Asthma has always been one of the most difficult and dangerous conditions to treat with drugs.
But a new review of nine clinical trials shows that vitamin D, a.k.a. the do-it-all vitamin, can not only treat asthma safely, but also effectively.
In fact, the researchers found that small daily doses of D reduced the risk of serious asthma episodes by more than one-third.
And more importantly, almost two-thirds of the adults and children in the study who took daily vitamin D supplements didn’t need emergency medical care for their asthma.
I’ll tell you more about this breathtaking (or more accurately, breath-giving) research in a moment. But first, let’s examine the history of asthma remedies—including the failed drug experiments I saw firsthand.
80 years of struggling to breathe better
During the 1930s, pharmacologist Carl Schmidt at the University of Pennsylvania (my alma mater) worked with Chinese collaborators to study the ancient Chinese remedy ma huang, from the ephedra tree. This research yielded the drug ephedrine for the treatment of asthma.
But in 2004, the FDA banned ephedrine due to its abuse as a weight-loss supplement and exercise performance enhancer.
Some people turned to theophylline, a natural asthma remedy found in Thea sinensis—better known as tea. Theophylline, like caffeine and theobromine from cacao, is a stimulant that can widely open respiratory passages, which helps people with asthma breathe better.
Meanwhile, drugs for asthma have not fared very well. Some were put into inhalers, which caused many tragic deaths in children, adolescents, and young adults. The combination of the drugs and the toxic propellant gases in the inhalers caused fatal heart arrhythmias.
Dr. Domingo Aviado, my pharmacology professor at Penn, and I studied this problem during the 1980s, and these toxic propellants became restricted.
But the problems with asthma drugs persisted. And by the mid-1990s, the FDA became interested in non-drug approaches to treat asthma and other lung diseases.
I provided scientists at the FDA with research on the safe and effective treatment of asthma through acupuncture, which factored into the regulatory approval of the acupuncture needle as a therapeutic medical device in 1996.
Acupuncture is now typically accepted as an effective pain reliever. (See my new book, Overcoming Pain, with Sebhia Dibra, as well as my Arthritis Relief and Reversal online learning protocol for more natural pain relievers. You can order a copy of the book by clicking here, and you can enroll in my online learning protocol by clicking here or calling 866-747-9421 and asking for order code EOV2S10C.) But it was actually the asthma data that helped push the FDA to approve acupuncture as a treatment for pain and other medical conditions.
Why D may be better than asthma drugs
This provides further evidence for what I’ve always said—that unlike drugs, which are targeted only to alleviate symptoms, natural remedies can treat health conditions at their source.
And not only that, but they can frequently address a variety of health conditions. For instance, we think of acupuncture as being useful for pain (and indeed it is) but it has equally important benefits for asthma.
We also think of vitamin D as important for bone health (and indeed it is—see the article on page 1) but it may be equally important for asthma.
Which leads me back to the study I mention earlier. It analyzed nine clinical trials that involved a total of 435 children and 658 adults with mild to moderate asthma.1
The researchers found that study participants who took oral vitamin D supplements—ranging from just 400 IU up to 4,000 IU per day—had a 37% lower risk of asthma episodes that required the use of medication. And similar doses of D decreased participants’ need for emergency medical care by 60%.
It’s important to note that these dosages are much less than the 10,000 IU of vitamin D I recommend everyone take every day (especially in the winter months, when most people aren’t able to photosynthesize vitamin D from the sun). So imagine what effects 10,000 IU a day could have on asthma sufferers!
Of course, children who are smaller than adults should take lower doses of vitamin D. Consult with a health practitioner who is knowledgeable about nutrition for the appropriate dose for your children or grandchildren.
The reasons for these vitamin D benefits for asthma sufferers remain unclear, but the researchers suggest the vitamin may trigger antiviral and anti-inflammatory responses that decrease lung sensitivity.
All hail the queen of nutrients
Of course, there have been thousands of studies showing the benefits of vitamin D for heart, kidney, brain, bone, and nervous system health. The sunshine vitamin can also help prevent chronic diseases like cancer, dementia, and multiple sclerosis, as well as improve mood and treat depression.
But doctors still debate the need for vitamin D supplementation (even while acknowledging widespread D deficiency throughout the population).
So don’t hold your breath waiting for vitamin D to become a mainstream treatment for asthma anytime soon.
“We don’t yet have the evidence to say that everyone should take it.” said lead study author Dr. Adrian Martineau, a professor at Queen Mary University of London, in the New York Times.
To me, those still dragging their feet, or anchors, about vitamin D are on a “ship of fools.” Vitamin D could be crowned the “queen of nutrients.” And, Dr. Martineau, the Queen Mary is sailing without you.
1“Vitamin D for the management of asthma.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Sep 5;9:CD011511.