The truth about asthma is that the medical treatments for it are ineffective and dangerous, but the good news is that you can overcome it with a holistic treatment program. Asthma is medically defined as a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, characterized by a hypersensitivity of the airways. Common symptoms of asthma include difficulty breathing with wheezing and coughing, feeling of tightness in the chest, copious production of mucus, apprehension and increased heart rate.
Sometimes asthma is divided into extrinsic and intrinsic asthma. Extrinsic asthma is mainly due to allergens, be they airborne or from food. Resulting immune reactions release inflammatory compounds that cause spasms of the bronchial tubes. Allergy is a likely cause of asthma in about 90 per cent of children with asthma and about 50 per cent of affected adults. These figures vary from different sources depending on how they tested for allergy. Intrinsic asthma is not due to allergies, and may come from microbial infestations, emotional factors, and mucus congestion from other causes.
With asthma we usually see three sets of biological symptoms:
- The airways become obstructed due to bronchial spasms
- The bronchial walls become inflamed and swell with further narrowing of the airways
- Additional airway obstruction is caused by copious amounts of thick, tenacious mucus
During an attack these symptoms are triggered and result in an acute shortness of breath. Because in this situation it becomes easier to inhale than to exhale the lungs may become hyper-inflated. Asthma, especially in older individuals (over 55) is also associated with a doubled risk of other diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, arthritis and osteoporosis.
There is a twenty-fold difference between the highest and lowest rates in the world. The lowest prevalence rates are found in Indonesia, Albania, Romania and Georgia while the highest are in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland. The exact order may change from year to year between different countries and for different age groups. For Australia the Asthma Foundation stated in January of 2006:
- Australia has the second highest prevalence of asthma in the world. The reasons for this are unclear
- The incidence of asthma is steadily increasing, with the number of people with asthma doubling between 1982 and 1992
- Approximately 1 in 4 children, 1 in 7 adolescents, and 1 in 10 adults have asthma (that has been diagnosed by a doctor
- In Australia, asthma affects around 12% of the population (over two million people), leading to nearly 40,000 hospitalizations and 314 deaths
- Indigenous Australians have more asthma than others
Here some additional statistics. In New Zealand 15.5% of adults (one in six), and 21% of children aged 0-14 years have asthma. Among 14 year olds the rate is as high as 30%. In the USA the overall rate of asthma is only 6.4%. Out of 56 countries worldwide surveyed, the UK had the highest prevalence of severe wheezing amongst children aged 13-14 years. The number of new cases of asthma each year is now three to four times higher in adults and six times higher in children than it was 25 years ago. The prevalence of asthma can be as high as 30 percent among certain populations, and internationally, cases have more than tripled in the last ten years.
Medical Asthma Treatment
The medical profession regards asthma as incurable, although children may spontaneously "grow out of it". Therefore, medical treatment of asthma is purely symptomatic and consists mainly of anti-inflammatory drugs and bronchodilators. Most commonly used as anti-inflammatories are corticosteroids. These drugs reduce swelling and mucus production in the airways, making them less sensitive and less likely to react to triggers. Other anti-inflammatory drugs are called Leukotriene modifiers and Mast cell stabilizers.
Bronchodilators relieve asthma symptoms by relaxing the muscle bands that tighten around the airways. This quickly dilates the airways, and makes it easier to breathe. It also helps to clear mucus from the lungs because as the airways open mucus moves more freely and can be coughed out more easily. Bronchodilators include mainly short acting beta-agonists, and in addition Anticholinergics.
These drugs can be administered in different ways. These include a metered dose inhaler, dry powder inhaler, or a nebulizer, or taken orally, either in pill or liquid form. Most or all of these asthma drugs can be expected to cause increasing health problems with long-term use. The worldwide asthma statistics clearly show the inadequacy of this drug-based medical approach.
In the 1980's New Zealand had the highest rate of asthma deaths in the world. This figure was drastically reduced when in 1991 the inhaler drug Fenoterol was banned. Belatedly it was found that patients with the most severe asthma (defined by a hospital admission during the previous year and prescription of oral corticosteroids) had a 13 times higher risk of dying when using Fenoterol (Crane J, Pearce N et al: Prescribed fenoterol and death from asthma in New Zealand, 1981-83: case-control study. Lancet 1989, Apr 29; 1 (8644):917-22).This reduction in New Zealand's asthma death rate was generally hailed as a great triumph for medical science.
Other studies revealed that asthmatics who used more than one bronchodilator inhaler a month had a fifty-fold increased risk of suffering a fatal asthma attack.
On 23 January, 2003 the FDA in the US announced: "The drug Serevent may be associated with an increased risk of life-threatening asthma episodes or asthma related deaths, particularly in some patients."
On 14 August 2003 a Reuters newsagency headline read: "New warnings added to Glaxo Asthma Drugs" and the report read: "Serevent and Advair will carry new warnings about a higher, though small, risk of life-threatening asthma attacks and deaths, US regulators said."
More recently (8 March 2006) a Fox News release carried this headline: New labels on asthma drugs Advair and Serevent warn patients that the drugs "may increase the risk of asthma-related death."
More "benign" side effects of inhaled bronchodilators include: palpitations, rapid heart beat, nervousness, lightheadedness, dizziness and tremors. Inhaled steroids can also cause yeast infections (which are a main cause of asthma). There are numerous other potential side effects with the inhalers.
