The People's Perspective on Medicine

826 Asthma

A hundred years ago, the pre-eminent physician of that time, Sir William Osler, wrote that asthma was almost never fatal. These days, however, thousands of people die from acute asthma attacks each year. Why has asthma become both more common and more deadly?

Learn about the pros and cons of the drugs used to treat asthma, and find out about a non-drug treatment said to be surprisingly effective.

Guests: David Peden, MD, MS, is Professor of Pediatrics, Medicine, and Microbiology/Immunology. He is chief of the Division of Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, Rheumatology and Infectious Disease, and Associate Chair for Research in the Department of Pediatrics. He is Director of the Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma & Lung Biology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, School of Medicine. The photo is of Dr. Peden.

Ira Packman, MD, has both personal and professional experience using the Buteyko method for improving breathing and serves as a medial consultant and educator at Buteyko Center USA. The website is

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for six weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I have been treated for about 4 years with albuterol (ventolin) for mild asthma, which has been progressively worse. A common cold feels crippling. I have learned by myself that when I am entering a spasm, I tend to try to get air and very quickly over inflate because I am not exhaling well. There is some anxiety associated with the onset, and that increases the hyperventilation. I have learned to regulate my breathing, inhale through my nose and exhale carefully. Usually if I just relax, breath consciously and exhale carefully I can often recover without using the medication. Doesn’t work every time but has reduced the use of the inhaler. I also have noticed that sleeping in a position that prevents open mouth breathing is of value, and I subsequently do not suffer the horrible dry mouth. How very gratifying to learn that at least one practitioner agrees with me. I regard this as a valuable biofeedback technique that could be a life saver. Just because it is not conventional does not mean it is quackery.
I wonder if you could look into the use of Cordyceps sinensis fungi in the control of asthma. All the herb sellers say it is great, but I am not confident of their medical knowledge or of their overall motive in promoting the products.

I have had what appears to be a lung infection since the 1980s. It started as a cold that went to my lung and became very painful. Eventually we started antibiotics and have continued them intermittently. They give me some short term relief but have never led to a cure. Dr. Hahn’s account of chlamydia infection in the lung interests me greatly. I have raised the possibility of treatment with the repeated weeks of Zithromax that Dr. Hahn recommends with my local doctor but he regards my present condition as good enough. Surely a treatment that has been unsatisfactory for some twenty years should be replaced with another.

The bonus interview with Dr. David Hahn was outstanding. It should not be overlooked by anyone interested in asthma.
I would dearly like to know what the relationship is between asthma,vitamin D, and mercury. If it is true that mercury can block glutathione production, mercury could be making a big contribution to Chlamydia pneumonia infection. Can you please ask about this if you revisit asthma?

The Buteyko Breathing Method was studied in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada in double-blind, ramdomized studies. These studies showed that this type of eucapnic breathing was beneficial in reducing the amounts of medications that asthmatics had to take as well as give them an ability to recognize and help control asthma attacks.
This is not a cure, nor is there an existing patent on this method. At this time their trademark is suspended. Anyone interested in this technique can visit to get a better understanding of Buteyko breathing and where to find qualified and experienced educators. This association was set up to create standards for this technique and to do research.

Acupuncture helped me with my asthma. Even I am not cured by my attacks are seldom, also I stop using albuterol and I try to avoid anything (like smoke) to irritate me.

I’ve been listening to the People’s Pharmacy since 1995, when I had a heart attack (no surgery). With this program, (along with reading books by Dr. Stephen Sinatra and Dr. Stephen Lamb (I hope I spelled their names correctly) I found out about folic acid, Co Q10, fish oil, a whole host of vitamins and supplements, along with the statins.
I’ve also heard the constant controversy about side effects of all the above, about the food we eat and the problems with the medications my mother takes for COPD.
I know we are all exploring to “get things right”. But, It all makes me wonder if we just don’t see what’s really wrong. All this advice about everything (statins causing muscle damage and possibly ALS!!) Is it all fat or all carbs?? Do COPD meds cause more damage? Should we advertise medications? Is it all just stress all sources? W O W !!!!

Just heard show today – 8-28.
Avoiding racemic albuterol which has a long acting pro – inflammatory isomer resolves inflammation and asthma in many patients. Many nurses and RT staff have lung disease which could be from smoking but also from the breathing treatments they give to patients. The death rate from asthma climbed in 1982 and never went down.
Joe, do the study. Get Dr. Peden to do methacholine tests on your whole staff – then racemic albuterol which you give out to patients just .3 of albuterol in minimal saline nebs twice a day for a month. Then repeat the tests with Dr. Peden. You may want to pre-record some shows to cover the 3 weeks it will take to get the lung inflammation controlled when you get enough in you.
I don’t discount some of the other causes of inflammation – bad molecules of shortening and plastics in diet and our houses are real, but the albuterol was the key in the majority of my patients.
Wonder if the breathing method would work in the other smooth muscle, hyper-reactivity, and inflammatory problems like fibromyalgia, vasospastic syndromes, irritable bowel and migraines.

Loved it. Very informative and balanced.

I’m in my mid-40’s. I grew up with one parent smoking in the house, and am extremely sensitive to and intolerant of cigarette smoke. I tend to get a “tight” feeling airway or throat when exert myself outside especially when the weather is both chilly and humid. Technically, I can still breathe, I just feel uncomfortable, and I never wheeze. When I laugh hard, (starting a few years ago), I tend to cough. When it is hot and humid out, drinking coffee helps me breathe more comfortably and feel at ease, though I never feel as though I technically CAN’T breathe.
I have a history of tight muscles in my throat/larynx/voice and all along my digestive tract, which is under control through biofeedback therapy, myofascial release and exercises including learning to breathe more deeply.
My ENT suggested I might have asthma, but I wonder if I just tighten up when I exercise?
My own doctor asked ME if I had asthma, but I had no idea.
Does this sound like asthma? Do my symptoms and history put me at risk for lung disease though I don’t smoke and avoid smokers? My mother and grandfather (both smokers) have/had emphysema.
If this doesn’t interfere with most of my activities, is is worth looking in to in terms of preventing future problems/complications?
Thank you for your ideas and input,

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