Are you one of the millions of people who struggle with respiratory concerns? New research on omega-3 for asthma suggests this natural remedy may make a huge difference.
Asthma is a common disease, affecting around one of out every 12 people. Overall, asthma costs the United States alone around $56 billion a year in medical costs, lost work productivity and other expenses. While modern medicine offers a variety of treatments for this and other inflammatory respiratory conditions, there are few ways to actually prevent it. However, new research on omega-3 for asthma suggests that in addition to the myriad of other health benefits this fatty acid provides, taking in sufficient amounts could be effective as a treatment for this devastating health concern.
What Causes Asthma?
People with asthma have chronic inflammation and narrowing of their airways that interferes with their breathing on a daily basis. In addition, this inflammation and narrowing can lead to asthma attacks, which is when the muscles that make up airways narrow and can even prevent breathing. People with asthma also tend to have mucus build up in airways from the inflammation, which can further compromise breathing. Over time, the airway inflammation can lead to permanent damage to the airways and chronic obstruction.
Modern medicine offers a variety of treatments that can reduce and slow the damage caused by asthma. Beta-agonists such as albuterol can immediately open airways that are constricted by tight muscles. Steroids such as cortisol and prednisone are also used because they reduce inflammation. However, many people still suffer—and sometimes die—from asthma every year, even in developed countries with excellent medical care. Many people have begun trying alternative remedies in addition to traditional medicines as a way to breathe a little easier.
Asthma and the Circadian Rhythm
Research on the circadian rhythm of asthma has offered a great deal of promise for people looking to overcome this condition. Our respiratory tracts have a distinctive circadian rhythm. People who have a dysregulated circadian rhythm, such as those with insomnia, are more likely to develop asthma. In addition, they are more likely to have severe asthma instead of a milder form. While most people think of asthma as a childhood disease, these findings indicate that adults who do not sleep well are also at risk.
How can sleep affect asthma? First, sleep affects the immune system. People who do not get enough high-quality sleep are likely to suffer from dysfunction of the immune system, which can lead to an autoimmune attack on airways. Second, our respiratory systems, and thus conditions affecting these systems, follow a circadian rhythm. Timing daily medications to coincide with the times when asthma sufferers are most at risk for an attack may be beneficial.
Omega-3 for Asthma: A New Treatment Option
There are several natural supplements that also may be beneficial for people who suffer from asthma and other respiratory concerns. Omega-3 fatty acids are currently the supplements with the most evidence backing them. Research on omega-3 for asthma suggests that these fatty acids have a regulatory effect on B cells, the type of immune cell that governs IgE reactions such as asthma attacks. People who are suffering from regular asthma attacks may see the frequency and severity lessened if they get more omega-3 fatty acids, either from diet or from a supplement.
Women who are pregnant may even be able to lower the chances of their offspring having asthma by taking one of these supplements. A recent study found that women who took 2.4 mg of omega-3 fatty acids in their third trimester of pregnancy were almost a third less likely to have babies who grew up to have asthma. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids when pregnant may not only remove the burden of chronic disease from many children, but also remove a large burden from our economy in which asthma and other respiratory conditions are an expensive problem.
Getting Enough Omega-3s in Your Diet
This new research on using omega-3 for asthma is promising, but still in the preliminary stages. However, there are plenty of reasons to ensure that you ingest plenty of these fatty acids. They are available not just in supplements but in a variety of foods including:
- pasture-raised or grass-fed meats
- free-range poultry and their eggs
- fresh soy foods such as edamame
- wild rice
- walnuts and walnut oil
- flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
- certain legumes such as black beans and kidney beans
- fatty fish such as bluefin tuna and salmon
Because the Western diet tends to be low in or even completely devoid of these foods, many experts suggest taking an omega-3 supplement to ensure that you get all the benefits of these nutrient-rich oils.
If you have not been getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, there has never been a better time to start. New research on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for asthma as well as a variety of other health disorders suggests that everyone should be getting plenty of these oils in their daily diet.