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Today twice as many people have breathing problems as in 1979.

According to the American Lung Association, the number of people who died from asthma almost doubled since 1979 (a 98.9% increase). Deaths from emphysema continue to skyrocket even though tobacco use has dropped by two-thirds.

Most people treat themselves for bronchitis, and it appears to be growing even faster as sales of bronchial inhalers have almost tripled since 1979.

What's the Cause of this Epidemic?

Asthma Oval
One immediately wonders if the catalytic converters, which are supposed to cut down vehicle emissions, and the pollution controls imposed on factories, etc., are working. Government officials say, "Yes."

If that is true, then why are most major cities covered with smog many days of the year? The answer is population. In the past 18 years, the U.S. population has grown by approximately 40 million people. That means more vehicles and more industry to provide products these people need. Although the amount of pollutants per vehicle or factory has been reduced, the number of vehicles and factories have increased with the population.

We may have stalled this problem for the time being, but unless we curb the population growth and convert all cars, trucks and buses to electric power in the next few years (both are unlikely to happen), the problem will grow steadily worse.

How Breathing Problems are Caused
Asthma Lungs

The lungs are one of the body's largest organs. We breathe in air through the trachea which connects to the bronchial tubes. Fresh air travels through the bronchial tubes to the alveoli when it is exchanged with carbon dioxide. We exhale the carbon dioxide by the reverse route.

Breathing problems occur when the bronchial tubes become constricted, or when the alveoli lose their elasticity and have difficulty forcing the carbon dioxide out.

What Can We Do?

Thankfully, the situation is not hopeless. Just like you can exercise a muscle to make it stronger, recently, scientists have found several nutrients that make the bronchials and lungs stronger physically, as well as making those organs less sensitive to air particles. The additional strength and decreased vulnerability to pollutants means less discomfort and fewer inflammations.

Asthma sufferers are particularly sensitive to air particles and gases, which cause a narrowing of the bronchials and a buildup of mucus. Stress, emotional situations, and allergens can worsen an asthmatic condition.

Bronchitis occurs when the bronchials become irritated and inflamed. Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a cold. Volatile air pollutants and smoking are the primary causes of bronchitis. It is difficult to distinguish asthma and bronchitis in older people.

All Older People Are Susceptible to Emphysema Whether They Smoke or Not!

Most people think that only smokers get emphysema, but all older people are susceptible and frequently get this malady. Essentially, emphysema is a result of aging that is compounded by air pollutants, although it usually starts at an earlier age in smokers. The lungs are like an elastic balloon. The elasticity declines with age.

Obviously, those with emphysema have difficulty breathing, but the problem is not that of inhaling, it is the exhaling that is very difficult. You have to get the old air (carbon dioxide) out of the lungs before new air (oxygen) can be taken in.

To understand this, imagine a healthy lung as a rubber balloon. You blow air into the balloon, and if you don't close the opening to the balloon, the elasticity of the balloon will force the air back out. An emphysema patient's lungs are like a paper sack. You blow air in and it stays because there is no mechanism to force the air back out.

Actually, the lungs contain many air sacs called alveoli which expand and contract to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. A substance called elastase destroys the alveoli's ability to expand and contract.

Air Pollutants Cause The Damage

According to Dr. E. M. Drost in a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory Molecular Biology, air pollutants cause the destruction of the elastic fibers of the alveoli by stimulating the production of elastase.

The current medical treatments for asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema are dangerous steroid-type drugs and albuterol inhalers. Even though these drugs and inhalers can make you more comfortable and prevent emergency room visits, they do nothing to alleviate the primary causes of breathing difficulties.

How Emphysema Occurs
Millions of tiny, flexible air sacs called alveoli connect to the bronchial tubes and blood vessels. This is where fresh air (oxygen) is exchanged with carbon dioxide from the blood. Air pollutants stimulate the production of elastase, which weakens the elasticity of the alveoli. When a substantial amount of elasticity is lost, the alveoli have difficulty pushing the carbon dioxide out, and you have a dangerous condition called emphysema. Health Lungs

The Good News

Recently, three substances have been found that deter the damage to the elastic alveoli. Each substance takes a different approach and should be used in combination for the greatest protection.

