Our lungs are under attack. And it’s not just from cigarettes. For years, smoking was the main threat to our lungs. The cancer and emphysema it caused were almost unavoidable for smokers. But now, non-smokers have a lot to worry about. In addition to cancer, there’s asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, cystic fibrosis/bronchiectasis, and pneumonia, just to name a few of the problems.
Some of the causes of lung problems might surprise you. But, fortunately, there are some great ways to overcome even some of the worst cases of lung disease.
If you have asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, or chronic bronchitis, you're not alone. Chronic lung disease is now a huge problem in this country. And you don't have to smoke to be at risk.
Just the lung cancer statistics alone will shock you. The American Cancer Society says: “Lung cancer (both small cell and non-small cell) is the second most common cancer in both men and women (not counting skin cancer). Prostate cancer is more common in men, while breast cancer is more common in women. About 14% of all new cancers are lung cancers.... Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than from colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.”
So what’s causing the dramatic increase in lung disease? Pollution is perhaps the biggest culprit. But mold infection, allergies, poor diet, and heart failure (which can lead to pleural effusion) can all cause lung problems. But I think there’s one culprit that’s a huge problem that most people miss: medications. Consider this:
Was This Over-the-Counter Drug the Cause of Your Asthma?
Did you know the number of people using inhalers for asthma has gone up significantly in the last 35 years? Between 1970 and 2000, the number of people suffering from asthma has nearly doubled!
Doctors have been baffled by the dramatic increase. But now, it appears researchers have figured out what is causing all the new cases of asthma.
Before 1970, parents typically gave their children aspirin when they had a fever. However, the aspirin was causing the children to come down with an even worse disease... the sometimes fatal Reyes Syndrome.
Around 1970, doctors began telling the parents to switch to acetaminophen, the common ingredient in Tylenol. That solved the Reyes Syndrome problem. But now researchers have discovered that the acetaminophen is causing asthma.
A huge study, called the Nurses' Health Study, followed 122,000 women for several decades. Each woman was to keep a record of all the drugs she used, as well as the development of any new health problems. The study showed that those women who used acetaminophen regularly have a significantly higher risk of developing asthma than those who never used it.
In fact, those who used the painkiller more than two weeks out of the month were 63% more likely to acquire the respiratory disease.
Back in May 2013, the New York Times discussed an unpublished study that said just the opposite. According to the Times, the “study, presented at a meeting of the American Thoracic Society in Philadelphia, found that children suffering from respiratory infections – which often lead to asthma – are simply more likely to be given over-the-counter pain relievers. These underlying respiratory infections and the fevers they cause, not the use of pain relievers, are responsible for the increased asthma risk, the authors argue.” The authors of the study said “the relationship may be little more than a statistical oversight.”
However, the statistics of a third study, this one released in September 2013, showed more than just a “statistical oversight.” This major study followed over 20,000 children. In this study, researchers at the University of A Coruna in Spain found that children who receive Tylenol only once per year were at 70% greater risk for asthma. But it gets worse. Those who took Tylenol once a month or more were 540% more likely to have asthma!
The European Journal of Public Health published this study. The authors said that children “who had even a single dose of Tylenol before their first birthday had a 60% risk of developing asthma.”
But it's not just for very young children. Teenagers (13 and 14 year-olds) were 40% more likely to develop asthma if they had taken acetaminophen within the previous 12 months. And if they took it once a month, their risk rose to 250%. I don't call that a “statistical oversight!”
Acetaminophen's toxicity occurs because the drug lowers blood levels of a natural compound called glutathione. Glutathione has an antioxidant effect in the body, particularly in the lungs. When your glutathione levels plummet, your risk of developing a chronic lung disease, such as asthma, goes up significantly. But Tylenol isn’t the only medication our lungs have to worry about. Even the drugs they use to treat asthma can harm us.
What You Don’t Know About Your Asthma Medication May Kill You!
A review of the medical literature showed how dangerous inhalers are. Three common asthma inhalers appear to cause four out of five U.S. asthma-related deaths per year. Researchers from Cornell and Stanford universities recommended that these drugs be taken off the market.
