The physicians in ancient Greece used the word “asthma” to mean breathlessness or gasping for air. They believed that asthma could be relieved by adhering to a healthy diet and lifestyle changes. Ancient Chinese physicians used the term to mean “wheezy breathing” to indicate an imbalance in one’s life force or Qi. Qi was restored through acupuncture, herbs, diet, and exercise. Ancient Hindu philosophers believed that there was a connection between breathing and the soul. In order to make the mind, body, spirit connection, yoga used controlled breathing to help enhance meditation. And the 12th century rabbi and physician to the Sultan of Egypt, Maimonides, recommended that the royal prince who had asthma should eat and drink less and avoid the polluted environment of the city—and eat more chicken soup (I’m not making this up). i

So you can see that asthma has been around for quite a long time. And with it comes some inevitable myths surrounding actual facts. Let’s look at a few of the current myths of asthma.

The Myth:
There aren’t that many people with asthma; it’s just a bunch of media hype
The Facts:
Whether we like it or not, there are more adults and children with asthma today than at any time in the past. The occurrence of asthma has increased exponentially over the past 20 years. In the 1990’s, more than 7.1 million people went to see physicians for asthma conditions and an estimated 3300 people died from asthma during that time. ii Today those numbers have increased almost 6-fold—an estimated 34.1 million adults in America suffer from lifetime asthma with an additional almost 9 million children under the age of 18. iii Do the math, that’s 13 percent of the population in the United States. Hard to believe, but true. According to the American Lung Association, over 500,000 people are hospitalized each year and over 5,500 deaths annually are now attributed to asthma. Asthma is the leading chronic illness of children in the United States and the leading cause of school absenteeism. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, asthma accounts for more childhood hospitalizations and lost school days than any other disease. iv

The Myth:
Asthma is all in your head—get counseling and get over it
The Facts:
There are two types of asthma. v Allergic (extrinsic) Asthma is triggered by an allergic reaction to an inhaled substance such as dust, pollen, mold, chemicals, animals, etc. Ninety percent of asthma cases are caused by extrinsic asthma. Non-allergic (intrinsic) Asthma is triggered by factors not related to allergies such as exercise, anxiety, depression, cold air or dry air, etc. The symptoms of both are the same—coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and chest tightness. Either type of asthma can be life threatening. And it’s unlikely that psychotherapy will correct asthma triggered by an allergen or cold air.

The Myth:
Chill out and don’t over-react every time you feel any shortness of breath and you won’t have an asthma attack.
The Facts:
Have you ever wondered what drowning must feel like? Ask someone with asthma. Imagine the smooth muscles around your bronchial tubes tightening up and becoming inflamed thus causing a further narrowing of the tubes. At the same time, your lungs are producing excess mucus filling up the narrowed spaces where your air should be flowing. As it becomes more difficult for air to pass in and out of the lungs, oxygen levels decrease in the blood. vi You know you need to breathe to stay alive, but you can’t. Whether you panic or not, you are having a biological reaction that isn’t allowing you to breathe properly and oxygenate your body. Your lips turn blue from the lack of oxygen in your blood. You feel as if you are drowning…like you are dying. OK, now try to imagine chilling out and calming down when you suddenly can’t breathe and your lungs are filling with mucus. Not so easy without oxygen or an inhaler.

The Myth:
If we didn’t coddle our children, there would be less asthma
The Facts:
Some people are born with a predisposition toward developing asthma. However, what actually triggers the disease can vary from person to person. Common triggers include tobacco smoke, air pollution, pollen, allergens from animals and insects, abrupt weather changes, and biological contaminants such as mold, and viral infections.

Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications such as blood pressure drugs, aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen are all known asthma triggers. vii

Studies show that children whose parents smoke are twice as likely to develop asthma as children of nonsmoking parents. Also, children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy tend to be born with smaller airways, which greatly increase their chances of developing the disease.

The Myth:
The proper way to treat asthma is through medication and immunotherapy (desensitization shots)
The Facts:
Asthma doesn’t have to severely limit your life. While it is prudent to be proactive, you don’t have to subject yourself to painful injections and, for most asthmatics; you don’t have to live on a regime of oral pharmaceuticals and inhalers. During an acute severe asthma attack, inhalers or a trip to the ER may be appropriate. But there are steps you can take to prevent asthma and to avoid asthma attacks.

Some Natural Solutions to Asthma and Breathing Problems:

  • Don’t smoke and stay away from those who do
  • Keep home humidity levels between 30% to 50%. High humidity levels can promote the growth of mold which can trigger allergic (extrinsic) asthma
  • Install high-efficiency furnace filters and replace them monthly. If using electrostatic furnace filters, clean them monthly
  • Although it’s impossible to keep a house free from mold, dust, dust mites, fungus, dirt, and other allergens, that doesn’t mean it’s OK to do nothing extra if you have an asthmatic child or adult. Allergen-proof mattress covers and pillowcases may not provide complete protection, but they are better than doing nothing at all.
  • Use a high-efficiency vacuum cleaner and empty its contents outside.
  • Keep pets out of the bedrooms of family members with asthma.
  • Clean the drapes often.
  • Become aware of your reactions to foods. The most common asthma triggering foods are grains, dairy, corn, soy, and various flours.
  • Don’t let asthma get you down. If you get depressed you won’t do these proactive things you need to do to take care of yourself.
  • Find out about AAT, Advanced Allergy Therapeutics, and get yourself on the road to recovery.

  • The Biggest Myth:
    You will always have to avoid your asthma triggers for the rest of your life
    The Most Hopeful Fact:
    No one can guarantee that any allergy treatment will work for you. But in our clinic we have found that there is a way to treat the symptoms associated with allergies and sensitivities that trigger asthma by reducing the biological stress caused by the offending substances. This in turn reduces the asthma episodes and allows a person with asthma to lead a completely normal life without having to live a lifestyle structured around avoidance and fear.

    We have found that Advanced Allergy Therapeutics, AAT, retrains the body so that it no longer reacts inappropriately when in contact with an offending allergen.viii The AAT treatments do not rely on the use of needles, medications, homeopathy, herbal remedies or supplements.  The treatment is safe, painless, effective and gentle enough for infants. As in all forms of health care, there are no guarantees; however, a high percentage of AAT patients respond favorably to the treatment on a long term basis and usually don’t need to be re-treated for the same allergens after their initial course of treatment.

    People suffering with asthma should be able to enjoy life and breathe without fear of triggering a frightening, life-threatening asthma attack.
    ii Asthma In America, Asthma Statistics,; National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Data Fact Sheet, Asthma Statistics.
    iv Asthma In America, Asthma Statistics,; National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Data Fact Sheet, Asthma Statistics.

    For more information on asthma, breathing problems, and AAT (Advanced Allergy Therapeutics) go to or email Dr. Wahl at
    Ian Wahl, DAc, LAc, CH is a Doctor of Acupuncture and herbalist who specializes in the treatment children and adults with allergies and hypersensitivities. He is the Founder and Director of the Midwest Allergy Relief Center () as well as the Wahls of Wellness (). Dr. Wahl can be reached at 847 392-7901 or

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