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According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, more than 25 million Americans now suffer from asthma.
That’s 25 million people that have to take more extensive precautions with their health in these unprecedented times.
So, what should you be doing now to protect yourself if you have asthma?
Well, in addition to the normal recommendation of handwashing, avoiding public places when possible, and wearing a mask when you can’t, the CDC has also recommended we avoid sharing handtowels and other daily items with those in our households to avoid viral transmission.
Also, it’s important to remember that, while disinfecting your home at a time like this is vital, those cleaning products can also set off an asthma attack if you’re not careful.
Know your triggers, and when you can, have another family member who is not living with the condition, do the cleaning, while you’re in a different room that has plenty of good fresh air and ventilation.
Of course, all of that might simply be good old common sense that you already knew.
But, there’s one more thing you could be doing right now that, long term, could improve your asthma symptoms and maybe give you some added protection when facing respiratory infections where inflammation can be especially problematic…
The root of asthma problems
You see, asthma is a very different animal — one in which inflammation is both friend and foe, especially when facing a respiratory infection.
People with the condition react even to low concentrations of some allergens with inflammation of the bronchi. To make matters worse, this is also accompanied by increased mucus production, which makes breathing even more difficult.
But this reaction has to do with something called your innate immune system — basically, the immune system you were born with.
How it works goes something like this…
You have asthma and you’re exposed to an allergen or pathogen — something that triggers a reaction — so your innate immune system starts pumping out Innate Lymphoid Cells (ILCs) to boost mucus production. No problem, yet, because that’s exactly what’s supposed to happen.
But, while this is normally a protective action meant to regenerate damaged mucous membranes and transport the pathogen out of your bronchial tubes to protect your respiratory tract against infection, it employs inflammatory messengers from a group of cytokines. And here’s where it can run out of control by sending out more and more inflammatory messengers.
By now I’m sure you’ve heard how dangerous out-of-control inflammation is for asthmatics. In fact, it’s one of the reasons they have an especially hard time battling respiratory infections — like COVID-19. The consequences are extreme breathing difficulties, which can be life-threatening.
Yet, the new study I mentioned found that food could be a key component in helping keep that process under control…
Decreasing inflammation, mucus production, and asthma symptoms
Researchers at the University of Bonn found that switching mice who suffered from asthma to a ketogenic diet significantly reduced inflammation of the respiratory tract.
You know those ILCs which pump out the inflammatory messengers? They found that they need fatty acids in order to make up their cell membranes — and without them, they can’t divide, make more, and cause that inflammation.
So, when the scientists put the asthmatic mice on a ketogenic diet which forced their bodies to burn fatty acids instead of allowing them to make more ILCs, their inflammation went down.
And, mucus production and asthma symptoms decreased with it, even when exposed to the allergens that should have brought on an attack.
“Normally, contact with allergens increases the number of ILCs in the bronchi fourfold,” said Prof. Dr. Christoph Wilhelm from the Institute for Clinical Chemistry and Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Bonn. “In our experimental animals, however, it remained almost unchanged. Both mucus production and other asthma symptoms decreased accordingly.”
Keto diet to protect your lungs?
While the trials have only been conducted in mice so far, with the dangers of asthma in a COVID world, switching your diet may be something you want to consider to protect your lungs from the dangers of inflammation.
Keto is not an easy diet to follow, but there are some variations of it. If you do decide to give it a try, talk to your doctor about whether the diet is right for you since some people with conditions like liver, kidney, pancreas, or gallbladder disease should avoid going ketogenic.
However, if you get the all-clear, you can feel great about your choice to give your lungs a better chance to stay healthy in the face of coronavirus exposure or any respiratory illness for that matter.
For an easy guide to going keto, check out Crag Cooper’s “Keto Diet in a Nutshell”, where he takes a deep dive into what you can and can’t eat, a breakdown of your daily diet needs, and a few questions to ask yourself to determine if it’s for you.
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