Help Decrease Asthma Symptoms with Omega-3s
BY STEVE BORN
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 13 people have asthma, an incurable condition, described by the Mayo Clinic, “in which your airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.”
For many people, asthma can be a minor nuisance. For others, however, it can be a serious problem, one that greatly disrupts normal daily life, with the possibility of leading to a life-threatening asthma attack.
While omega-3 fatty acids have always been part of the discussion regarding nutrients that may help alleviate symptoms, recent research  provides more strong evidence that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids—coupled with lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids—are associated with a decreased risk of asthma symptoms.
Addressing the seriousness of the issue, study co-author, Andreas L. Lopata, states, “Around 334 million people worldwide have asthma, and about a quarter of a million people die from it every year.” After analyzing blood samples of over 600 study participants for omega-3 and omega-6 levels, Dr. Lopata found that “certain types of omega-3 (from marine oils) were significantly associated with a decreased risk of having asthma or asthma-like symptoms by up to 62%, while high omega-6 consumption (from vegetable oils) was associated with an increased risk by up to 67%.”
What’s the deal with omega-3s and omega-6s?
While omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) are necessary for many aspects of health, most people are consuming the wrong kind of omega-6s—which have pro-inflammatory properties—and far too much of them in comparison to omega-3s. An ideal ratio of these two EFA is 1:3 omega-3 to omega-6, yet the ratio for most American diets is an undesirable 1:20.
Additionally, many of the omega-6s we eat (linoleic acid)—mainly from vegetable oils such as corn, safflower, cottonseed, and others—are not beneficial, as they are converted to arachidonic acid, much of which is converted to Prostaglandin Series E2, which has pro-inflammatory effects.
A portion of the omega-3 EFA we consume in our diet (alpha-linolenic acid) eventually gets converted to highly desirable eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both of these—primarily EPA—are converted to Prostaglandin Series E1 and E3, which both have anti-inflammatory properties and the unique effect of helping to also neutralize the pro-inflammatory effects of Prostaglandin Series E2.
Why fish oil is your best bet
The reason why obtaining your omega-3s from fish oil is so attractive is because it is already pre-formed EPA and DHA. When you consume fish or fish oil supplements, your body receives EPA and DHA right away; no conversion processes are necessary.
Plant sources of omega-3s (alpha-linolenic acid) need to go through a number of conversion processes in order to arrive at EPA and DHA. Unfortunately, that conversion process is not terribly efficient; only between 8% - 20% is converted to EPA, and only between 0.5% – 9% is converted to DHA. You, of course, still want to consume healthy plant sources of alpha-linolenic acid—nuts and seeds are good choices—but there is no doubt that fish/fish oil supplements give you the most omega-3 “bang for your buck.”
To achieve the asthma-alleviating benefits that omega-3s can provide, it’s vital that we cut back on the volume and type of omega-6s that we’re consuming, while increasing our omega-3 intake, ideally done via consumption of fish and/or fish oil supplements.
Dr. Lopata bluntly states, “Asthma incidence has nearly doubled in the past 30 years and about half of asthma patients do not get any benefit from the drugs available to treat it.” He addresses the reason for this alarming increase: “There is an increasing consumption of what is known as the omega-6 fatty acid found in vegetable oils and a decline in consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, which is mainly found in marine oil. Crudely, there has been a global move from fresh fish to fast food.”
Your asthma-alleviating arsenal
- EndurOmega – 2 softgel capsules, 2-3 times daily.
- Essential Mg – 2 capsules, 2-4 times daily. Among its wide-ranging benefits, magnesium supplementation has been found to help relax bronchial smooth muscles, with research (Kazaks 2010) showing that those who supplemented with at least 340 mg of magnesium daily enjoyed significantly lower bronchial reactivity, improved lung function, and better asthma control compared to the placebo group.
- Premium Insurance Caps, LSA Caps – Both products contain the trace mineral selenium. Those with chronic or severe asthma may be deficient in selenium (Qujeq 2003; Allam 2004; Rubin 2004), and studies using selenium (Gazdik 2002; Allam 2004; Voicekovska 2007) found significant improvement in asthma conditions.
