Doctors are testing an experimental technique that's being touted as the first non-drug treatment for asthma. In the technique, called bronchial thermoplasty, tissue from the inside of the lungs that may block a person's ability to breathe, is burned away.
During a bronchial thermoplasty, a lighted catheter is inserted into your nose or throat and into the airways that fill the lungs. The tip, a wire basket, is inflated to touch the airway walls, then radiofrequency (RF) waves are beamed through the wires.
The RF waves heat the muscle tissue to 149 degrees, causing some of it to disintegrate, while apparently not scarring the airway's thin lining.
Researchers have compared the technique to a microwave oven, which cooks meat on the inside but doesn't scorch the outer layers. The idea is that overgrown muscle tissue in air tubes inside the lungs is responsible for some asthma cases, and bronchial thermoplasty can get rid of half of the thickened muscle.
In the first study, which followed 16 patients for two years, most reported improvements in breathing, as did those from a second pilot study involving 108 people. The clinical trial currently underway will enroll 300 severe asthmatics, and is being funded by device manufacturer Asthmatx.
However, there are risks involved. Side effects such as wheezing and coughing are common and may occur when the airways become irritated, and some have expressed concerns over potential unknown long-term effects, such as late scarring or weakened airways.
American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine May 1, 2006;173(9):965-9
Yahoo News May 22, 2006
Ironically, while researchers are touting this procedure as the "first non-drug treatment for asthma," they've also stressed that this is not a replacement for asthma medications.
When all of your focus is on drugs and surgery to treat chronic illnesses, then wacky solutions like this make sense. Nevertheless, it continues to amaze me that anyone would consider having parts of their lung removed when they haven't tried simpler, inexpensive solutions that work to address the underlying cause of asthma.
While this surgical approach won't kill you like many of the drug approaches can, there are far better options for asthma:
- Optimizing your diet including eliminating sugars and nearly all processed foods. One of the primary reasons why asthma persists is due to the underlying inflammation. So you will want to normalize your insulin levels by eliminating sugars and reducing many of the grains until your symptoms improve.
- Making pure water your beverage of choice. Not only is avoiding chlorine and fluoride a great general idea, but optimal hydration is particularly useful in the treatment of asthma.
- Adding a regular source of animal-based omega-3 fats to your diet, as many studies have shown this is a powerful way to improve asthma. In addition to adding omega-3 fats you will want to lower omega-6 fats, as optimizing the omega-6:3 ratio is a powerful way to reduce the inflammation that contributes to asthma.
- Studies have shown there is a strong emotional component to asthma so using energy psychology tools can be very helpful to improving asthma. You will certainly want to consider tools like EFT.
Even whole grains can be a problem for those with asthma. Removing grains, especially wheat, for a week or two to see if symptoms improve is a very simple trick to try.
You will also want to consider eliminating all milk products as this common food allergy frequently is a factor for many. If dairy elimination works consider reintroducing raw milk products, as they frequently are tolerated when pasteurized ones are not.
I reviewed this issue in a letter I had published in one of the medical journals four years ago.