Bronchitis, a term that refers to inflammation in the bronchi or larger airways of the lungs, may be due to infection or other immune processes in the lungs. While the symptoms of bronchitis may overlap with those of asthma, bronchitis does not typically cause the airway obstruction that is the characteristic of asthma. An asthmatic cough is usually productive, that is, sputum is brought up, whereas a bronchial cough is nonproductive, with no sputum.
Asthma is becoming increasingly common with approximately 16 percent people around the world being affected by this condition. The exact cause(s) of asthma remain unknown. Though doctors attribute the growing prevalence of the disease to modern lifestyle conditions such as air pollution, unhealthy diet and poor sleep. While it is a chronic condition, it only manifests periodically by way of relapses.
Triggers like virus, smoke, dust, pollen, perfumes, etc. can all contribute to an allergic reaction which can escalate to an asthma attack. This attack can last for a few minutes but an extremely severe attack could be fatal.
What is bronchial asthma?
Your lungs are responsible for exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide between your blood and the air. Their functioning is facilitated by the mucous secretion inside the lungs. The production of this mucus depends on two factors: moistening and temperature regulation of the inhaled air. But if there is excessive mucus secreted then it can negatively impact the functioning of the lungs. Inflammation coupled with excessive mucus constricts the air passages. Narrowing of these passageways leads to hypoxia, one of the symptoms of an asthmatic attack.
Symptoms of Bronchial Asthma
During an attack of bronchial asthma you have to literally gasp for every breath – breathing out being more difficult than breathing in, since the air cannot be properly driven out of the lungs before you have to take another breath.
For chronic patients these frequent attacks, especially in the night or early morning, are often preceded by nasal congestion and sneezing.
Other symptoms of bronchial asthma include:
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing (a whistling sounds coming from the chest when you breathe)
- Tight feeling in the chest
- Deep chest coughs that keep you awake at night
- Cough with thick sputum
- Difficulty speaking
- Scratchy throat
While asthma is mostly caused due an allergic reaction, it is not always an allergy. One needs to be watchful to determine what triggers the symptoms. For example, while exercising, following a cold spell or even stressful situations.
Root Causes of Bronchial Asthma
Either allergy inducing factors as weather conditions (symptoms get worse on windy, rainy or cloudy days), dust, food, drugs, perfumes, pollution, etc. or psychological factors as deep-seated emotional insecurity, an intense need for parental love, etc. or hereditary / genetic factors.
While we think that bronchial asthma is a respiratory disease, Ayurveda also looks at it from a gastrointestinal point of view. Poor digestion causes toxins to build up in the lung tissue, which can lead to inflammatory conditions of the bronchial passageways.
Ayurveda and Bronchial Asthma
In Ayurveda, bronchial asthma – an allergic condition resulting from the reaction of the body to one or more allergens and is one of the most fatal respiratory diseases – is named ‘tamaka shvasa’ (difficulty in breathing) and its seat of manifestation is the lungs.
The primary dosha associated with bronchial asthma is the watery Kapha which leads to mucus formation. When this water accumulates in the air passages it leads to them becoming narrow and obstructed. The resulting stoppage in the correct flow of air (Vata dosha) in the lungs causes shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing. Let’s understand the different types of asthma based on the dominant doshic influence.
Vata dosha: Vata type asthma is caused due to physical or emotional stress. It can also be triggered by a diet that is light, dry and cold (qualities of Vata). Usually it manifests as a dry cough following an asthma attack. This type could lead to drastic weight loss along with other symptoms of Vata vitiation in the body.
Kapha dosha: This is the most common type and is brought on by vitiated Kapha dosha. Consuming an excess of cold, heavy and moist foods or overeating can trigger this type. A moist, productive cough will usually follow an asthmatic episode. Mucus is cloudy in consistency and white. Those suffering from Kaphic asthma may be overweight or show other signs of Kapha vitiation.
Pitta dosha: Pitta vitiation may be a combination of Vata or Kapha type asthma. It is generally caused by being exposed to allergens or microbes. The bronchial passages get inflamed and the coughing will produce yellow or green mucus. Other signs of Pitta vitiation may also be visible.
Ayurvedic Treatment of Bronchial Asthma
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Swashkaas Chintamani Ras