- Clear Day, Tissue Rejuvenator, Vegan Tissue Rejuvenator – All three products contain a flavonoid called quercetin. A portion of quercetin’s chemical structure is similar to cromolyn, a medication used to help prevent the release of pro-inflammatory histamines and to protect against asthma attacks (Weng 2012). Another study (Joskova 2011) found that quercetin significantly promoted bronchodilation—the relaxing of bronchial muscle, resulting in expansion of the bronchial air passages—while also helping to inhibit mucus production and accumulation in the lungs.
- AO Booster – 1 capsule twice daily. Research (Li-Weber 2002) has shown that vitamin E (4 tocopherols, 4 tocotrienols) helps prevent the release of inflammatory cytokines. Other research (Litonjua 2012) found that asthma patients with higher vitamin E intakes had a lower prevalence of wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath compared to those with lower intakes.
- Digest Caps – 1 capsule twice daily. While more research is necessary, studies (Feleszko 2007; Lomax 2009) suggest a beneficial effect for probiotics in helping regulate components of inflammatory processes.
- Vitamin C – 1500 mg or more daily in divided doses. Research (Tecklenburg 2007) found that those who supplemented with 1,500 mg of vitamin C daily for two weeks experienced significantly improved asthma symptom scores compared to subjects receiving the placebo.
MAIN STUDY REFERENCE:
 Adams, S.; Lopata, A.L.; Smuts, C.M.; Baatjies, R.; Jeebhay, M.F. Relationship between Serum Omega-3 Fatty Acid and Asthma Endpoints. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, 43.
Kazaks AG, Uriu-Adams JY, et al. Effect of oral magnesium supplementation on measures of airway resistance and subjective assessment of asthma control and quality of life in men and women with mild to moderate asthma: a randomized placebo controlled trial. J Asthma. 2010 Feb;47(1):83-92.
Qujeq, D, Hidari B, et al. 2003. Glutathione peroxidase activity and serum selenium concentration in intrinsic asthmatic patients. Clin. Chem. Lab. Med. 41: 200-202
Allam MF, Lucane RA. Selenium supplementation for asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(2):CD003538.
Rubin RN, Navon L, et al. Relationship of serum antioxidants to asthma prevalence in youth. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2004 Feb 1;169(3):393-8.
Gazdik F, Horvathova M, Gazdikova K, et al. The influence of selenium supplementation on the immunity of corticoid-dependent asthmatics. Braisl Lek Listy. 2002;103(1):17-21.
Voicekovska JG, Orlikov GA, Karpov IuG, et al. [External respiration function and quality of life in patients with bronchial asthma in correction of selenium deficiency]. [Article in Russian]. Ter Arhk. 2007;7:38-41.
Weng Z, Zhang B, Asadi S, et al. Quercetin Is More Effective than Cromolyn in Blocking Human Mast Cell Cytokine Release and Inhibits Contact Dermatitis and Photosensitivity in Humans. PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e3380 pub 2012 Mar 28.
Joskova M, Franova S, et al. Acute bronchodilator effect of quercetin in experimental allergic asthma. Bratisl Lek Listy. 2011;112(1):9-12.
Li-Weber M, Giaisi M, et al. (2002) Vitamin E inhibits IL-4 gene expression in peripheral blood T cells. Eur J Immunol 32, 2401–2408.
Litonjua AA, Rifas-Shiman SL, et al. Maternal antioxidant intake in pregnancy and wheezing illnesses in children at 2 y of age. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:903-11. Feleszko W, Jaworska J, Rha RD, et al. Probiotic-induced suppression of allergic sensitization and airway inflammation is associated with an increase of T regulatory-dependent mechanisms in a murine model of asthma. Clin Exp Allergy. 2007 Apr;37(4):498-505.
Lomax AR and Calder PC. Probiotics, immune function, infection and inflammation: a review of the evidence from studies conducted in humans. Curr Pharm Des. 2009;15(13):1428-518.
Tecklenburg SL, Mickleborough TD, et al. Ascorbic acid supplementation attenuates exercise-induced bronchoconstriction in patients with asthma. Respir Med. 2007 Aug;101(8):1770-8.