The World Today on 13 April 2004 reports on research from the US, which suggests one of the best-known treatments for asthma, Ventolin, may in fact make the condition worse.
None of the medical asthma drugs in any way stops or improves the underlying disease process. It is also well known that the regular use of steroid inhalers makes it more difficult for the body to fight infections.
A large trial of asthmatic children with inhaled corticosteroids for up to six years showed that trying to suppress the inflammation did not slow the deterioration of the airway walls, which became thicker, stiffer and less easy to dilate with reduced lung function (The C.A.M.P. Group. N Engl J of Medicine 2000; 343:1054-1063).
In addition, NSAIDs also suppress bone repair and remodeling. Studies showed that these drugs significantly inhibited matrix synthesis and had toxic effects on cartilage metabolism. The more "puffs" taken each day, the greater the rate of bone loss.
In May 2006 it was confirmed that high rates of inhaled corticosteroids not only increase the rate of fractures but also trigger atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm, or arrhythmia. This sharply increases the risk of heart failure and stroke.
Finally, in the latest analysis at Cornell and Stanford universities on 33,826 patients up to 80 percent of asthma-related deaths in the US have been attributed to asthma inhalers with long-acting beta-agonists (Salpeter S. et al in Annals of Internal Medicine July 4, 2006). The researchers say although these medications relieve asthma symptoms, they also promote bronchial inflammation and sensitivity reactions without warning.
I can immediately think of an easy way to prevent most asthma deaths. My take on all of this is that medical asthma treatment is not just ineffective but highly dangerous. Fortunately there are better options as will be shown in the following chapters.
Contributing Factors and Triggers
A website of the Australian Government states "The cause of asthma is not known, but there is evidence that many factors play a part", and then goes on to list the following causes:
- Genetic factors: asthma tends to run in families, and many people with asthma also have other allergic conditions.
- Environmental factors: in wealthy, hygienic Western countries most babies are not exposed to bacterial infections that "kick start" the immune system in early life and direct the immune system away from allergic responses. This makes them allergic to house dust mites, tobacco smoke, animals, pollens molds and dust.
- Dietary changes: changes in diet in Western countries, such as a high proportion of processed foods, a higher salt intake, a lower antioxidant intake and a lack of fresh oily fish.
- Lack of exercise: spending more time inside in front of the television means that children get far less exercise.
- Occupational exposure: in adults, asthma can develop in response to irritants in the workplace - chemicals, dusts, gases, molds and pollens.
Basically this just confirms that they do not have a clue, because most of the listed items are triggers of asthma attacks, or contributing factors, and not the underlying causes. Not one of these listed causes has changed so drastically in recent years to explain a doubling of asthma rates within 10 years. A still controversial medical favorite is the hygiene hypothesis. It postulates that exposure to dirt, bacteria, viral infections or endotoxins (internally produced microbial toxins) in early childhood act as natural vaccines that boost our immune system and protect us against the development of asthma. For instance in one recent study 1314 children were followed from birth to 7 years, and the number and type of infections recorded. Children who had two or more mild upper respiratory tract infections, such as rhinitis (running nose) per year had the asthma risk reduced from 6.3% to 3.2% at age 7.
However, another headline of a New Scientist article seems to say the opposite: "Severe asthma linked to common cold." Colds are the most important trigger of acute asthma, at least 80% of children with deterioration in their asthma or asthma attacks have a cold that is the cause of that, and probably somewhere between 50% and 60% of adults. Later I will show how we can understand these contradictions. Also children with farm animals, dogs or cats were nearly 50% less likely to develop frequent wheezing. However if one of the parent had asthma then there was no protective effect.
But pets are also a common trigger of asthma. Just touching and stroking an animal, or being in the same room as a pet or where that pet has been, can trigger an attack. The cause is the animal's dander (skin scales or flakes from the fur or feathers), or their saliva or urine. Dander can float in the air and settle on surfaces around the home. Even animals kept outside, such as horses, goats, cows, chickens and ducks, can trigger a reaction.
Another study showed that the more bacteria there were in house dust the more babies were protected from developing allergies and asthma. However, after children have already allergies and asthma higher exposure means more disease. The explanation put forward is that exposure to certain types of infectious agents and endotoxins is essential for maturation of the immune system, and that less exposure leads to an imbalance in immune responses.
There is also overwhelming evidence that asthma is closely connected with lifestyle, and especially diet. This is strongly suggested by the fact that asthma is very common in Western industrialized countries but rare in poorer Asian and African countries. However, when these poorer populations exchange their traditional foods for Western food then asthma rates begin to climb. For example asthma was unknown in Kuwait until they became oil-rich and imported Western food. Also in New Guinea tribal elders saw asthma as a completely new disease. The same applies to Africa: the poorer the country the lower the asthma rate.
A letter in The Lancet (Keely, D. and Neil, P. Asthma Paradox. p.1099, 4/5/91) about Zimbabwe states: "...we found the prevalence of reversible airways obstruction to be 5.8% in richer urban children, 3.1% in poorer urban children, and 0.1% in rural children." In these poorer countries there is a vast difference between urban and rural eating habits, and therefore a great difference in asthma rates, while in Western countries there is no real difference between rural and urban eating habits and asthma rates. Another likely factor is that rural populations get far less treatment with drugs and especially antibiotics than rich urban populations. We will later see the significance of this.
