‘Let your food be your medicine’

March 25, 2014 by Asthma Care in Asthma and Food

Food  plays a large  part  in  our  lives and  so diet  deserves special attention because it is certainly a contributory  factor in causing overbreathing. The Asthma Care programme  is seventy  per  cent  retraining   of  breathing,  fifteen  per  cent regular  physical activity and fifteen  per cent observation  of diet. Buteyko’s research indicates that food increases our breathing,  some foods more than others, but water does not affect respiration.

Different food types

Our bodies can only absorb a small amount  of energy in the form of vitamin D directly from the sun, but the remainder of our energy is absorbed from the food we eat. Food therefore will vary as a source of energy depending on how far it is  removed  from  the  sun.  The  only foods  which  receive this  energy  directly are fruit and  vegetables.  It is really no coincidence  that  this food group  formed  the  staple part of people’s  diet for centuries.  Meat is also a source of energy with animals  absorbing  the energy  from the sun by eating the  vegetation.  We in turn  eat the  animals,  thus  indirectly receiving this energy. Fruit and vegetables are of primary importance.  A little meat is essential for good health, but for some people in the Western world it has become an obsession.

The  third  food  group  consists  of  processed  food, in- cluding food which has been interfered  with by man in the interests of productivity, efficiency and commercial gain. Processed food, the scourge of our planet, plays a big role in keeping hospital beds occupied by millions of patients  each day. Studies have consistently shown that those with asthma benefit  from a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and whole grain and low in fat and alcohol consumption. A healthy diet also helps improve  breathing,  achieving a higher  control  pause, and  reducing  asthma  symptoms,  leading  to  overall better health.
By carrying  out  breathing  exercises properly  you may experience  a substantial  reduction  in  appetite.  This  is be- cause  your  body  is  better  able  to  absorb  nutrients  from food  due  to  increased   oxygenation  and  improved   blood supply to  the  gastrointestinal tract.  Food then  serves as a provider of essential nutrients as opposed to feeding disease. An old saying is: ‘Of the food we eat, one third is for bodily requirements and  two thirds  is for the  doctor’. Along with increased  observation  of  breathing,  pay attention to  your body’s requirement for food. When you do feel a reduction in appetite, do not force yourself to eat as this will slow down your progress. With breathing exercises and normalisation of CO2, people  who are overweight  will reduce  weight  naturally, effortlessly and quickly.

Diet guidelines
Do not overeat:
Only eat when  you feel hungry.  Eating  when  you are  not hungry means that your body uses energy in order to process food that it does not need. This leads to increased breathing and is not good for your health. Do not eat just because it is a particular time of the day. It is very important to adhere  to this in order to help increase your control pause. Stop eating when you feel you have had enough. Overeating  will increase  the risk factors for chronic degenerative disease  such  as cancer, diabetes,  heart  disease, and arthritic diseases. It has been well documented that reducing food intake will promote  longevity of life. Reducing calorie intake while meeting  your body’s requirements of nutrients is the  secret  to  a better  and  longer  life. ‘More die  in  the United States of too much food than too little’.
Do not eat for a couple of hours before going to bed. If you have something to eat or a protein  drink before you go to bed this will cause deep breathing  during  the night, will result  in  poor  sleep  and  possible  waking  from  symptoms. Sumo wrestlers intentionally  have a large meal before they sleep in order to accumulate weight. The exact same process is happening  to us, albeit unintentionally. If your Control Pause is stubborn and you are experienc- ing difficulty increasing it even with regular physical activity then  your food intake  needs  to be examined.  For example semi-fasting  or reducing  meals by one per day can be very effective in increasing  the Control Pause. During fasting or partial fasting dropping one meal per day will increase corti- sol levels.

Reduce your protein intake:
Professor Buteyko found that high protein foods such as dairy, meat and eggs increase your volume of breathing. Independent of Buteyko, red  meat  is recognised  as a contributory  factor in inflammation. Research concludes that excessive protein  is contributing to a higher  prevalence  of asthma  in teenagers. Have  you ever noticed  increased  asthma  symptoms  or how tired you can be after eating a large dinner with meat? Professor Buteyko stated that although some people require protein, most people are better suited to a more vegetarian diet.

