What Causes Asthma?

To successfully treat and prevent recurrence of asthma we need to understand and — if possible — remove the underlying causes and risk factors.  We need to ask: "What else is going on inside the body that might allow asthma symptoms to develop?"

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Accurate diagnosis of the factors behind asthma consists of three steps:

Step 1: List the Possible Causative Factors

Identify all disease conditions, lifestyle choices and environmental risk factors that can lead to asthma symptoms.  Here are eight of many possibilities (more below):
  • Stress
  • Selenium Need
  • Adrenal Fatigue
  • Mineral Need
  • A Weight Problem
  • Vitamin B6 Need
  • Heartburn
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity*
* symptoms can be very similar

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

Identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
unexplained missed periods
meal-related bloating
slight abdominal distension
hair loss on lower legs
brittle fingernails
poor bodily coordination
short-term memory failure
having high percentage body fat
regular nightmares
recently going through divorce
chronic vomiting
sensitivity to bright light
... and more than 150 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of asthma symptoms:
Cause Probability Status
Mineral Need 99% Confirm
Heartburn 19% Unlikely
Selenium Need 13% Unlikely
Stress 0% Ruled out
Vitamin B6 Need 0% Ruled out
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity** 0% Ruled out
Adrenal Fatigue 0% Ruled out
A Weight Problem 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process
** Symptoms can be very similar

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

In the Respiratory Symptoms section of the questionnaire, The Analyst™ will ask the following question about asthma:
Have you suffered from Asthma?
Possible responses:
→ Never had it / don't know
→ Probably had it/minor episode(s) now resolved
→ Major episode(s) now resolved
→ Current minor problem
→ Current major problem
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate either history of asthma or having asthma, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Allergy to Cow's Milk

"Symptoms of milk-protein allergy include cough, choking, gasping, nose colds, asthma, sneezing attacks..." [Annals of Allergy, 1951; 9]

Environmental Illness / MCS

Respiratory complaints among MCS patients include adult-onset "asthma", shortness of breath, and fibrotic lung disease.

Selenium Requirement

Dietary consumption of apples and selenium intake (assessed by food frequency questionnaire) were each associated with a reduced risk of asthma in an English study of adults. [Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2001;164(10): pp.1823-28]

Vitamin B6 Requirement

Children with asthma have been shown to have a metabolic defect in tryptophan metabolism.  Tryptophan is converted to serotonin, a known bronchoconstricting agent in asthmatics.  Studies have shown that patients benefit from either a tryptophan-restricted diet or B6 supplementation to correct the blocked tryptophan metabolism.  Pyridoxine may also be of direct benefit to asthmatic patients, since it is a key cofactor in the synthesis of all the major neurotransmitters.

Problems Caused By Being Overweight

Being overweight increases the risk of asthma. [Arch Intern Med 1999;159: pp.2582-8]  Obese people with asthma may improve their lung-function symptoms and overall health status by engaging in a weight-loss program.  A controlled study found that weight loss resulted in significant decreases in episodes of shortness of breath, increases in overall breathing capacity, and decreases in the need for medication to control symptoms. [BMJ 2000;320: pp.827-32]

Heartburn / GERD / Acid Reflux

About half of asthmatic patients also have GERD, of which heartburn is a symptom.  It is not entirely clear, however, whether asthma is a cause or effect of GERD.  Some experts speculate that the coughing and sneezing accompanying asthmatic attacks cause changes in pressure in the chest that can trigger reflux.  Exercise-induced asthma does not appear to be related to GERD.  Certain asthmatic drugs that dilate the airways may relax the LES and contribute to GERD.

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