- Chronic Cough
- Recurrent Chest Infections
Asthma is a very common condition that is becoming ever more prevalent in recent years. Some epidemiologists will go as far as saying that we are in the middle of an asthma epidemic. Asthma can occur at any age. It is particularly common in children, becomes slightly less common from the twenties onward but then becomes more common again later in life. In 2011 235-300 million people worldwide had been diagnosed with asthma and 250,000 had died from it. Why is asthma becoming so common? Some theories suspect air pollution, food quality and general stressful unhealthy lifestyle. The truth is probably a combination of all of those-but one thing is sure: this condition is becoming a major problem.
The common conventional treatment of asthma is with inhalers. There are two types: one type is to relieve the symptoms and the other type is for prevention of attacks. These treatments seemed to be effective on the face of it. However, studies of long term use of inhalers has found that, whilst effective in relieving the symptoms in the short term, long term use of inhalers is actually more likely to worsen the condition and increase the death rate from it.
The problem here is that, as usual, modern medicine treats the symptoms and not the core of the problem. In the case of asthma there is also deep misunderstanding of the condition.
The truth is that asthma is not just one condition as its manifestations and triggers can be very different in different sufferers. It can manifest as mainly cough or mainly shortness of breath. The cough can be phlegmy or dry. The phlegm can be white, yellow, brown or green. It can be sticky or loose and watery or frothy. Asthma can be triggered in some people by stress, in others by exercise. Sometimes it is the weather-damp weather for some people and dry air for others. It can be an allergic reaction that starts an attack or even a certain type of food or drink.
From all of these we can clearly see that asthma can be very different in different cases so why do the doctors treat all sufferers in the same way? It is both an oversight and a misunderstanding but surely it is the reason for the poor long term outcome.
In a good chinese medicine clinic no two asthma patients will get the same treatment. In every case we have to find out what is the cause of the condition and how it manifests itself in the individual in front of us. For example, if phlegm is involved we have to find out: where is it coming from? , is it due to a weak, ineffective digestive system? , is it due to bad diet? It may be due to overreaction of the immune system. In each of these situations we will direct the treatment towards the core cause. Strengthening the digestion when needed will cure the asthma, as will regulating and harmonising the immune system when this has been found to be the problem. The same is true for asthma triggered by stress or exercise. The key is identifying the cause and the pattern of the asthma in each individual and by following this principle the success in treating asthma in my clinic with Acupuncture and/or Chinese herbs is very good.
In many ways the principle of treatment of chronic cough is similar to that of asthma. Here also we have to find the cause of the problem and the way it is manifested in each individual in order to achieve effective and long-lasting results. Again, as in the case of asthma, GP’s have very little to offer the sufferers.
In order to simplify matters I will divide chronic coughs into two main types: dry cough and cough with phlegm. Phlegmy cough is usually due to weakness of the lungs or the spleen (in TCM spleen includes the digestive system and the immune system). In these situations we’ll simply use herbs and acupuncture points to strengthen the spleen and/or the lungs. This will gradually reduce the amount of phlegm produced and the cough will stop. In the case of a dry cough the problem is the inability of the lungs to moisten the lungs and the airways tissues. This situation usually arises due to a deficiency in the lung Yin energy. The Yin energy is the one that keeps us cool and moist. In these situations Yin deficiency causes chronic dryness in the airways which makes them irritated and a chronic cough is the result. This type of cough is easy to treat with TCM and is done by taking herbs and/or using acupuncture points to strengthen the Yin energy of the lungs. The results are good and long-lasting.
There may be other less common causes of chronic cough, like allergy for example. These are usually treatable as well.
It is important to say that everyone who suffers from chronic cough should first be seen by his/her GP to rule out lung cancer.
Recurrent Chest Infection
Recurrent chest infection is a condition I see often in my clinic in recent years. The complaint is usually: everytime I catch a virus it goes straight to my chest. This is usually followed by: and then it takes weeks to clear. These symptoms are simply due to weakness of the immune system. It is simply not strong enough to keep out the infection and then to stop it from going deeper into the lungs. When the infection is established it is not strong enough to clear it out in a reasonable time. There can be a few reasons for a weak immune system so it is important to establish why it is weak for effective and long-lasting results.
TCM is very effective in strengthening struggling immune systems. It is done by taking specific herbs and/or using Acupuncture points to strengthen the immune ability of the body. My success rate with this condition is very good.
Other lung conditions like Bronchiectasis or Chronic Bronchitis can usually be helped by the treatment with Chinese medicine. Using the principles of treating the cause of the condition as well as the symptoms, and using Acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and diet and lifestyle advice when needed, usually results in brilliant outcomes.