This article looks at some of the Chinese medicine diagnostic patterns, there are more, I have chosen some of the most familiar examples with some dietary advice. Acupuncture, cupping, tui na massage or herbs are all effective forms of treatment but should not replace what modern western medicine already has in place.
The Chinese name for asthma is Xiao Chuan meaning wheezing and breathlessness. Allergic (extrinsic) asthma can be triggered by hypersensitivity to allergens such as dust mites, animals or pollen. The immune system releases antibodies that activates chemicals like histamines, serotonin, bradykinin and prostaglandins. Inflammation and swelling of the airways, the bronchi and tissue lining. The inflamed lining produces a mucus that leads to an increased impairment of breath. During an attack the sufferer can breath in but cannot breath out, this increases carbon dioxide leading to hyperventilation and wheezing.
Intrinsic asthma is triggered by cold, drugs, exercise or an infection and refers to late onset asthma. According to Giovanni Maciocia there are some differences in the diagnostic patterns compared to allergic asthma. This is due to the functions of the lung and kidney. The kidney grasps the Qi on the in breathe while lungs descends the Qi on the in breath and defuse Qi on the out breath.
Difficulty breathing on the in breath is due to kidney Qi deficiency
Difficulty breathing on the out breath is due to lung Qi deficiency
This has affects the spleen. This is explained in more detail at “Asthma, its affects on the spleen and the development of dampness.”
Chinese medicine explained to causes and affects of asthma in a different way. The lungs and kidneys playing an important role in the production and distribution of Wei (defensive) Qi in the body that infuses with pure fluids. The is a warming defensive layer that accumulates between the skin and muscles protects the body from exterior pathogens from entering. Chinese medicine refers to wind as an exterior pathogenic factor that can be associated with asthma. With allergic asthma the pathogen is the allergens that are the exterior pathogens.
What is it like during an asthma attack?
An acupuncturist can find out what the best treatment principle is depending on how the asthma attack presents. This will depend on the frequency of attacks and their characteristics.
Wind Cold without sweating
Feeling of cold, no sweating, sudden wheezing and breathlessness with difficulty breathing out, tightness of the chest, sneezing, cough, no thirst, attack often in cold weather and stiffness of the neck and shoulders.
Wind Cold with sweating
Slight sweating, not as cold or less noise as without sweating, breathlessness and wheezing, tightness of the chest and pale face.
Fever (feeling of heat) with an aversion to cold, headache, tightness of the chest, louder wheezing, barking cough, asthma and slight thirst.
Between asthma attacks
An acupuncturist will also ask question about what the condition between attacks. The condition might change depending on the season.
Lung Qi deficiency
Sweating, pale face, weak voice, prone to catching colds, sneezing, runny nose, shortness of breath, asthma attacks by pollen or dust and hay fever
Lung Qi and Lung yin deficiency
Signs and symptoms of lung Qi deficiency with attacks at night, tightness of the chest, wheezing, dry cough, dry throat, weak voice, night sweating, tiredness, palpations and pale face.
Lung and kidney yin deficiency
Chronic asthma with infrequent attacks that usually happen at night, wheezing breathlessness on extertion, dry throat, night sweats, backache, tinnitus, dry cough, sweating on the hands, feet and chest
Lung and Kidney yang deficiency
Chronic asthma with infrequent attacks that usually happen during the day, feeling of cold/ chilliness, wheezing, backache and frequent pale urination
Asthma, its affects on the spleen and the development of dampness
The lung and kidneys play an important role in the production and distribution of Qi, blood and fluids throughout the body but when there is a deficiency then there is an accumulation of fluids that congeal to form damp, when heat is added could develop into phlegm. The spleen and stomach that plays a central role in this process has to work harder and over time also becomes deficient. Damp is sticky and can block to flow and movement of Qi, blood and fluids. The affect on the body can change depending on season as the body adapts.
Asthma throughout the year
I have listed some dietary advice that can help depending on the diagnosis and season. With all cases it is advised to follow the first list and adapt the rest depending on how your body adapts during the season.
Asthma diet for lung Qi deficiency
Avoid raw food, greasy food, peanuts, dairy and sugar (or cut down).
Food to eat
Duck, grapes, cauliflower, carrots, onions, leeks, radishes, millet and rice
Spices - aniseed, ginger (root), garlic, rosemary and thyme
Nuts and seeds - chestnuts, almonds, black sesame, sunflower seeds and walnuts
Fruit - pears, cherries and apples
During the summer
Eat peaches, grapes, cauliflower, carrots and olives
Foods that moisten the throat but create phlegm - peanuts (in very small quantities) and bananas (in small quantities)
Apples, pears, Savoy cabbage, asparagus, radish, carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, green tea, peppermint, mung beans, soy milk, salt and sea weed. These all cool the throat and lungs.
During the autumn and winter
Avoid raw food, greasy food, peanuts, dairy and excess sugar. These create phlegm that forms in the throat and chest.
Follow the dietary advice for all year round and add
If phlegm heat
Difficult to cough up
Yellowish, green, brown in colour
Sometimes a rotten or bad smell
Feeling of heat
Watercress, white radish (mooley), celeriac, peppermint tea, lemon tea, soy beans, grapefruit and tangerines. Too cool the lungs and throat and to transform phlegm.
If phlegm cold
Easy to cough up
Whitish, transparent or thin consistency
Feeling of cold
Garlic, ginger, pepper, cinnamon, thyme, cardamom, cherries and millet. To warm the lungs and throat and transform phlegm.
The Practice of Chinese Medicine by Giovanni Maciocia
Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford