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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Our child has asthma: What can we do to help manage it?

Hi Gary,

We took our 2 year old to our GP today after his cough (which he's had for a week or so) kept him awake on and off last night. We realise there's not much you can do for a cough except keep warm, get lots of rest, eat well, etc so going to the GP was more of a safety check to make sure there wasn't something more sinister brewing.....well it turns out he has Asthma and has been given a raft of medicines including an inhaler.

With little or no history of Asthma in the family (we also have a 4 year old) we were quite surprised by this diagnosis.

You mention in an article (Nov 8 2007) a list of actions and regime changes to help with eczema and asthma - do these apply equally to both conditions or should be concentrating on certain things to help with the Asthma?
Thanks, Andy


Gary Moller comments:
Eczema and asthma are essentially the same disease expressed with differing symptoms. In my family, we either have eczema or asthma. For one child, the eczema was terrible and for another the asthma caused hospitalisation on two occasions. We discovered that the natural health solutions for one works for the other. We have been able to reduce the need for medications to a big ZERO. Children also rend to grow out of asthma as a simple result of their airways growing larger and therefor less prone to clogging with phlegm.
With regards to your child you do need to determine whether or not the breathing problems are an acute reaction to the cold or an infection or the result of an allergy. If it is an acute reaction, then the need for ongoing medication should be queried. Medications for asthma are not without their nasty side effects when used long term, including osteoporosis and adrenal damage.
You should be using a peak flow meter daily to measure your child's breath flow. Your doctor should have measured this at the clinic and can provide you with a peak flow meter to take home. The protocol for use should have been carefully explained and demonstrated. The idea is to measure his peak flow before and after taking his blue asthma inhaler. If there is some brochial spasm (asthma) then there should be a significant improvement in peak flow. If not, then you should review his condition, including medication with your doctor.
The same query of the need for ongoing medication can apply to an allergy once the allergens have been identified and minimised. If an allergy, such as dust mite, is suspected, then ask your doctor about getting your child tested for allergies. This is a simple skin reaction test. If you get a positive with your child for dust mite or animal dander for example, then the next step is to identify sources in your environment such as a pet or an old carpet and then deal with them.
Nutrition is an essential factor for ongoing management - medication or not. This centres about ensuring there is a rich supply of the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and the essential fatty acids. One of the best sources of these is raw full-cream A2 milk which is the only milk we have in our house. Sadly, this is not easy to come by.

You could add cod liver oil to your child's diet (You can get cod liver oil here) as a rich and safge source of vitamins D and A. Wheatgerm oil is a rich source of natural vitamin E. Waihi Bush Flax Magic is a rich souirce of the omega3 oils for children that is definitely beneficial for asthma and eczema. Butter is a good source of essential fats and fat soluble vitamins, principally vitamin A. Stay away from the synthetic versions of the fat soluble vitamins.
The other measure is to teach your child how to diaphragm breathe. If a child breathes shallow, then asthma and anxiety is inevitable.

Do you have a question?
Email Gary: gary at (Replace the "at" with @ and remove spaces). Please include any relevant background information to your question.


Alex said...

Hi Gary: I've read a number of articles warning me off vitamin A and cod liver oil. The biggest problem is that they deactivate vitamin D. Here's one blog example:

"I'm glad the improvements are continuing. I see Dr. Yasko recommends 10,000 IU of vitamin A/day as well as cod liver oil. I strongly disagree. Make sure your son is taking neither vitamin A nor cod liver oil. Rather, make sure he eats colored fruits and vegetables as well as fortified oatmeal. Vitamin A interferes with vitamin D's function, especially at the doses Dr. Yasko recommends.

"Vitamin A antagonizes the action of vitamin D. In humans, even the vitamin A in a single serving of liver impairs vitamin D’s rapid intestinal calcium response. Furthermore, the consumption of preformed retinols, even in amounts consumed by many Americans in both multivitamins and cod liver oil appears to be causing low-grade, but widespread, bone toxicity, perhaps through its antagonism of vitamin D. In a recent dietary intake study, Kyungwon et al found high retinol intake completely thwarted vitamin D’s otherwise protective effect on distal colorectal adenoma and they found a clear relationship between vitamin D and vitamin A intakes as the women in the highest quintile of vitamin D intake also ingested almost 10,000 IU of retinols/day. As early as 1933, Hess et al warned about vitamin A consumption, concluding, 'as to a requirement of thousands of units of vitamin A daily, the unquestionable answer is that this constitutes therapeutic absurdity, which, happily, will prove to be only a passing fad.'

Rohde CM, Deluca HF. All-trans retinoic acid antagonizes the action of calciferol and its active metabolite, 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol, in rats. J Nutr. 2005;135(7):1647-1652.

Johansson S, Melhus H. Vitamin A antagonizes calcium response to vitamin D in man. J Bone Miner Res. 2001;16(10):1899-1905.

Penniston KL, Tanumihardjo SA. The acute and chronic toxic effects of vitamin A. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83(2):191-201.

Oh K, Willett WC, Wu K, Fuchs CS, Giovannucci EL. Calcium and vitamin D intakes in relation to risk of distal colorectal adenoma in women. Am J Epidemiol. 2007;165(10):1178-1186.

Hess AF, Lewis JM, Barenberg LH. Does our dietary require vitamin A supplement? JAMA. 1933;101:657-663.

Unfortunately, Hess’s prophecy of a passing fad proved premature and many Americans continue to consume 'absurd' and dangerous quantities of vitamin A. For example, multivitamins, until recently, had small amounts of vitamin D (200 to 400 IU) but high amounts of preformed retinols (5,000 to 10,000 IU). This pales in comparison to a tablespoon of modern cod liver oil, which contains sub-physiological amounts of vitamin D (400 to 1200 IU) but supra-physiological amounts of completely preformed retinols (5,000 to 15,000 IU or in some cases 30,000 IU).

John Cannell

So what's the story?

Gary Moller said...

First of all, I am totally in agreement with Dr John Cannell's comments. It comes down to all things in moderation - not too much and not too little and in the proportions that Mother Nature intended. I would add that the sources should be natural rather than synthetic.

Natural vitamin A and the other fat soluble vitamins is sadly lacking in most of the diets that I get to analyse. Adding these vitamins back into the diet in modest amounts is different to dosing up on large quantities, especially if they are of the purified synthetic version.

For example; a cod liver oil capsule delivers 2,000iu of natural vitamin A which is at the lower end as compared to the doses Dr Cannell is talking about.

While there may be some antagonism of vitamin D, I think it is inconsequential. The bigger issue is to do with the vast majority of people not having anywhere enough vitamin D in their bodies in the first place.

Rather than cut back further on the vitamin A, it makes much better sense to increase the vitamin D.

I hope this clarifies the issue Alex.

Alex said...

Thanks, Gary, that makes sense. However, I do note that some supplements available in NZ seem to contain excessive amounts of vitamin A. Guess it pays to read the fine print! - Alex