By Dr David McIntosh
This article has been supplied and reproduced with permission from the Great Health Guide, a 96five community contributor.
Asthma is a very important medical condition. In some people it can be life threatening, so it needs to be taken seriously. In the quest for trying to work out why some people get asthma, some of asthma research is starting to provide the answers we need. This article is a brief overview of the latest in asthma research, with a specific emphasis on the role of ENT specialists in asthma management.
Asthma & snoring in children.
Children often have asthma and co-existing problems with snoring or sleep apnoea. When their tonsils and adenoids are removed to unblock their upper airway, it can have a remarkable effect on improving their asthma with up to 40% of children having an improvement in their asthma. This is a significant outcome.
What is interesting is that having asthma increases the chances of having problems with the tonsils and adenoids. The consequence of this is, that there is a higher rate of snoring in children with asthma compared to those children who do not have asthma.
So, the latest in asthma research suggests that all children with asthma should have their tonsils and adenoids checked to see if removing them may be beneficial to their health.
Asthma & allergies.
Another important area to look at is allergies and in particular, hay fever. In fact, the Australian and International guidelines on asthma management highlight the importance of treating hay fever seriously when it comes to those with asthma. Once again, people with asthma are more likely to have hay fever and the research shows that by treating the hay fever with appropriate medications such as nasal steroid sprays, the control of asthma also improves.
Asthma & inflammation of ‘the united airways’.
‘The united airway theory’, describes the situation where the upper and lower respiratory tracts are continuous and most importantly, they share the passage of air into the lungs. Thus, ‘the united airways’ are susceptible to the same allergens since the person’s immune system deals with all the allergens contained within the air that is inhaled. By settling down the inflammation in the nose caused by allergens, the general immune system reactivity seems to decrease and as a result, the asthma attacks are reduced.
Asthma & sinus infection.
The sinuses are closely associated with the nose and can become chronically infected. The latest in asthma research is showing positive benefits in control of asthma symptoms when sinus disease is managed, particularly when it comes to surgery to remove things such as polyps. Polyps in the nose and sinuses are often the result of chronic sinus disease. They are associated with inflammation. Asthma research suggests that by removing the polyps, the sinuses have improved function that seems to help the lungs with reduced asthma attacks.
Asthma & gut bacteria.
The relationship of gut bacteria to general health is a rapidly advancing field of research. There are fascinating discoveries leading to a better understanding of how the digestive system and the bacteria that live within it, can affect our health.
Some of the research on asthma and hay fever has found that using certain probiotics can improve the effectiveness of treatments of hay fever. Other research shows that changes in the types of gut bacteria that reside there, may relate to alterations in the immune system leading to changes in airway inflammation and asthma.
What is very interesting is that changes in the gut bacteria in the first few months of life may lead to problems later on. This is leading to a great focus on the importance of breast feeding and the protective benefits that it may confer later on in life.