Food Allergies and Chemical Sensitivities
Asthma is notorious for being triggered by inhaled allergens but this does not mean that such triggers are a basic cause of asthma. The main problem is that there is an underlying chronic inflammation and oversensitivity of the airways which then reacts indiscriminately to a wide range of inhaled irritants.
One common cause of a chronic inflammatory setting is the presence of hidden food allergies. 'Hidden' means that people are not aware of the allergy because usually the body does not react to an allergenic food to which it is exposed every day. Most asthmatics have been shown to have such hidden food allergies. The most common foods to which asthmatics react are cows' milk and cheese, gluten, eggs, nuts, and seafood.
The same applies to chemical sensitivities. The most common reactions for asthmatics are caused by sulfur dioxide and sulfites (codes 221 to 224), by monosodium glutamate or MSG (621 to 623), the yellow food dye tartrazine (code 102), and also salicylates such as aspirin. MSG is not necessarily declared as such on a food label, it may just be called hydrolyzed vegetable protein, vegetable or Thai seasoning or natural flavoring. All food additives are potentially dangerous and best avoided, except a few such as vitamin C or citric acid.
Medical researchers think mainly in terms of inhaled allergens, but in response to a study showing that cases of wheezing disorders in preschool children in the UK doubled between 1990 and 1998 (The Lancet (Vol 357, p 1821), even they admit that there must be other unknown factors present to explain this dramatic increase.
Some Other Contributing Factors
A headline in New Scientist (19 July 2001) says "Margarine linked to dramatic asthma rise". This was a study of children in two rural Australian towns. Toddlers who consume large amounts of margarine and foods fried in vegetable oil may be twice as likely to develop asthma as others who eat less of these foods. This confirms the well known fact that (omega-6) linoleic acid increases inflammatory tendencies; this applies generally to polyunsaturated seed oils.
Finnish researchers came to a similar conclusion. They found that children who eventually developed allergies ate less butter and more margarine compared with children who did not develop allergies. Of course, health authorities have been urging us for decades to consume more polyunsaturated fats and less saturated fat thereby increasing the severity of asthma.
A study in the British Medical Journal (September 25, 1999; 319, 815-819) shows that giving babies other milk than breast milk before the age of four months greatly increases the risk of asthma and allergies. Children with low birth weight of less than 1 kg in the US had an asthma rate of 21% compared to 9% for children with higher birth weight.
Another New Scientist headline reads "Weekly swimming linked to lung damage" (28 September 2001). This article reports that children who use chlorinated swimming pools every week get lung damage just like smokers. Also lifeguards who work in indoor pools have an increased incidence of asthma.
A surprising Japanese study found that school children who ate more fish had also higher rates of asthma (Preventive Medicine February 2002;34:221-225). As we know from other studies that fish oil and even consumption of oily fish reduce inflammations and asthma, the conclusion is that in this case the high rates of mercury in Japanese coastal waters are the cause of such fish causing increased asthma.
There are also various reports of vaccinations causing asthma. One such case is described under the title: "A case of asthma after vaccination against smallpox." (Ekbom, K. Acta Med Scand Suppl. 1966; 464:170-1).
Finish researchers found that mothers can prevent eczema and asthma in their children by taking probiotics (acidophilus-bifido bacteria) while they are pregnant and breastfeeding. Babies normally get their mother's bacteria as they travel down the birth canal, but modern medicine is preventing this. Babies born by caesarian section are inoculated with hospital bacteria such as Streptococci and Clostridia.
Cows' Milk And Lactose
In the previous chapter we have seen a collection of factors and triggers, some contradicting each other, which can contribute to asthma. However, the real cause is the interaction of three factors:
- Cows' milk and lactose
- The antibiotic syndrome or intestinal dysbiosis
- A low stress tolerance
The contribution of each of these three factors in each individual case may vary greatly, and other factors and triggers mentioned previously also play a role. Nevertheless, by addressing these three main factors and with the help of some supportive measures you are likely to overcome your breathing difficulties.
The Problem with Lactose
We saw in the previous chapter that cows' milk allergy is quite common. This is definitely a contributing factor, as is allergy to any other substance. But there is something else involved with cows' milk, and that is a tendency to cause mucus congestion. That the medical hygiene hypothesis does not tell the full story can be seen from the fact that the four countries with the highest asthma rates are also the greatest producers and consumers of pasteurized cows' milk. In New Zealand, for instance, all school children used to receive free milk, and it has or used to have the highest rate of asthma.
In regard to asthma there are several problems with milk. One problem that relates to all milk is lactose or milk sugar; another is the protein specific to cows' milk, while a further difficulty is caused by pasteurization. Casein, the main protein of cows' milk is difficult to digest, especially for babies as they have still an immature digestive system, and after pasteurization, which destroys the naturally present enzymes in milk.
Most European adults and older children who can digest lactose are unable to use galactose efficiently. Babies need galactose as an important building component of the brain, the central nervous system and of many proteins. Thus mother's milk is even higher in lactose than animal milk to ensure the baby does obtain sufficient galactose. In later life, very little galactose is needed and this can easily be synthesized from other sugars. Therefore, most of the ingested galactose is converted in the liver to glucose and used as body fuel, but the amount that can be converted is rather limited, even in a healthy liver.
