Asthma: identifying the real culprits
by John Scott
When I had an asthma attack as a child, my father would invariably ask me what I was worrying about. As a dedicated follower of Freud, he was completely taken in by the theories of this charlatan, and he therefore fervently believed that my asthma was caused by psychological factors. He knew nothing of dust mite droppings or the other environmental allergens that, twenty years later, I was found to be sensitive to. Nor did he have an inkling about the roles of hygiene, synthetic chemical-laden household and personal care products, or vitamin D deficiency in the aetiology of asthma.
I remember my asthma attacks very well, because they were extremely unpleasant and the only treatments available back then were far inferior to today's steroid inhalers, so you had to get through it as best you could - or not, if you were one of the unlucky ones! As a child with many interests, I never paid my asthma any attention until an attack struck. My only anxiety followed, rather than preceded, an attack and was purely the result of wondering whether or not I would I die from anoxia!
As a product of the 20th century, my dad could be excused his ideas, but not so those in the current era who continue to focus on psychological factors in the search for ways to eradicate and remediate this condition - those like the researchers involved in a recently published study showing that different types of parental stress and coping behaviors may affect an asthmatic child's disease status, and who recommend 'treating the parents to heal the child'.
My own mother's parenting style was one of the best anyone could wish for and, while she did become stressed at times, like everyone does, I don't recall this ever adversely affecting my asthma.
There are now three compelling theories about the causation of asthma: the Hygiene Hypothesis, the Vitamin D Hypothesis and the Hapten Hypothesis. All three are likely to have a role in causing this condition and, interestingly, all share an evolutionary perspective.
In the last 100 years, we in the West have adopted lifestyle changes and technological developments that have effectively deprived us of many key organisms that had previously co-habited and co-evolved with us for hundreds of millions of years. We have also taken to living and working predominantly indoors, and to using sun blocks whenever we do expose ourselves to the sun, so we have become almost universally vitamin D deficient. We also fill our homes with items containing a myriad synthetic chemicals and bathe and slather ourselves in personal care products containing thousands more, few of which have been tested for safety. And, on top of all this, we consume synthetic drugs and evermore processed foods that, by the time they reach our mouths, are denuded of many of their natural ingredients and full of synthetic alternatives. Is it any wonder, therefore, that our immune systems are causing us problems?
The solution to asthma, as to many other allergic and autoimmune diseases, is to recognize that our biology has not yet adapted to all these changes and developments, and that we need to address our evolutionary biological needs first and foremost. Doing this means avoiding sources of chemical toxicity, optimizing our vitamin D levels and replacing some of the micro-organisms that we have forced out of our lives. Once we do this, asthma will no longer be the problem it is today, and researchers will be able to do something more productive with their time than examining the parenting styles of mothers of asthmatic children.
For those already suffering from asthma, whose immune systems may have been damaged by the absence of beneficial organisms and exposure to chemical toxins at critical periods in their development, there is still hope. The replacement of 'friendly' helminths, has proved to be an effective treatment for asthma with no long-term side effects. Vitamin D supplements, which appear to work synergistically with helminths, have also been shown to help asthma and are readily available.
First published November 2010Top of page