Alternative asthma treatments

7 Min Read

Asthma symptoms can usually be comfortably controlled with conventional medicine such as inhalers. However, more and more people are turning to complementary or alternative remedies to use alongside their prescribed medication.

Before you decide to supplement your asthma treatment with holistic alternatives you should speak to your doctor or specialist asthma nurse.

Asthma breathing techniques

Various breathing techniques have been used by those with asthma for several decades, but are they actually effective at helping asthmatics?

  • The Papworth method

A recent study has suggested that using this physiotherapeutic breathing technique, which focuses on the use of the diaphragm and nose, can improve asthma symptoms.

The breathing exercise is said to be easy to fit into everyday life and can be adapted to suit a range of activities including exercise.

However, further research into the area is needed for any definitive conclusions to be drawn. Your doctor may be able to suggest a local group where you can receive training in this method.

  • The Buteyko Breathing Technique (BBT)

This method was developed by a professor of the same name in the 1950s and is said to help asthmatics by better regulating their breathing.

It focuses on gentle breathing in through the nose to keep airways moist and to avoid any sudden changes in temperature which might trigger an asthma attack. It also covers exercise, sleep, and relaxation techniques.

People who practice Buteyko breathing may report improvements in their condition but they should not abandon their conventional asthma treatments, as their airways are still likely to be sensitive to triggers.

There has been no clinical evidence to support this alternative asthma treatment.

It could prove beneficial for asthmatics to learn specific breathing techniques to help reduce asthma symptoms and also the likelihood of needing to take medicine.

If you are interested in introducing breathing techniques to your asthma treatment plan then you should consult your doctor first.

Holistic therapies

Holistic therapies including yoga exercises, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, and homeopathy are said to relax muscles and airways and thereby improve asthma symptoms.

If you are thinking about any of these treatments then you should be sure to use a qualified person who practices in a safe and clean environment. Always discuss any new treatments you are thinking about trying with your doctor first.

  • Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy is used to put a person into an altered state of consciousness where suggestion and positive thinking are used to change behavior.

It is thought to aid muscle relaxation which could improve asthma symptoms, however, there is a lack of evidence to suggest that hypnosis directly benefits asthmatics and further research into this field is required.

  • Yoga

Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that concentrates on strengthening the body through stretching and breathing techniques.

There has been no conclusive clinical evidence to support claims that yoga can help asthmatics. However, a preliminary clinical trial[3] did find that practicing yoga can reduce the likelihood of an asthma attack.

Varying forms of yoga are practiced in numerous health and leisure centers all over the country. If you do want to try yoga then it is sensible to inform your instructor that you have asthma before participating in a class.

Exercising offers many health benefits to everyone and is especially important for those with asthma. It can help strengthen the lungs and reduce stress which can sometimes be an asthma trigger.

  • Acupuncture

Derived from ancient Chinese medicine acupuncture refers to the use of tiny needles that are inserted into areas of the skin to offer pain relief.

However, the use of this alternative treatment for those with asthma has not been founded on solid clinical evidence.

If you wish to combine acupuncture with your conventional medical treatment then you should look to use a specialist who has been certified.

  • Homeopathy

Homeopathy refers to a practice where small amounts of the trigger-causing health symptoms are used to help kick-start the body’s natural healing process.

Some people may turn to this alternative medicine with the aim to help with their asthma symptoms. However, the British Thoracic Society has outlined that there is currently insufficient evidence to support recommending this practice to asthmatics.

There is no governing body in the UK to regulate homeopathy practitioners which means that anyone can practice it without any formal training or qualifications.

Herbal medication

It is thought that a significant number of asthmatics turn to herbal remedies to try and alleviate their symptoms. However, there is no clinical evidence to currently support their use, and further research into the area is needed.

If you are thinking about adding supplementary or herbal medicine to your asthma treatment plan then you should speak to your doctor first before taking any action.

Over-the-counter medication

There are no specific asthma treatments available to buy over-the-counter or without a prescription in the United Kingdom. However, other countries such as the United States do offer some non-prescription treatments.

In order for your condition to be well-managed you should see your doctor or asthma nurse for regular check-ups and medication reviews.

If your asthma is triggered by pollen or dust mites, then you might try and limit your reaction by taking over-the-counter antihistamines. You should discuss using any non-prescribed medication with your doctor before use.

Unfortunately, there is not much evidence to suggest that using complementary alternative medicines (CAMs) instead of conventional medicine has a direct benefit for those with asthma.

Remember to speak to your doctor or asthma healthcare professional before you make any changes to your asthma treatment or introduce any alternative treatments. They should not be used in place of the medications prescribed by your doctor as non-adherence to your asthma plan can result in a higher chance of an asthma attack.

Share this Article
Tom Perry, M.D., attended Tulane University and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.S. degree in Parasitology. He received his M.D. degree in 1983 from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, where he gained extensive research experience, including studies conducted through the National Institutes of Health.