At least 12 million people in the United States suffer from asthma, and the numbers are rising.  Asthma ranks as the 7th most common chronic disease in adults and the leading serious chronic illness in children. Researchers are now focusing greater attention on nutrition as a means of preventing and alleviating this disease than ever before.

            A study presented at the American Lung Association/American Thoracic Society International Conference in May 1997.  Dr. Carol A. Trenga of the University of Washington in Seattle reported that vitamin C and E supplements may lessen and/or prevent asthma attacks caused by two common air pollutants-ozone and sulfur dioxide.  Ozone is a product of automobile exhaust; sulfur dioxide generally comes from industrial plants, such as coal and paper mills.

            “Our results show that a combination of antioxidant vitamins can benefit people with asthma who are sensitive to air pollutants,” stated Dr. Trenga.  One of the antioxidants tested, vitamin C, protects the fluid in the lung lining from damage caused by free radicals.  Vitamin E, the second antioxidant studied, works to neutralize chemical damage and prevent it from further destroying cells in the lungs.

            In the University of Washington’s double blind study, 17 volunteers diagnosed with asthma were given either 400 IU of vitamin E and 500 Milligrams of vitamin C daily for a five-week period, or a placebo.

            After five weeks, all subjects were exposed to purified air and ozone, and then exposed to sulfur dioxide to measure the effects of breathing the ozone.  (Ozone lessens lung function by making the effects of the sulfur dioxide more harmful.)  The participants then switched regimens and were tested again after another five weeks.

            All test subjects showed significant improvement in breathing when using antioxidants.  Those taking the antioxidant vitamins actually experienced a 5% improvement in pulmonary function over their initial measurement.  When given the placebo, however, all participants experienced poorer lung function than the group taking antioxidants.  Breathing ability dropped an average 13% in the control group.  Thus, even short-term use of antioxidants can significantly improve pulmonary function.

            Asthma, a chronic disease of the airways, is often triggered when allergens or irritants are inhaled and settles in the bronchial tubes.  The cells in the air passages either secrete too much mucous or the tubes begin to swell. The muscles constrict that control air flow.  History has demonstrated many antioxidants used for a variety of ills.  It has been noticed that taking antioxidants was not only curing scurvy but it had a positive effect on asthma symptoms as well.

            Dirty air, cigarette smoke, and car exhausts all irritate our lungs.  With asthmatics this type of common irritant can bring on much worse symptoms.  Vitamins C and E work in tandem with each other and can potentially reduce damage in the lungs from pollutants. 

            Because of allergenic reactions with antihistamines, antioxidants such as OPCs, CoQ-10, grape seed extracts, Pomegranate extracts and many more are recommended.  I formulated a combination of high level antioxidants in a product called Ellagic Acid.  Future research should investigate whether regular antioxidant supplementation may reduce the need for medication for asthmatics.  Further, since it has been determined that the aforementioned items are many times more effective as an antioxidant than Vitamins A, C, and E, I recommend them to those that are exposed to chronic air pollutants, such as industrial workers, urban dwellers and all smokers.  You are welcome to read the NutraPerfect blog previously written on Salicylates.  These are also a possible culprit found in many foods that can cause asthma.