Photo via: Fredo Alvarez
What Causes Asthma?According to Dr. Todd Mahr, a Gundersen Lutheran pediatric allergist and asthma specialist, it is many things. It is allergens (pollen, mold, pets, rodents, food, bugs), pollution (cigarette smoke, smog, exhaust fumes), temperature fluctuations, respiratory infections, etc.
It would be great if we could find a key instigator to this rampant form of lung disease which effects millions of both children and adults, but a disease with so many causal factors can get a little tricky to deal with. But things are about to get a little more tricky as research uncovers a few more potential causal factors...According to Mahr, a member of the American Lung Association of Wisconsin, all most specialists have to go on when prescribing a treatment for asthma, is they are dealing with an individual with sensitivity to some sort of airborne stimuli. But is it the stimuli, the individual, the lifestyle (location, habits), or the combination of all of these they should be most focused on?
The Hygiene HypothesisOne common theory for the increased prevalence of allergy/asthma sufferers in the U.S. is the Hygiene Hypothesis. This theory suggests that growing up amongst dirt and illness makes an individual more capable of dealing with certain diseases. The Western world has protected its inhabitants from certain strains of bacteria, parasites, and viruses, thus reducing the effectiveness of their immune systems to these stimuli.
Mahr does not believe that the hygiene hypothesis effectively explains why the U.S, sufferers of asthma and allergies has more than doubled since the 1980's. Instead, Mahr suggests looking to the current research which has taken a step back from the simple equation of cause and effect, and has looked at the lifestyle changes that have occurred since the increase in diagnosed cases.
It turns out, there is evidence that points to the reduction of Aspirin use (fear of Reye's Syndrome), increased exposure to cleaning solutions, and the lack of Vitamin D that may be playing a hidden role in the prevalence of asthma today.
The Proof is in the PuddingAsthma
A European study of 20,000 6- to 7-year-olds found a 46 percent increase in asthma symptoms if they were given acetaminophen, the ingredient in Tylenol, in the first year of life—Children using higher doses of acetaminophen had three times the risk of asthma—apparently the drug lowers levels of the antioxidant glutathione, which can protect against lung damage caused by oxidants.
While these studies are not conclusive, Mahr suggests using ibuprofen rather than acetaminophen as a safety precaution for children. Adults on the other hand, appear to be most effected by the inhalation of modern cleaning solutions.
A major European study found cleaning products, especially glass cleaners and air fresheners, used four days a week doubled the risk of asthma, and once-a-week use raised the risk by 50 percent.
To limit the risk factor in cleaning, Mahr suggests using liquid cleaners that do not spew a fine mist into the air. A face mask might not be such a bad idea for those who appear to be extra sensitive to chemicals.
Boston researchers reviewed a study in Costa Rica that found a link between low vitamin D levels in mothers and childhood with asthma—The vitamin D deficiency, especially in pregnant women, may result in more allergies and asthma in their children.
There are many ways to increase vitamin D intake. Some suggestions would be through eating a proper diet, receiving a moderate amount of sunlight every day, and through a doctor recommended plan of vitamin supplementation.
There are still many factors to look at when diagnosing a case of asthma, but at least we are finally closing-in on more factors that we can actually take control of, rather than blaming the environment for everything that ails us.
Source: La Crosse Tribune- Research Zeroing in on More Potential Causes of Asthma, by Terry Rindfleisch, May 10, 2009