This conversion is a slow and complex process requiring four different enzymes. One of these is sometimes missing from birth, giving rise to a condition known as galactosemia. Continued milk-feeding leads to a buildup of galactose in the baby and causes cataracts, cirrhosis of the liver and spleen and mental retardation. If the liver is not healthy, it becomes less able to convert galactose. This fact is sometimes used as a criterion for a clinical liver-function test. If galactose is injected into someone with a defective liver, much of the galactose will later appear in the urine.
Unfortunately, under normal conditions only part of the galactose is expelled with the urine. If there is a deficiency of protective antioxidants, then the rest is mainly oxidized to galactaric acid, commonly known as mucic acid. The great health danger of mucic acid is that it is insoluble. The body cannot let it pile up in vital areas and block organ functions or blood circulation. Therefore, it forms the mucic acid into a sticky suspension in water, called mucus. Thus mucic acid is a main component of pathogenic (disease-producing) mucus.
It is the function of the lymphatic system to remove dangerous substances, such as mucus, from areas of vital importance and transport it to the organs of elimination. Mucus is too dangerous to dispose of through the kidneys or with bile through the liver, but it has a special affinity to the mucous membranes that line the insides of our body openings. Such areas are the lungs, the respiratory tract and the hollow head spaces, such as the sinuses and the Eustachian tube (a passage between the mouth and the inner ear).
The mucus accumulates in these hollow spaces until external factors help to sensitize the mucous membranes sufficiently to allow the mucus to pass through. This is relatively easy in young individuals and those with a poor sugar metabolism as they have high levels of histamine and inflammatory adrenal hormones. Even minor irritations of the mucous membranes, be it from cold air, dust, air pollution, pollen or germs, will sensitize these to let some of the mucus flow out.
Such mucus cleansing may be experienced periodically as a cold, hay fever, wet cough or running nose. In others, the accumulation of mucus, which provides a favorable breeding ground for germs, causes chronic infections in specific areas such as the sinuses, the middle ear, the respiratory tract and the lungs. This may allow a permanent trickle of mucus through the affected mucous membrane.
With a high lactose intake, the lymph channels and lymph glands are usually congested with mucus as well. This allows influenza and other infections to spread from the sensitized mucous membranes through the mucus-filled hollow spaces into the lymphatic system, causing lymph gland swellings and inflammations.
I have found that in many people the number of colds, influenza and other respiratory infections can be varied at will from none to several per year just by varying the lactose intake. Mucus congestion is also the main cause of ear infections (glue-ear) and hearing problems, especially in children.
In most cases it is not a lactose allergy but a galactose overload that is responsible for this excessive mucus. While in the case of those suffering from cow's milk allergy more lactose may be tolerated when it comes from goat's milk, in sensitive individuals the lactose in goat's milk or in tablets will be equally as mucus-forming as that from cow's milk.
Mucus and Asthma
When more mucus accumulates in the lungs than can be expelled, asthma is likely to develop. A special feature of mucus produced from lactose is its acid nature, which is rather irritating to the mucous membranes. On the one hand it makes them oversensitive to airborne irritants and promotes inflammation, while on the other hand it also induces the mucous membranes to produce large amounts of protective mucus. All mucous membranes produce normal healthy mucus for their own protection; this is, for instance, how the stomach wall protects itself from being digested by its own hydrochloric acid.
Many cases of asthma seem to be predominantly induced by galactaric acid-type mucus. I remember a patient who was fond of yogurt and, for health reasons, prepared it from skim-milk powder. This produces yogurt with a much higher lactose content than yogurt from full-fat milk (see Table below). When I persuaded her to use somewhat less yogurt and prepare it only from whole milk without additional skim-milk powder, her asthma disappeared for good. The asthma-causing skim-milk yogurt provided about 50g of lactose per day, while she was asthma-free on whole-milk yogurt with about 5g of lactose daily.
See the following table for the lactose content of some common dairy products.
Lactose Content Of Dairy Products
|cheese, cottage cheese||2-4%|
|ice-cream (with skim-milk powder)||5-25%|
With a lactose content of 52 per cent in skim-milk powder, you may now realize how dangerous the current fad is for using low-fat ice-cream, yogurt, cottage cheese and so forth, instead of full-fat products. Such low-fat foods are usually made from skim-milk powder and contain three to five times as much lactose as the equivalent full-fat foods. Sometimes skim-milk powder is even added to butter. Therefore read the label and avoid butter that lists nonfat milk solids' as one of the ingredients.
Skim-milk powder is also a favorite additive to many other commercial foods, such as bread and other baking products, sausages and margarine. The health-food industry is equally fond of adding lactose to many products such as soy milk and dandelion coffee. Lactose is often used as filler in white tablets. Try to avoid white tablets if the label does not state that they are free of lactose or are low-allergy tablets.
The lung irritation caused by accumulated mucus also means that the lungs are more prone to be affected by airborne allergens, food allergies and chemicals. This could result in inflammatory swellings of the bronchial tubes. Mucus accumulating in the lungs allows pathogenic microbes to infiltrate. Some strains of these bacteria convert sugars into alginic acid, another form of sticky mucus.
