By Kimberly Beauchamp, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (August 24, 2006)—Children suffering from asthma might benefit from taking extra magnesium. The results of a new study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that children living with asthma had fewer episodes and needed less “rescue” medication to treat acute asthma attacks after taking a magnesium supplement for two months.
This is exciting news, as the number of American children with asthma has risen to an estimated 5.8 million. According to a survey, Children and Asthma in America, “A significant number of children with asthma do not have their condition under control.” The survey cited a “widespread lack of understanding about asthma causes, treatment, and symptom prevention [as] a major obstacle to improved management of the condition.”
Asthma is an inflammatory response of the airways to triggers such as viral infections, exercise, cold weather, airborne pollutants like cigarette smoke, and allergens like pollen, mold, animal dander, dust mites, and certain foods. Exposure to these triggers causes the tissues lining the airways to swell and the muscle surrounding the airways to constrict, making breathing difficult.
Sometimes the symptoms of asthma are obvious—feelings of chest tightness, wheezing, and shortness of breath. However, some children with asthma might only experience frequent respiratory infections or a persistent cough. Because the condition can be difficult to diagnose, a visit to your child’s doctor is warranted if you suspect that they might have asthma.
The mineral magnesium has muscle-relaxant capabilities, and some evidence suggests that people who don’t get enough magnesium may have an exaggerated response to inhaled irritants, known as airway hyperreactivity.
To see if supplementing with magnesium might help reduce asthma symptoms, a Brazilian research team gave 300 mg of magnesium or a nontreatment pill (placebo) to 37 children each day for two months. The children continued their long-term asthma control medications, and used rescue inhalers as necessary.
As asthma is almost always accompanied by allergies, the children were tested for reactions to common substances in the region. The children also kept track of their asthma symptoms and usage of rescue medications. At the end of the study, the children were tested for airway hyperreactivity.
The children who were given magnesium had significantly fewer asthma attacks and used less rescue medication than the placebo group. Magnesium also improved the children’s overall lung function, decreased airway hyperreactivity, and improved their allergies.
The authors concluded that when used in combination with a medication for long-term asthma control, magnesium exerts an additional beneficial effect for asthma control.
(Eur J Clin Nutr 2006;doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602475)
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.
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