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Asthma

Alternative and complementary therapies for asthma

Some people we interviewed had tried using treatments and therapies such as yoga, acupuncture, homeopathy, hypnosis, Buteyko and other breathing techniques. There is little scientific evidence that these types of therapies are effective, especially used on their own. Asthma UK recommend that it is better to see them as 'complementary' and working alongside conventional medicines - rather than as an 'alternative'.

Mary has been thinking about seeing a nutritionist, and has also tried reflexology in addition to her usual treatments. Faisal takes a number of supplements to his diet mainly because he finds it difficult to lose the extra weight he thinks he has gained through using steroid treatments. Jenny says that she sometimes feels a bit frustrated when people who have no health problems suggest that she should use natural remedies instead of the steroids.
 

Mary has tried a few different alternative therapies but isn’t convinced they work. She says it can be difficult to participate in some things like relaxation and hypnosis when you are struggling to breathe.

Mary has tried a few different alternative therapies but isn’t convinced they work. She says it can be difficult to participate in some things like relaxation and hypnosis when you are struggling to breathe.

Age at interview: 73
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 6
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Well I think it’s probably quite important, because if you look on the internet nowadays a lot of the things that flash up are people doing alternative therapies, and herbal remedies and other things, and I think if you’ve got brittle or severe asthma it’s very dangerous. I was put on a trial for hypnosis once at [place name] Hospital and I suppose I was in my 20s, and I was their one big failure. I was the only person that had brittle asthma on the, in the study, and I used to go up in my lunch hour from work, and by the time I got there I was probably too puffed to do very much. But I did that for a long time, and they taught yourself hypnosis, relaxation. But if you’re really wheezing you can’t do it anyway.

Because you’ve got to concentrate on your breathing to do that haven’t you?

Well you’ve got to have some inhaler before you can start relaxing, yes. Exactly. So I think it depends on the severity of the wheeze and how much puff you’ve got, and things like that.

I also worked in an acupuncture clinic once, so I got free acupuncture…

And how did that …?

Well it didn’t work either.

But you were doing these things in conjunction with also taking your medication?

Yes, yes. I think that’s probably very important. I know people who’ve had children with very mild asthma and they say, “Oh we took them to a homeopathic doctor and they, it’s stopped, or they’ve grown out of it.” But then a lot of children do grow out of asthma. You know, when I was seven they used to say, “Oh well, she’ll grow out of it when she’s 14, or she’ll grow out of it when she’s 21. Or it wears off as you get older.” Doesn’t always. But in some people it stops when they’re 14, 15, in their teens and then comes back again when they’re in their 60s. It comes and goes with some people. So it’s very difficult to actually judge all these therapies.

And have there been any that you’ve found effective?

No.

Or that you’ve wanted to carry on?

No I’ve tried most of them.
 

Eileen is thinking about trying a breathing technique and is also interested to see whether salt pipes could help.

Eileen is thinking about trying a breathing technique and is also interested to see whether salt pipes could help.

Age at interview: 62
Sex: Female
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And they’re both very open about alternative medication and when I’ve had some acupuncture on, on my, I had a, a tennis elbow and what have you, they, they were both very for it for that and said in some cases it’s the best thing to do. They also know that I won’t stop taking my normal medication. I’m not going to think I’ve, “This, this will cure me.” It’s something that helps me.

Until somebody can actually prove that there are other things that work… you, I feel you have to continue taking. I’ve heard something about a thing called the Bowen Technique and I, I actually have the contact details for a guy in [place] I think he is. And I will go and have an appointment with him and see because apparently it’s, he’s teaching you, the breathing which helps as well. And I will look into it because I’ve heard some people say that it’s been very good. I’ve, my sister-in-law uses a salt pipe and she was advised to use that by her doctor who won’t prescribe her ordinary medication. She said, “Use the salt pipe”.

It’s something, you know, that has going, been going for a long time So, you know, when she said she’d been given a salt pipe it made sense to me and I have kept meaning to try it. I’ve mentioned it to my own doctor and she said, “Well, you know, try it”. Because she, again she knows I will carry on with my own normal one until I feel...

When you say a pipe though it kind of makes you think of smoking. Is that...

Yes, no.

What, you’re not...

No, they don’t look altogether different from the inhalers. They’re a little bit bigger but I think, I did actually see one advertised which was a travel one which was a bit smaller so it was probably about the size of an inhaler that you could actually carry in your handbag. Because one of the things I always find about the, you know, they give you a spacer to use with your inhaler, well it’s about that long.

I don’t like huge handbags. I, you know, I can’t carry it around with me. They have now come up with a smaller one. It, it’s narrower but it’s still quite big. So, you know, something’s quite...

So that would be quite am attractive idea?

Yeah.
 

Jane went to see a homeopath who prescribed a remedy. Her consultant was happy for her to try it as long as she continued to take her medication.

Jane went to see a homeopath who prescribed a remedy. Her consultant was happy for her to try it as long as she continued to take her medication.

Age at interview: 59
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 54
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I said to him, “You know, was there any point in me going to see a homeopath?” And he was not discouraging. He said there was no research evidence to, to show that homeopathy can help asthma or could help adults with asthma but he said that he had patients where it, it was helpful and where it was helpful it seemed to be very helpful.

So he, he encouraged me and then I, but he also encouraged me to do it via my GP. So I spoke to my GP and, and he also was very encouraging. But the PCT wouldn’t pay for me to go to the homeopathic hospital. So I decided that I would go privately to see a homeopath. And that was another turning point. So when I look back on my asthma, the, the kind of the, the key points have been obviously the, the, that day when I was out running and I now went to see the doctor and I was told that this was asthma. Then when I went to the hospital and they found the right inhaler for me, and then going to see the homeopath. And that was probably about a year after I was diagnosed because time was going by all the time.

We spent a long time talking about me and my asthma and my other medical history. And she gave me a remedy to try. And within a month I was feeling better than I’d felt since that, that day that I was diagnosed. Since the day that I’d put my running shoes on when we’d got back from Morocco and I couldn’t run. And, again, it’s been quite a long story because I carried on seeing her for a year or two and actually changed the remedy during that time and I have two lots of the remedy that I still keep upstairs.

One is a higher strength and I take that if I feel like I’m going down with a bug, because that’s one of the things that triggers my asthma. In fact, that’s probably the key thing that triggers my asthma. And the other one is one that I can just take on a, a, an ongoing basis.

Actually in the last six months I’ve felt so well that I’ve stopped taking it altogether and I keep in touch with her by email and she says that’s absolutely fine, that means that my body’s back in balance. Though I do still take the higher does one sometimes if I kind of get a bit of a dry throat and think, “Oh, this is the start of a cold”, you know. It just seems to work for me. It’s been great.

Is that alongside the other medication? Or do you...

No, alongside the medication. And my GP was very clear when we, I talked about him going to see a homeopath he said he was quite happy for me to do that but on no account was I to stop taking what I was taking already.
Last reviewed August 2017.
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