Often there is Candida or fungus infestation as well, which sensitizes the mucous membranes to airborne molds. Mucus-releasing colds in this setting can be a blessing in disguise, provided they are not treated with antibiotics. This is the reason why children with running noses, as shown in the previous chapter, tend to have less asthma. However heavy or chest colds tend to aggravate lung irritation and increases asthma problems.
There tends to be less of a problem with raw milk, especially if it is fresh and organic; this is easier to digest and causes less allergies than pasteurized milk. Nevertheless, I found that even raw organic goats' milk can increase mucus problems in susceptible children. If breastfeeding is not possible then the best alternative is fresh clean and raw goats' milk, it just needs some additional folic acid and vitamin B12 (and raw egg yolk after four months of age). Hydrolyzed casein or partially hydrolyzed whey formulas have also been found to prevent babies from developing allergies. These formulas did relieve symptoms in more than 90 percent of infants who are allergic to cow's milk.
This indicates that most allergy problems may be due to a combination of enzyme deficiencies as caused by pasteurization and cooking, and dysbiosis due to antibiotics. Cows' milk also provides the explanation why children sometimes grow out of their asthma problems: as teenagers and adults they tend to drink less milk. However, if they are still afflicted with the antibiotic syndrome, then this may not be enough to overcome their asthma.
Understanding that mucus production from lactose is due to a limitation of liver enzymes also shows us how we can minimize any problem. If it is not caused by an allergic reaction, then it helps to space out any lactose intake. For instance 5g of lactose taken in one drink may cause more congestion than 10g taken spaced out during the day.
Antibiotics And Stress
A recent paper presented by the Wellington Asthma Research Group showed that antibiotic use, especially in the first year of life, is associated with a fourfold increase in the likelihood of asthma. Furthermore, children who received broad-spectrum antibiotics in early life, which kill a wide range of bacteria, were 8.9 times more likely to suffer from asthma (New Scientist 30 September 2003).
Antibiotics actually are a major contributing cause of asthma and not just a trigger or inflammation enhancer. These antibiotics kill the healthy intestinal bacteria that normally protect us from pathogenic invaders entering the blood through the intestinal wall. Now Candida and other fungi and disease-causing microbes can take over. Their breakdown products, called endotoxins, start entering the bloodstream and cause immune reactions.
Gradually Candida begins growing long root systems through the intestinal wall, and breaks down its integrity. This allows partly digested proteins to get into the blood and cause allergic reactions against a wide variety of foods and chemicals. From this we get an overworked and hyperactive immune system. This also causes a general or systemic inflammatory condition in the body, because the stressed adrenal glands are increasingly less able to produce enough anti-inflammatory hormones.
When we have an internal fungus problem we also tend to attract fungi on our skin and mucous membrane, such as the mouth, vagina and the outside coating of our lungs and airways. While the general hypersensitivity and inflammatory setting makes asthmatics sensitive to a wide range of inhaled irritants, they are especially sensitive to inhaled molds.
A recent research paper (G. Huffnagle and M.C. Noverr in the January 2005 issue of Infection & Immunity), confirms this model of how antibiotics cause asthma. One of the researchers commented: "Our research indicates that microflora lining the walls of the gastrointestinal tract are a major underlying factor responsible for the immune system's ability to ignore inhaled allergens. Change the microflora in the gut and you upset the immune system's balance between tolerance and sensitization."
And further: "... we found that differences in host genetics and the type of allergen used didn't matter. The immune responses were literally identical." His conclusion was that changing the composition of microflora in the gut predisposes to allergic airway disease. The researchers suspect that changes in gut microflora caused by widespread antibiotics use and a modern high-fat, high-sugar, low-fiber diet may be responsible for the major increase in the last 40 years of asthma and allergies in Western countries.
In a recent trial it was found that the use of antifungal remedies reduced the incidence of hospitalization for severe asthmatics by 75 per cent (Scotsman.com News 16 Jun 05).
Antibiotics and Candida may also explain the link for the recent observation that the biological children (not adopted ones) of mothers with depression, anxiety disorders and panic attacks had very high rates of asthma and other allergy problems. For instance 67% of children were affected when the mother had severe depression and 46% when mothers had panic attacks.
Candida is known to cause depression and other mental and emotional disturbances. Babies are inoculated with the intestinal bacteria of the mother during the passage through the birth canal and also during breastfeeding. If the mother has Candida, then that is passed on during this crucial phase.
Closely related to dysbiosis and the antibiotic syndrome are the mycoplasmas or mycoplasms. These are pleomorphic organisms without cell walls. "Pleomorphic" means that they can change shape from protein blobs to viral, bacterial and fungal forms, depending on the health of the organism in which they live.
Mycoplasmas have been shown to be a main factor or contributing factor in the causation many chronic diseases, including cancer, arthritic and rheumatic diseases, autoimmune diseases and asthma. Several independent researchers have reported the proliferation of certain microbes in all of these diseases. In various degenerative diseases these protein units grow into cocci and higher bacterial forms and finally into fungi. Everyone seems to have some mycoplasmas, which are formed from the breakdown of body tissue. However, mycoplasmas begin to proliferate with a decline in health and vitality.
By weakening the immune system and the metabolism they prepare the way for the development of degenerative diseases. Toxins released by mycoplasmas may also interfere directly with the respiratory chain and make the metabolism inefficient with an overproduction of lactic acid. This causes general overacidity, mineral deficiencies, oversensitivity, inflammations and pain.