Doctors Gloria Massaro and Donald Massoro at the Georgetown University School of Medicine reported in the medical journal Nature Medicine that they were able to reverse elastase damage to the alveoli of animals with a simple vitamin-type substance called retinoic acid. They actually reversed emphysema!

Dr. Li Changeheng of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences has found that he can stop the elastase damage with an extract from a certain Forsythia bush, Frutus forsythiae.

This prominent scientist also found that an extract from a flower, Salviae miltiorrhizue, protects the alveoli from elastase damage and dilates the arteries between the lungs and the heart so they can carry more oxygen.

The Source of Difficult Breathing

The bronchials are the tubes that lead from the throat to all parts of the lungs. They are the sites of most breathing problems. In asthmatics, the bronchials spasm and become narrow. In bronchitis sufferers, the bronchials become inflamed and swell, narrowing the passage ways.

Dr. Li Yu at the Hunan Medical University discovered that an extract from a caterpillar fungus called Cordyceps sinensis naturally stops bronchial spasms, inflammation and chronic coughing by dramatically assisting the immune system in the bronchials.

Even Lowers Cholesterol

In other words, Cordyceps makes the respiratory system stronger so it can fight off pollutants and allergens. The side effects are beneficial, too. It lowers cholesterol, helps regulate heartbeats and stimulates the sex drive-even correcting impotence in many cases.

Another natural substance that strengthens the respiratory system is an extract from the root of the milkvetch weed, Astragalus membranaceus. Dr. D. T. Chu conducted studies at the University of Texas Cancer Center that showed the extract had "remarkable immunopotentiating activity."

In simpler terms, it accelerates healing in the bronchial tubes and makes the body resistant to the foreign particles and bacteria that invade our air.

Stops Wheezing and Coughing

Wheezing and coughing are common manifestations of having asthma and bronchitis due to exposure to pollutants. Wheezing is due to constriction or obstruction of the main bronchial tubes. Coughing is caused by irritation or inflammation of the bronchials and is usually counterproductive because it aggravates the affected area by not allowing it to heal.

Four plant extracts have been found that work particularly well in alleviating those problems. Extracts from the seed of the apricot (Prunus armeniaca) and the bark of the mulberry tree (Mows alba) soothe and relax the bronchial tubes thereby reducing coughing spells.

An extract from the root of the lilyturf plant (Ophiopogon japonicus) breaks up heavy phlegm and moistens the lungs. An extract from the root of the Cynachum plant helps you cough up sputum that obstructs the bronchial passageways, and consequently helps stop wheezing and further coughing.

How Asthma and Bronchitis Occur

Health Asthma

Free Radicals Are the Main Culprits

Free radicals have been shown to be the main culprits that cause us to age by slowly destroying many of the cells in every organ. The lungs and respiratory system are not exceptions.

Actually, polluting foreign particles and gases in the air greatly increase free radical activity in the lungs. This is one of the most significant factors in the giant increase in asthmatic deaths in the past several years.

There are two free radical fighters (antioxidants) that work especially well in the lungs and bronchials. They are extracts from the root of-the Panox ginseng plant and the leaves of the Gingko biloba tree.

Dr. C. X. Liu at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences proved that Panox was not only a free radical fighter, but it substantially bolsters the immune system thereby strengthening and fortifying the entire respiratory system against bacteria, infections, and pollutants.

Reduces Illness Significantly

Russian researchers conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled

test with 1,500 factory workers taking Panax and a placebo (fake pill). Those taking Panox daily lost significantly fewer work days due to colds, flu, bronchitis, and other respiratory ailments than those taking the placebo.

Many scientists feel that Panox is an important antiaging nutrient because it is an adaptogen. It helps the body adapt to daily stresses and new pollutants. Also, it improves memory, reduces fatigue and insomnia.

