Asthma, Allergies, Diet, and Stress

Asthma, Allergies, Diet, and Stress

Written By: Dr. Tarman Aziz, MD, CCDS, CHC

Are you one of millions of Americans suffering with itchy eyes, post-nasal drip, and assorted rashes? Perhaps you are dealing with asthmatic wheezing and airway restriction, and you recently find a greater dependency on your rescue inhaler or steroid pills?  As frustrating as these symptoms can be, it may become even more perplexing when these flare ups do not follow predictable patterns such as known allergy seasons.

Milk, cheese, and other dairy products contain the protein casein. To date, there is no industrialized nation with a medical council or association willing to officially link the casein protein in dairy foods with exacerbation of asthma and allergy symptoms.  While speculation on the politics involved in such a phenomenon is largely futile, a further analysis of the science involved may prove valuable.

Casein protein is metabolized after consumption into numerous other compounds, including some that resemble opiates.  The impact to the normal bacterial flora of the intestine is still being investigated, as opiates are known to disrupt intestinal motility and alter the gut microenvironment.  What has been well described for years, however, is the ability for casein to promote the release of histamine from white blood cells.  Histamine mediates many of the changes in blood flow and mucus production associated with allergies and asthma.  Plenty of anecdotal evidence exists regarding clinical improvement for those facing allergies and asthma when eliminating dairy from one’s diet.

Additionally, adding known natural anti-inflammatory foods to one’s diet can greatly improve asthma and allergy symptoms, according to several support group leaders and attendees. In particular, ginger root, boswelia (Indian frankincense), and turmeric have the ability to slow production of certain chemicals called prostaglandins and leukotrienes, which are key chemical mediators of inflammation in airways and sinus cavities.

Finally, with emerging ideas from the field of Psycho Neuro Endocrine Immunology (PNEI), a clear association has been made between chronic stress that remains unaddressed and dysregulation of mast cells and basophils, which are the key white blood cells involved in allergy and asthma attacks.  Meaningful relaxation practiced daily through tai chi, yoga, and other modalities can reduce the number and severity of uncomfortable allergic episodes.

Large corporate health care entities do not generate very much revenue by reinforcing diet and lifestyle changes.  The profit margin is greatest when people ignore these subtle modifiers and remain 100% dependent on pharmaceuticals.  No doubt these prescription agents for allergies and asthma are lifesaving in emergencies and are needed by many for maintenance therapy.

As a certified health coach, I have worked with hundreds of people who enjoyed less inhaler use, no steroid dependency and fewer hospital stays simply by eliminating dairy from their diet.  Reasonable and tasty substitutes exist for most of your favorite dairy foods.  So why not find ways to stress less and experiment with a trial of a dairy-free diet?  If you see no improvement, the cheese, ice cream and your worries will still be there for you.