They looked at 19 published trials involving 33,826 patients. Patients who inhaled Serevent, Advair, or Foradil were 3.5 times more likely to die from asthma. They were 2.5 times more likely to be hospitalized (whether or not death resulted), compared with those taking a placebo.
Here’s why: Although these medications relieve asthma symptoms, they promote bronchial inflammation and sensitivity without warning. The disease becomes silent, but deadly.
Thankfully, asthma death is relatively rare. In total, there are about 5,000 deaths a year due to asthma, whether or not a person is using one of these drugs. But the study revealed that these long-acting beta-agonists kill a lot of people. Sadly, these asthma deaths are generally in otherwise healthy young adults.
The research team estimated that approximately 4,000 out of the 5,000 asthma deaths that occur in the U.S. each year are actually caused by these long-acting inhalers!
Advair, which is the fourth best-selling drug in the world (with $5.6 billion in annual sales), combines salmeterol with an anti-inflammatory drug. It provides some protection against bronchial inflammation caused by salmeterol. But hospitalizations still doubled for patients who used Advair compared with asthma patients who use an anti-inflammatory drug alone.
The largest study reviewed in this analysis, the Salmeterol Multicenter Asthma Research Trial had 26,000 participants. It showed a fourfold increased risk for asthma-related deaths and a twofold increase in life-threatening asthma events in patients using salmeterol. When the elderly asthma patients were removed from the analysis, the numbers were even worse. Salmeterol was associated with a six times greater risk for asthma-related deaths.
The researchers warn that the drugs can result in death because tolerance to them develops over time. Symptom relief fools patients into a false sense that their asthma is under control. The drugs improve symptoms by opening up the airways, but they increase underlying inflammation and bronchial hyper-responsiveness. Actually, they act to worsen asthma control without any warning of increased symptoms. In other words, while inhalers relieve symptoms in the short term, they contribute to an overall increase in the frequency and severity of attacks.
So What Can You Do If You Have Asthma?
By all means, keep a rescue inhaler around in case of emergencies. But on a daily basis, I want you to prevent attacks. You’ll do this with vitamin C powder, magnesium, quercetin, and fish oils.
A recent study found that supplementing with 300 mg daily of magnesium resulted in fewer asthma attacks and less use of rescue inhalers. In fact, supplementation with magnesium worked wonders. The mineral reduced bronchial reactivity, diminished allergic reactions, and improved symptom control in asthmatic patients.
If You Are Having an Asthma Attack
Vitamin C is your best friend. That’s right, a simple bottle of vitamin C powder. Simple? Yes. But it’s truly unbeatable if you encounter an allergen. In fact, I have all of my patients with chronic breathing disorders carry vitamin C powder with them at all times. If they begin to have trouble breathing or if they accidentally encounter a food or environmental challenge, I have them take several grams of the vitamin (to bowel tolerance) mixed in water over a one-hour period.
Vitamin C in higher doses blocks the release of histamine. Immune cells release histamine. It causes wheezing, itching, sneezing, and narrowed airways. So the vitamin naturally and safely produces an antihistamine effect. It actually opens up those blocked airways, without making you drowsy in the least! And vitamin C overpowers many free radicals attacking the lungs.
Don’t Wait for an Attack
But I don’t want asthma sufferers to wait for an attack to use the vitamin. I suggest you take vitamin C to bowel tolerance daily. Bowel tolerance is different for each person and can be anywhere from 1,000 mg up to 10 grams or 20 grams per day. During an asthma attack, you’ll see that you can handle a much higher dose without having loose stools.
I‘d also suggest that you take quercetin. Quercetin, a bioflavonoid, inhibits the production and release of histamine and other allergic or inflammatory substances. Like other flavonoids, quercetin is a plant pigment. Pigments are responsible for colors in fruits and vegetables. Quercetin supplements often include bromelain (an enzyme found in pineapple), which blocks inflammation and reduces allergic symptoms. Bromelain increases the absorption of quercetin.
Fish oils are also important. Children who take fish oils have fewer episodes of exercise-induced asthma. A typical dose is 500 mg each of EPA and DHA. Adults will benefit, too. Fish oils reduce inflammation and reduce allergic response to the environment.
Asthma need not be deadly, and knowledge is power when it comes to preventing needless deaths.