Clinical tests reveal that its effectiveness doesn't reach the maximum potential until you've been taking it steadily for six to eight weeks. But that's okay because many scientists feel you should take it daily, just like vitamins, regardless of your ailments or physical condition.

Survived Atomic Blast

Gingko biloba extract (GBE) comes from the world's oldest living tree, which dates back 150 million years. It survived the Ice Age and lives to over 1,000 years. In fact, it was the first plant to sprout at ground zero in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped. Obviously, a seed that survived a devastating atomic blast must contain some very powerful medicine.

Dr. I. Maitra at the University of California, along with many other scientists, have shown that GBE is a powerful antioxidant. Dr. M. Koltai has shown in strict clinical tests that GBE is especially useful in the respiratory system, where it diminishes asthma-stimulating allergens and airborne bacteria.

It Even Relieves Impotence

GBE is one of the most popular antiaging substances used by doctors in Europe. Dr. Michael Murray says that its use to improve circulation and short term memory are legendary. GBE is also used to relieve ringing in the ears, vertigo, and depression. One clinical test showed that it alleviated impotence in over 50% of the cases studied.

A Mineral Deficiency That Causes Lung Problems

Magnesium is a nutrient that is critical to good lung function. Unfortunately, most of us don't get enough magnesium in our diets because processing and refining food destroys much of the magnesium found in cereal, vegetable and diary products.

According to Dr. John Britton, magnesium is involved in a variety of biological activities, including some that may protect against the development of asthma and chronic respiratory problems.

Magnesium Eases Breathing

Magnesium performs two functions in the respiratory system. First, it acts as a bronchial dilator protecting the bronchial tubes from spasms and constrictions. Second, magnesium plays a key role in producing energy for the chest-wall muscles and diaphragm. If those muscles are weak, breathing is more difficult.

Dr. E. M. Brunner conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled test of patients with bronchial asthma. Half of the patients were given magnesium supplements, and the other half took a placebo. The patients breathing and energy levels were measured on breath test machines and treadmills. Those taking magnesium had much less trouble breathing and sianificantly more energy.


The New York Times

Inhaled steroids, cataracts linked
Don't stop medication, patients told

Sheryl Gay Stolberg
New York Times

WASHINGTON Over the past decade, inhaled steroids have become a mainstay of medical treatment for asthma. Each day, thousands of asthmatics, many of them children, breathe in these synthetic hormones; doctors favor them over oral steroids, which are known to cause cataracts.

Now, a study by a group of Australian researchers, appearing in today's New England Journal of Medicine,: casts doubt on the safety of inhaled steroids, suggesting for the first time that they, too, might cause cataracts.

"This is surprising and concerning" said Dr. Stanley Szefler, an asthma expert at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver. "Our previous literature did not suggest this sort of problem."

The study, which examined the prevalence of cataracts only in adults who used inhaled steroids, contradicted a previous smaller study.

Experts were quick to warn, however, that asthma patients should not stop using the inhalers, which are extremely effective in reducing the airway inflammation that can lead to fatal asthma attacks Rather, they said, doctors should monitor their patients more closely, checking their eyes as frequently as they listen to their chests, and referring patients to eye specialists if necessary.

"For the vast majority of patients, the risks of stopping steroids would greatly outweigh any lessening in the long-term risk of developing cataracts," said Dr. Daniel Rotrosen, chief of the asthma, allergy and immunology branch at the National Institute on Allergy and Infectious: Diseases.

"Based on this study, physicians should now monitor patients taking inhaled steroids to look carefully for the earliest signs that they might be developing cataracts."

The findings stem from a large scale study of vision and common eye diseases in an urban area of the Blue Mountains, near Sydney. Dr. Robert G. Cumming and his coleagues at the University of Sydney recruited 3,654 adults, 49 to 97 years old; about 10 percept, or 370, of the participants reported using steroid inhalers.

The study comes on the heels of. another troubling finding about steroid inhalers. In March, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a report that said high doses of the drugs might, increase the risk of glaucoma, the I leading cause of blindness.

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