Two factors that greatly contribute to the rise of mycoplasma are dead teeth and overgrowth of the intestines with harmful microbes. Dead teeth and the surrounding jawbone can become concentrated breeding grounds of harmful microbes, releasing a steady stream of toxins into the circulation.
In one study 31 of 55 patients with chronic, stable asthma also had a low-grade airway infection with mycoplasma pneumoniae, or with chlamydia bacteria. These patients were treated with suitable anti-microbials for six weeks and had significant improvements in lung function.
According to researchers asthmatics with mycoplasma infection had six times more mast cells than patients with no infection. Mast cells are associated with allergies. In a mouse model with mycoplasma infection the airways become hyperactive and inflamed.
Conventional medicine regards mycoplasmas, similar to Candida, as relatively harmless and occurring as a side effect of other, more serious infections. However, extensive clinical and microbiological evidence shows that mycoplasmas alone can cause a range of diseases even when no other infectious agents are present. The elimination of these pathogenic mycoplasmas requires a fully functional immune system in addition to prolonged antimicrobial therapy.
For further information see Candida and the Antibiotic Syndrome.
The Stress Factor
There are signs that asthmatics are sensitive to stress or have a low stress tolerance. The adrenal glands and their hormones are mainly involved with our response to stress. Stress can be beneficial when it is voluntary as in a self-chosen adventure or when it is over short periods followed by rest and recovery periods. The detrimental effect comes from prolonged, unusually severe or chronic stress.
A common example of unusually severe stress is when a newborn baby is separated for more than a few minutes from its mother. An example of combined unusually severe and prolonged stress is when a newborn baby is kept away from its mother for days or weeks and subjected to medical procedures. A common example of chronic stress is when a baby is fed a breast milk substitute to which it is allergic. This sets in train a sequence of events that lead directly to asthma and other chronic degenerative diseases.
In 1936 Hans Selye, a Canadian professor of experimental medicine and surgery, discovered the ALLERGY-STRESS MECHANISM. He described this in his pioneering book The Stress of Life (McGraw-Hill). So far the medical profession has not yet grasped the importance of his fundamental discovery for understanding the diseases of our society, I assume because it is not profitable to do so. However, in light of this stress model of disease we know now what we need to do to heal ourselves.
Initially an environmental challenge such as an incompatible food or emotional stress causes an ALARM REACTION. The adrenal glands release inflammatory hormones and adrenaline, and the sympathetic nervous system is overstimulated. This may result in an acute allergic reaction or a general inflammatory condition, hyper-excitability, palpitation, anxiety, eczema, susceptibility to colds and other infections, anger, and poor digestion with abdominal discomfort.
Commonly this alarm reaction occurs in early childhood when we are first introduced to wheat or cows' milk, egg, maize or soy milk, and then settles down to several decades of hidden allergies with minimal symptoms. If we continue eating the same problem food nearly every day or continue to be plagued by stressful memories or conditions, then the stress becomes permanent and the body adapts by releasing anti-inflammatory hormones. The symptoms of the alarm reaction with its inflammatory tendency subside. This is the RESISTANCE PHASE, a state of adaptation with a hidden or masked allergy.
However, eventually the capacity of the adrenal glands to produce sufficient anti-inflammatory hormones becomes exhausted and we enter the EXHAUSTION PHASE. Now we have a maladaptation to allergens and emotional stress with chronic and generalized inflammations. These may manifest as asthma, arthritis, cancer, heart disease and any of the other diseases typical in our society. Finally even this chronic inflammatory condition subsides and we have the stage of advanced old age with senility, debility and the final insensitive stages of degenerative diseases.
This description shows the normal progression of the stress-allergy mechanism over decades of our lives; however, if our parents had already weak adrenal glands when we were conceived, or if we endured severe and prolonged stress immediately after birth, then our adrenal glands are already severely compromised even as a baby. In this case we may develop an age-related chronic disease at an early age. This may be arthritis or asthma or diabetes or a form of cancer. Which disease develops depends on inherited factors as well as on environmental and emotional factors.
Fear has a direct relationship with our heart rate and breathing. Initially we may hold our breath, and later hyperventilate and have palpitations. It is my perception that anything that interferes with the proper bonding of a newborn baby with the mother has the potential to induce a permanent subconscious fear in the growing child. In particular I believe that a main contributor to asthma is the fear of being left alone or being abandoned which remains subconsciously for life if the newborn baby is taken away from the mother for an extended period in hospital.
This subconscious fear weakens the adrenal glands and also affects the lungs. This is the reason why the antibiotic syndrome, allergic reactions and mucic acid in these individuals lead preferentially to breathing problems rather than to digestive or nervous system disorders, or to sinus inflammations and throat infections as in some other individuals.
Researchers in the US and Germany have shown a clear link between asthma and mental illness. Even people suffering from milder forms of asthma are more prone to anxiety and other mental disorders. Severe asthmatics were up to five times more likely than the general population to have a range of mental problems, including anxiety disorders, panic attacks and extreme shyness. Even with milder forms of asthma there were up to two-and-a-half times more mental problems (The World Today - 2 December 2003).
What You Can Do
The described sequence of events leading to asthma also shows you the requirements for genuine health improvement and to overcome asthma. Basically you need to
- Sanitize your gastrointestinal tract
- Eliminate harmful microbes from your blood and lungs
- Avoid cows' milk and lactose
- Avoid other sources of mucus congestion and inflammation
- Remove chronic stress from your life.
