicines.

What are the causes or triggers?

We like to say that “genetics loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger.” What this means is that if members of your family, particularly your parents, have asthma or allergy, this is a genetic risk factor. “Pulling the trigger” refers to all the challenges the environment presents to us. Early exposure to secondhand smoke, living in an urban area, smoking, obesity, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), exposure to home and occupational chemicals, and prescription medicines can all increase your risk for developing asthma.

Two of the biggest triggers for asthma are food and inhalant allergies. For a person who is genetically vulnerable, the foods they eat and the air they breathe (and all the foreign substances those contain) can initiate the condition. Common food triggers can be dairy products, cereal grains, nuts, eggs, and the nightshade family vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant). But doctors specializing in Environmental Medicine know from their clinical experience that food triggers are highly individual for each patient. Chemicals and preservatives used on foods can also be problematic, especially sulfites often found on food in salad bars. In addition, molds, trees, grasses, weeds, dust mites, or even common household and office chemicals are problems for many people. At the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, we use comprehensive allergy testing for inhalants, pollens, foods, and chemicals to identify which triggers are problems for each patient and provide appropriate desensitization extracts.

In addition, there is the problem of concomitancy, based on molecular mimicry, whereby certain foods cross-react against specific pollens. A person will have more reactivity to these foods when the concomitant pollens are blooming. Fortunately, we can teach patients the simple rules of concomitancy, so they can avoid adverse reactions during pollen seasons.

How is asthma diagnosed?

When a doctor evaluates for asthma, he usually begins with a pulmonary function test (breathing test). This test is often followed with an Albuterol (bronchodilator) inhalation. If the initial flow of air on the breathing test is low and then improves as the bronchodilator opens up the lungs, the diagnosis of asthma is made. For more difficult cases, the drug Methacholine is used to make the diagnosis.

What do we do differently at our Center to relieve asthma?

Most doctors employ the usual medical treatments of bronchodilators, inhaled steroids, and allergy modifying medicines such as antihistamines. A bronchodilator is used for rapid relief and inhaled steroids are used daily to prevent and reduce attacks. For significant attacks, both oral and intravenous steroids are used.

Thank goodness we have these medications, but fortunately, yes, the Environmental Medicine approach can often reduce or eliminate the need for medications to relieve asthma.

An Environmental Medicine physician takes a careful life history to evaluate for every probable trigger in the diet, workplace, and home environment. Then testing is performed, including comprehensive allergy testing. Breathing tests may be utilized during allergy testing to help confirm the effect of triggers. Each inhalant, food, or chemical is tested individually at our Center, so patients can often see for themselves the effects of different substances on their breathing capacity. Sometimes patients will report a mild asthma flare during testing, which to their surprise is rapidly relieved by administration of the individual’s neutralizing dose for that trigger. Individualized allergy extracts to desensitize and neutralize each patient to their triggers are part of our extremely effective treatment program for asthma.

We also teach patients, when necessary, how to do food elimination and food rotation diets, to further identify and manage food triggers. The combination of allergy desensitization extracts, dietary guidelines, and specific oral nutritional supplements or Chinese herbal therapies has dramatically reduced many patients’ asthma.

The use of Chinese herbal therapies is based on solid research: in a recent Chinese hospital study, a formula of Chinese herbs proved to be equal in effect to steroids for calming acute asthma flares-but without the side effects inherent with steroids.

Can even acute asthma attacks be handled without so much medication?

Fortunately, our comprehensive program at The Center usually greatly reduces the likelihood of any acute asthma attacks. However, if a flare does occur, we use special micronutrient intravenous treatments (IV’s) of vitamins and minerals to rapidly reduce the acute attack. Our nebulized glutathione treatments are a tremendous help to stabilize the airway, as well. (See a mother’s testimonial on the Effectiveness of The Center’s Treatments for Asthma.)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is actually a group of three diseases, the most recognized being emphysema. COPD is responsible for incredible suffering and expense. Eleven percent of the American population is affected with COPD and it results in 80,000 deaths per year. Over 18 billion dollars in medical-related costs are attributed to it each year.

In our practice at the Center, we find the comprehensive approach that we use for asthma to be extremely helpful for COPD as well. Allergy desensitization and nutrition form the foundation of a program for all breathing difficulties, with the addition of nebulized glutathione and important nutritional supplements chosen to help ease spasming and reduce inflammation. We utilize our patented Signal Therapy for COPD in the form of CF, a product that liquefies thick lung secretions and improves lung functional capacity for many patients. CF alone is one of our most successful remedies for intractable respiratory disorders. We also employ Chinese herbs, as needed, to reduce mucus buildup, cough, and shortness of breath.

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5) Balch, James F., M.D. and Stengler, Mark, N.D. Prescription for Natural Cures. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2004.


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