Complementary and Integrative Health for Asthma

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2023

Complementary and alternative medicine is a common name for non-traditional healthcare practices. The newer name for these practices is complementary and integrative health.1

Many people use integrative health practices to help manage their asthma. These are non-prescription supplements and techniques and are often not prescribed in a U.S. doctor’s office. Complementary practices should be used together with typical treatments.2

While popular, there is not much evidence that these practices improve symptoms of asthma. It can be risky to use unproven supplements. But, relaxation techniques can be helpful in managing stress and reducing asthma attacks.2

Relaxation techniques

Some of the most popular complementary methods for asthma are breathing exercises. They are easy to do and can help you relax. Some breathing exercises used for asthma include:3,4

  • Buteyko technique
  • Papworth method
  • Yoga breathing (pranayama)
  • Deep diaphragmatic breathing

There is some evidence that these techniques improve symptoms and quality of life. But they do not reduce the risk of asthma attacks. Expert guidelines say breathing exercises can be considered as an add-on to typical asthma treatments.3,5

Other relaxation methods include:4

  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Biofeedback
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Massage

There is not much evidence that these methods improve asthma symptoms. But they can reduce stress, which is a common asthma trigger. They can also improve your general well-being. This may make asthma management easier. If you want to try these techniques, talk to your doctor to make sure you do so safely.4

Vitamins and minerals for asthma

A healthy diet is important for everyone. For people with asthma, a diet high in fruit and vegetables is linked to better health outcomes. Expert guidelines for managing asthma encourage this diet for general health benefits.5

Being a higher weight can make your asthma harder to control and increase your risk of asthma attacks. Even losing 5 percent of your existing weight can improve symptoms and reduce the need for medicine. Experts recommend that people with higher-weight bodies who also have asthma lose weight through diet and exercise.5

Dietary supplements and vitamins may provide nutrients that improve asthma symptoms. There is not much evidence of their benefits. But nutrients that seem promising for asthma relief include:5

  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Vitamin D

The best way to get these nutrients is to maintain a diet rich in fresh, unprocessed foods. A multivitamin or supplement pill can also help you get these nutrients. Talk to your doctor to make sure you take dietary supplements safely.5

Herbs and supplements

Some people use herbs or supplements to relieve asthma symptoms. Some of these supplements have been used for thousands of years in Asia. Blends of herbs are often used in traditional Chinese, Indian, and Japanese medicines.6

But, there is not much evidence that herbs and supplements work for asthma. And it can be hard to take them safely.6-8

Supplements are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means no federal agency confirms the ingredients. So even though the ingredients and suggested dose are listed on the label, the FDA is not checking these labels for accuracy.9

Also, some herbs can interact with other medicines. This can make other medicines unsafe. Side effects of certain herbal remedies can be severe. Talk to your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements. Your doctor can help you decide if a supplement is safe.6

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