Initially it is also prudent to continue minimizing or avoiding asthma triggers, rebuilding and strengthening health with an improved diet and suitable supplements, and minimize the effects of chronic stress such as over-breathing.
Sanitizing The Gastrointestinal Tract
The main treatment for Candida and the antibiotic syndrome is directed at sanitizing the gastrointestinal tract. This is combined with a low-allergy diet that is also low in simple carbohydrates. Furthermore, molds or yeasts in food should be avoided as their breakdown products may cause unpleasant immune reactions. One unpleasant side-effect of most methods used to reduce the pathogenic microbial overgrowth of the intestines is the Herxheimer reaction - a sudden worsening of symptoms due to toxins released by the dead or dying microbes. This is sometimes used as a diagnostic tool, especially for Candida.
To avoid or minimize unpleasant side effects I recommend initially flushing out the gastrointestinal tract when taking antimicrobial remedies. This takes the dead or dying microbes immediately out of the body and greatly minimizes discomfort. After several days the flush may no longer be needed. Usually the first reaction is the strongest.
An alternative approach is to start with a low dose of an antimicrobial and increase only very slowly. In this way the die-off symptoms are milder but remain for much longer. With this method it is especially important to maintain a strict diet. I generally prefer the flush method, but if you cannot use that for any reason, then try this slow approach. Another principle is to take a high dose of probiotics or beneficial lactobacteria 30 to 60 minutes after the antimicrobial remedy, and before eating or drinking anything containing carbohydrates.
Normally the intestinal wall is densely covered with microbes, either beneficial or pathogenic ones. When we take beneficial bacteria during Candida overgrowth, then the good bacteria cannot get a foothold on the intestinal wall, and largely just pass through the intestines. Therefore we must first make some free space at the intestinal wall by ingesting an antimicrobial agent, such as garlic. We need to wait a while until the antimicrobial has cleared the stomach and then we take a high-potency probiotic, commonly a culture of acidophilus and bifido bacteria.
Now these good bacteria can easily occupy the vacated spaces at the intestinal wall. However, if we do not follow up with probiotics, then the next time we ingest any carbohydrates the fungus will quickly multiply and fill the empty spaces again. In this way we can quickly regenerate a healthy intestinal flora. However, it takes much longer to eliminate the spores and fungal roots growing through the intestinal wall. Therefore we need to be careful, use a suitable diet and continue to avoid or minimize drugs and chemicals that may kill our beneficial bacteria.
Systemic Antimicrobial Therapy
Furthermore, in long-standing conditions the fungus or other microbes will have invaded the bloodstream and lodged in other parts of the body, especially the lungs. For this we need to take stronger action. While continuing with high doses of raw garlic may initially clear the blood, it is generally preferable to alternate between different antimicrobial remedies. Commonly used for this purpose are wormwood, olive leaf and pau d'arco. Sometimes also oxygen therapy or colloidal silver are being used.
A combination of these methods should be used from one to two months to eliminate not only fungi but also most harmful bacteria and viruses from the body, giving the immune system a chance to get back into control. It is advisable to use probiotics from time to time during prolonged antimicrobial therapy, and especially immediately after terminating this therapy. Therefore, once a day or several times a week you may take a probiotic 30 to 60 minutes after the antimicrobial and before ingesting any carbohydrate. After finishing the antimicrobial therapy continue to take probiotics for several weeks before breakfast.
Minimizing Mucus Congestion And Inflammation
As pointed out previously, the mucic acid produced from lactose is highly irritating to the mucous membranes lining the bronchial tubes and lungs. This stimulates the secretion of protective mucus, which then tends to clog up the airways, and it also increases inflammatory tendencies. All this provides an ideal breeding ground for pathogenic microbes to thrive in this environment.
Therefore, an important rule is to avoid all lactose-containing products. Read labels, avoid any suspicious-looking food, and be aware that not all food additives may need to be declared on the label. While pasteurized cows' milk and skim milk products are the most serious offenders, initially avoid even potentially beneficial foods, such as goats' milk yogurt. When you are free of asthma, you may again cautiously reintroduce potentially beneficial goats' milk products, such as yogurt, kefir, and natural cottage cheese and cheese. Small amounts of butter are usually all right, except if allergic to cows' milk. However, even fats, especially saturated fats, ingested or formed in the liver from excess carbohydrates, can increase mucus congestion if they are not properly removed from the blood.
Gluten tends to damage the intestinal wall by having an irritating and inflammatory effect on the intestinal lining. It also blunts the absorption villi of the small intestines and contributes to malabsorption. Many individuals knowingly or unknowingly are highly sensitive to gluten and have varying degrees of celiac disease associated with mucus formation, inflammation and allergies.
However, basically everyone seems to be temporarily affected when digesting gluten as this tends to make the intestinal wall more permeable to only partly digested proteins. This greatly increases the likelihood of food allergies developing. The common gluten grains are wheat, rye, barley and oats. Gluten is also routinely added to many processed foods.
While you still have asthma completely avoid all gluten products, and later be very careful. In previous centuries gluten was less of a problem because on the one hand the gluten content of grains was much lower than today and on the other hand much of the gluten was enzymatically predigested by proper sourdough baking. Therefore, if and when you want to reintroduce gluten products after overcoming your asthma, continue to avoid or minimize wheat and use preferentially spelt and rye sourdough bread (also see Wheat & Gluten).