It  should  be  a  priority  to  reduce  or  eliminate   dairy produce  entirely  from  your  diet  because  it can  be  mucus producing  and may contribute  to many allergies and breathing  problems.  Children  with  nasal  congestion   and  runny noses often experience a great improvement when they stop drinking cow’s milk. While this will not apply to all people in general, it does seem to apply to many people with asthma. Asian countries  have  very low dairy  consumption due  to lactose intolerance  and their asthma rate is non existent compared with ours.

If a person is lactose intolerant, dairy products are not a good source of calcium because the body is unable to absorb the  calcium  from  milk sources. If  dairy  is  such  a  good provider, then  why is osteoporosis  often higher in countries with the highest dairy consumption?  Cow’s milk is specially formulated   and  should  be  used  only  as  nature  intended which is to feed and develop calves. Milk is not the only food source to provide calcium. Good sources of calcium include kelp, turnip  greens,  rhubarb,  broccoli,  lambs  kidney,  tofu, tinned  salmon  with  bones,  baked  beans,  fortified  oatmeal and  other  cereals,  and  all  leafy green  vegetables.  Turnip greens provide an estimated  twice as much calcium as milk.

A question often asked is this: what is there left to eat for breakfast if milk is eliminated  from the diet? Your morning meal is to break your fast from the day before and to start your new day. Advertising and marketing  gurus have unfortunately re-educated  the masses to eat stale processed sugary foods  for this  important meal.  Always remember that  the foods  which  are  widely  advertised  are  usually  processed foods. The  best  meal  by far, which  fed  our  ancestors  for generations,  is porridge.  It provides  essential  fibre, energy and   contains   no  additives,   colouring   or   preservatives. Porridge cooked in the morning in water with a little honey is a good  start to any day. If you are considering  reducing your dairy intake, ensure  that you eat green  vegetables and consider  calcium  supplements,  especially if you are taking steroids.

Limit consumption of processed foods and stimulants:
Consumption of processed  foods should  be limited.  In the 1930s Dr Weston  Price  conducted  an  interesting   study  of traditional  groups  and  their  change  to  a more  processed Westernised   diet.   When  the  Gaelic people,  living  on  the Hebrides off the coast of Scotland, changed from their tradi- tional diet of small sea foods and oatmeal to the modernised diet of ‘angel food cake, white bread and many white flour commodities,   marmalade,   canned   vegetables,   sweetened fruit juices, jams, and confections’, first generation  children became mouth  breathers  and their immunity  from diseases of  civilisation  reduced  dramatically.  The  traditional   diets were found to provide at least four times the minimum requirement of nutrients,  while modern  diets did not meet the minimum requirement.

Sugaraffects your adrenals  which produce  your body’s natural source of steroid. Of sugary foods, chocolate has the most harmful effect for any person with asthma. Sometimes it may  not  be  until  the  following  day that  symptoms  are experienced from the consumption of chocolate. Sugar raises blood sugar levels and causes a depletion of essential miner- als such as magnesium.  Interestingly, ‘desserts’ spelled back- wards is ‘stressed’.
Little  is  known  about  the  real  nutritional   content  of white  bread.  White   flour   contains   little   nutrition    and increases mucus production. To quote Dr Price’s book Nutri- tion and Physical Degeneration: ‘Modern white flour has had approximately four fifths of the phosphorous and nearly all of the vitamins removed by processing, in order to produce a flour  that  can be shipped  without  becoming  infested  with insect  life. Tests  showed  that  white  bread  was  unable  to sustain  insect life, while half a slice of whole rye bread was totally consumed  by bugs.’ This begs the significant question: how come white bread is not good enough  for bugs to eat, yet is good enough for humans to eat?

Black tea and  especially coffee are regarded  as stimulants. The  group  of asthma  drugs  known  as Xantines  are based on the same properties as coffee. These drugs are not now commonly  used due to their many side effects. Coffee and  tea will temporarily  help  you to breathe  because  they stimulate   the  adrenals   and  open   up  the  airways  in  an extreme situation. The amounts  needed  to have any notice- able effect are large, but this will produce  some  unpleasant side  effects and  cause stress  to the  body in  the  long  run. When Buteyko was asked if coffee was bad for you, his reply was: ‘Try giving it to a cat’. He drew a lot of his conclusions from animals  who instinctively know what, when  and how much  to  eat. A  person  with  sinus  problems  should  avoid coffee altogether. Alternatives are herbal teas which are pleasant to drink and without any side effects. Some which are helpful for people with asthma  in particular  are ginger and lemon tea, and peppermint tea.

