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Asthma

Asthma is an inflammatory breathing condition which can be aggravated by particular stimuli, and some supplements are currently being investigated as to whether the reactivity of a person to these stimuli can be reduced.

Our evidence-based analysis on asthma features 10 unique references to scientific papers.

Research analysis led by and reviewed by the Examine team.
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Summary of Asthma

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the airways.[1] Individuals with asthma experience recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing.[2] These episodes are often worse in the mornings and evenings.

What are the main signs and symptoms of asthma?

Signs

  • Inflammation and tissue remodeling of the lower airway.

Symptoms

  • Wheezing

  • Coughing

  • Shortness of breath

  • Tightness in the chest[3]

How is asthma diagnosed?

Asthma is diagnosed through a combination of clinical and laboratory tools. Typically, a diagnosis is formed from a combination of patient history, a physical examination of the lungs (using a stethoscope), and lung function tests (e.g., spirometry, peak expiratory flow, and response to an inhaler).[4] Additionally, since allergens can provoke immune responses that worsen the symptoms of asthma, clinicians may also do allergy tests.

What are some of the main medical treatments for asthma?

Inhalers are the primary medical treatment for asthma. During acute exacerbations, inhaled short-acting beta-agonists (SABAs), such as albuterol/salbutamol, are considered the primary tool for managing asthma.[5] As their name suggests, these drugs bind to β2 adrenergic receptors and cause the smooth muscles in the bronchi to relax and open.[6][5] Additionally, if asthma is classified as “intermittent” or worse, inhaled long-acting beta-agonists (LABAs) and glucocorticoids can be used for more continuous treatment.[7]

Have any supplements been studied for asthma?

A handful of supplements have been studied for asthma, but none exhaustively so. Magnesium, Coleus forskohlii, pycnogenol, and saffron all have a few studies suggesting they modestly improve asthma symptoms.

What’s the connection between diet and asthma?

There are several noteworthy connections between diet and asthma. Consumption of fruits, vegetables, and dairy have all been correlated with a reduced risk of Asthma.[8] Additionally, switching from a proinflammatory diet (such as the Western diet) to a less inflammatory diet (such as the Mediterranean diet) may reduce the risk of asthma.[9] Finally, there is evidence that alterations to the microbiome (e.g., by antibiotic use early in life) may increase the risk of asthma later in life.[10]

Are there any other treatments for asthma?

Alongside inhalers, avoiding triggers is a major part of asthma treatment. Ideally, individuals with asthma should keep track of environments, activities, and substances that make their asthma worse and avoid them (or at least bring and use an inhaler).

What causes asthma?

The cause of asthma is unclear; it’s a combination of genetics and environment.[1] Acute episodes of asthma can be caused by exposure to allergens (e.g., dust mites, mold, pollen), exposure to nonallergens (e.g., cold air, household chemicals, smoke/pollution), or exercise.

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Human Effect Matrix

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The Human Effect Matrix looks at human studies to tell you what supplements affect Asthma.

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Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Supplement Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Notes
grade-b Minor High See all 4 studies
There appears to be a reduction in asthmatic symptoms associated with magnesium supplementation to a low degree, with the one study using corticosteroids alongside magnesium finding no effect. There may be a role for magnesium in aiding untreated asthma, but already medicated situations are not certain
grade-c Notable - See study
Preliminary evidence, but boswellia appeared to benefit much more people than did placebo in symptoms of asthma.
grade-c Notable Very High See 2 studies
Although more evidence is required, it appears to be more effective at suppressing asthmatic symptoms than other nutraceuticals. Mechanisms may be related to beta-adrenergic compounds (due to increasing cAMP and inducing bronchiol dilation)

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Click here to see all 10 references.