Avoid Moldy Foods
Dietary yeasts and molds as well as mushrooms greatly increase the difficulties of susceptible individuals, frequently causing allergic reactions and flare-ups of asthma. In addition, some molds may damage the liver, for instance a mold that frequently grows on peanuts and is present in peanut butter. Molds commonly grow on dried fruits and on poorly stored grains and nuts, also on the outer leaves of cabbage and the skins of various fruits. Molds may be in food at such low levels that we cannot taste or smell it. Cooking or processing does not help as allergic reactions commonly are against the cell walls, regardless if the fungi are dead or alive.
A study in the UK in 1977 found that molds and their poisonous myco-toxins (fungal toxins) were in all 318 samples of flour tested. This mold contamination is due to insufficient drying in the process of combine-harvesting grain. Whole meal flour, bran and wheat germ are even more affected by mold than is white flour. Rice is also frequently contaminated. Washing whole grains and nuts, susceptible fruits and vegetables before cooking or eating helps to remove molds; drying in the sun destroys fungi and prevents their development. Preferably remove environmental molds, for instance those on walls and bathroom tiles.
Frequently antibiotics are routinely added to animal feed for meat production; this applies especially to poultry and pigs. Antibiotic residues may impair the intestinal flora of the consumer of such products and thereby encourage the spread of Candida. In addition, the meat itself may be infested with Candida or other fungi because of the prolonged use of antibiotics while, on the other hand, resistant strains of harmful bacteria may be present. I do not recommend habitually eating such meat. As a general rule I recommend to avoid meat from feedlots.
Food allergies, chemical sensitivities and airborne allergens are major causes of inflammation and, with this, of deteriorating asthma conditions. It is difficult to do much about airborne allergens but fortunately these usually clear up when food allergies and chemical sensitivities are corrected.
As explained before, this is mainly done by reestablishing a healthy intestinal flora. Until this is accomplished it is recommended to follow a low-allergy diet or to do elimination food testing to eliminate offending foods. A main reason why foods cause allergic reactions is a deficiency of digestive enzymes. Therefore, initially you may also use digestive enzyme supplements to minimize allergy problems.
Other Causes of Inflammations
Allergies, molds, mucic acid, as well as Candida and other microbes are the most common causes of inflammations. If we are persistently exposed to some or all of these, then the inflammation will be chronic or permanent. Another aggravating influence is an over acidic body. The main reasons for this are allergens and microbial toxins which make the energy metabolism inefficient. Instead of producing energy from glucose, cells produce only lactic acid, which makes the lymph fluid too acid. This can also happen if the diet is too high in sugar and refined flour products, or if the diet is too low in alkalizing minerals as from fruit and vegetables.
The more acid the body fluids are the more histamine is released, and this greatly intensifies any allergic reaction. Therefore, make the necessary dietary adjustments to avoid or minimize sweet food and refined flour products, and instead use alkalizing fruits and vegetables. Another inflammation booster is cooked food in general, and especially food that has been heated to above the boiling point. Therefore maximize the intake of anti-inflammatory raw food, and do not heat the food to more than 100C. The linoleic acid in seed oils, an omega-6 fatty acid, is pro-inflammatory while the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils and linolenic acid in linseed are anti-inflammatory.
By sanitizing your intestines, eliminating microbial infestations, and minimizing allergens you have taken some major steps to reduce the chronic stress load in your life. But there may be other problems, both biological and emotional. Therefore, see what more you can do to improve your adrenal glands.
You may have dead teeth, commonly with root canal fillings. These tend to become breeding grounds for anaerobic bacteria that may cause chronic jawbone infections and weaken the immune system. You may also have amalgam fillings that constantly leach mercury into your system, or two different metals in the mouth that act like a corrosive battery.
Other chronic stressors are electromagnetic fields which are especially detrimental in the bedroom. Living or working for extended periods under fluorescent light is a stress as is looking for long periods into a TV or computer screen. See Healthy Living for suggestions on minimizing these harmful dental and environmental factors.
Individuals with weak adrenal glands tend to use stimulants to get more drive for daily living, and easily become addicted to whatever they regularly use. Others try to get stimulated with loud music or daring activities. However, what is really needed is the opposite of continuously stimulating weak adrenal glands. This includes restful activity in nature such as gardening and leisurely walking; relaxation and slow breathing exercises, meditation and especially interpersonal activities that make you feel loved, safe and protected.
For a small child that may mean lots of touching, cuddling and sometimes sleeping in the parents' bed; older children thrive on praise and knowing that they can come to their parents with any problem, doing things together as a family, going camping (see Emotional Security in Children). As adults we need a dependable and caring partner, and still continue to thrive on much touching, cuddling, and gentle relaxing massages.
By permanently removing the offending environmental or emotional stress, and at the same time supporting the body with high-quality nutrition and strong emotional support, we slowly begin climbing back. Our adrenal glands leave the exhaustion phase and reenter the resistance phase with a period of quiet recovery and finally move back into the alarm phase with a series of acute healing crises. At the end of this long healing process we may have reacquired the adrenal functions and disease-resistance that we had as a small child before we started getting colds, allergic reactions, digestive upsets and asthma.