Understanding the underlying cause of asthma can help you address symptoms before they strike. Here’s what you need to know.
We tend to think of asthma as something that comes and goes – a tight chest, wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing that can vary over time.1
In fact, asthma is a chronic condition that’s present even when symptoms aren’t.2 That tightness you feel in your chest could actually be a sign of underlying inflammation affecting the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs.3
WHAT IS inflammation?
Ordinarily, inflammation is the body’s way of combatting injury and infection.4 It is part of the body’s natural defense system and plays an important role in healing. Inflammation is usually well controlled by the body so that it stops when it is no longer needed.4
There are many different factors that can cause inflammation. If inflammation isn’t properly controlled, it can also progress to chronic, persistent inflammation.4
What really causes asthma symptoms
In the case of asthma, certain triggers appear to activate the immune system – for example, environmental triggers such as dust or pollution.3 The walls of the tubes that supply the lungs swell and fill with excess mucus, narrowing the airways.3 This inflammatory response can make it feel difficult to breathe, as well as cause tightness in the chest, wheezing and coughing.3 Unfortunately, if left untreated, chronic inflammation can lead to permanent changes in the walls of the airways that could make your asthma progressively worse.3
Experts have studied different ways to help address underlying inflammation and minimise the chances of symptoms arising in the first place. Here are some options that have been published, but always talk to your doctor before trying any out for yourself.
Act, don’t react
Regularly experiencing symptoms is a sign that your asthma isn’t well controlled.1 Speak to your doctor about daily treatment to address underlying inflammation and lessen the impact asthma has on your life.5
Eat PLENTY OF fruit and veg
Evidence suggests that plants rich in compounds called polyphenols can have an anti-inflammatory effect, which may be beneficial for asthma.6 Polyphenols can be found in fruits such as grapes, apples and cherries, as well as legumes and cereals.6
Cigarette smoke contains a cocktail of chemicals linked with lung inflammation.7 If you’re struggling to quit, ask your doctor for help – and don’t give up trying to give up.
Even just 20 minutes of moderate exercise is enough to lower levels of inflammatory proteins in the blood, according to a study in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.8 You can read more about the benefits HERE. Ask your doctor about exercises that could be suitable for you.
Unwind your mind
Evidence suggests that stress amplifies the immune response to asthma triggers, making symptoms more severe.9 Tackle the causes and schedule regular relaxation time. Deep breaths, all round.
The best news of all is that protecting against inflammation isn’t just good for your airways, but your wider health, too – so start making changes today and your whole body will thank you!10,11
Is your asthma well controlled?
If you’re concerned about your asthma, speak to your doctor about daily treatment. The asthma control test (ACT) is a quick way to see how asthma symptoms are affecting your everyday life. Click on the link below to get the results in seconds – and be sure to share them with your doctor.
- GINA. Global strategy for asthma management and prevention, 2021. Available at: www.ginasthma.org. Accessed November 2021.
- Ishmael FT. J Am Osteopath Assoc 2011;111(11 Suppl. 7):S11–17.
- Murdoch JR, Lloyd CM. Mutat Res 2010;690(1–2):24–39.
- Chen L, et al. Oncotarget 2018;9(6):7204–7218.
- Woodcock A, et al. Lancet 2017;390:2247–2255.
- Pandey KB, Rizvi SI. Oxid Med Cell Longev 2009;2(5):270–278.
- Lugade AA, et al. J Immunol 2014;192(11):5226–5235.
- Dimitrov, Hulteng and Hong. Brain Behav Immun 2017;61:60–68.
- Chen E, Miller GE. Brain Behav Immun 2007;21(8):993–999.
- Furman D, et al. Nat Med 2019;25:1822–1832.
- Hancox RJ, et al. Respir Med 2016;111:54–59.