Eat more fresh food:
Fresh food is best. Canned food is not recommended due to the  contamination of  the  food  by aluminium packaging. Frozen  vegetables, while  not  ideal, are  a better  source  of prepared  vegetables  than  canned.  Best of all is fresh fruit and vegetables grown without the use of pesticides or chemi- cal fertilisers. I remember,  as a child, watching a woman  in our local store  who was searching  for cabbages which had been attacked by slugs and other ‘insects’. Her reasoning  for this  was that  the  cabbage which had  been  attacked  by the insects had far less chemical on it. Chemicals increase your breathing  rate because your body must eliminate this source of increased  toxicity. Again, commercialisation and produc- tivity take precedence over the health of the people.

It is beneficial  to eat five portions  of fresh  vegetables and fruit per day, especially greens such as cabbage, broccoli, kale and kelp because these provide good sources of magnesium and calcium. Furthermore, vegetables do not promote the formation of mucus. Lightly cooking food and vegetables provides a richer source of nutrients and has less effect on breathing.  However,  the  more  raw the  food,  the  less  the effect it has on our breathing.
Ingredients such as garlic, ginger, curry, onions and sea salt  are  beneficial  for  asthma.  Garlic, ginger  and  onions boost the immune system, thin mucus and are very helpful for  people  with  respiratory  complaints.  Professor  Buteyko also advocated using sea salt for cooking because it contains numerous essential  minerals,  thins  mucus  and  is a natural anti-histamine. It is recommended that  you drink  a small amount  of sea salt in warm water any time you have asthma symptoms and especially during the cleansing reaction.
Fruits which may not be helpful for people with asthma include  oranges,  grapefruits,  lemons  and  limes  as they are antigenic,  i.e. they  trigger  an  immune  response.  Drinking large amounts  of orange juice each day may exacerbate symptoms.   Bananas  are  mucus   producing  because   they contain high potassium, and strawberries and raspberries increase histamine  levels.

Food intolerances:
There  are many  foods to which you can be intolerant but usually eat every day. You may not notice the negative effect because there is a delayed reaction and symptoms  run from one  day into  the  next. Regular amounts  of the  offending food  will ameliorate  the  effect of the  initial  consumption, resembling  the alcoholic who consumes further quantities to obtain relief from his addiction.
The following foods commonly trigger symptoms: milk, eggs,  peanuts, soy, wheat, fish  and  shellfish.  Along with these  are many additives such as sulphites, Tartrazine, and monosodium glutamate.
Some  foods  can  give you direct  feedback  on  whether they are helping  you or hurting  you. For example, if your nose is totally clogged after drinking  a cup of coffee – then coffee does  not  suit  you. (It is debatable  whether  it suits anyone.)
Testing for food intolerance does require some detective work. Some  indicators  of  food  intolerance  are  foods  that your parents  are allergic to, foods you crave and foods you eat  between   meals.  Crisps  and   chocolate   are  the   most common  items to fall into this category.
A good method  of determining which foods you may be intolerant  to is by eliminating  them for a period of weeks. It is worth  noting  that  if you cannot  do  without  a food  for twenty-one  days, then  you are very likely to be addicted  to that food. For example, if you feel that milk exacerbates your symptoms, then for two weeks do not drink milk or consume any product  which contains  milk. By then  you should  have noticed an improvement in your condition  if milk does not agree with you. If you do decide to reintroduce an offending food into your diet, be very careful because the reaction may be far greater following a period of withdrawal. It is advisable to speak with a nutritional  expert before embarking  on an elimination  diet.

Other  tests  include  missing  your  evening  meal.  On waking consume a small quantity of the suspect food. If your pulse rises more than ten beats fifteen minutes  after eating, then  consider  eliminating   this  food  from  your  diet  and observe if there is an improvement in your condition.

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