What Triggers an Asthma Attack?

Asthma, a chronic respiratory disease which affects 4% of the US population ,1 is responsible for considerable global morbidity and health care costs.2 In the 1990s and early 2000s, substantial global progress was made against key outcomes such as allergy-related hospital admission and mortality, but little improvement has been observed in these areas over the past 10 years.3 New assessment techniques are not being adopted and drug discovery is progressing more slowly than in other specialties.2

How does Functional Medicine approach the treatment of asthma patients? IFM educator Shilpa P. Saxena, MD, talks about getting at the root cause of the disease by identifying the asthma trigger:

IFM educator Shilpa P. Saxena, MD, describes her Functional Medicine approach to asthma.

The prevalence of asthma is increasing in many countries, especially among children.4 Interestingly, the incidence of childhood asthma varies between countries, with typically higher prevalence in “Westernized” nations.5 Factors associated with increased risk of asthma in children include nutrition (maternal diet and weight gain during pregnancy), low vitamin D, delayed introduction of solids, probiotics, inhalant allergens, pollutants, microbial effects, medications, and psychosocial factors.4

In the elderly population, asthmatics are at a higher risk for morbidity and mortality from their asthma than younger patients.6 Evidence also suggests that elderly asthmatics are more likely to be underdiagnosed and undertreated.For patients with asthma, young and old, intervening in the allergic march,7 as Dr. Saxena describes, can have a powerful, long-lasting impact on health.

Learn more about asthma through IFM’s Immune Advanced Practice Module


  1. National Center for Health Statistics. Early release of selected estimates based on data from the National Health Interview Survey, January–March 2017. US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed December 8, 2017.
  2. Pavord ID, Beasley R, Agusti A, et al. After asthma: redefining airways diseases [published online September 11, 2017]. Lancet.
  3. Ebmeier S, Thayabaran D, Braithwaite I, Bénamara C, Weatherall M, Beasley R. Trends in international asthma mortality: analysis of data from the WHO Mortality Database from 46 countries (1993-2012). Lancet. 2017;390(10098):935-945.
  4. Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention. Global Initiative for Asthma. 2017. Accessed December 8, 2017.
  5. Lawson JA, Brozek G, Shpakou A, et al. An international comparison of asthma, wheeze, and breathing medication use among children. Respir Med. 2017;133:22-28. doi: 1016/j.rmed.2017.11.001
  6. Dunn RM, Busse PJ, Wechsler ME. Asthma in the elderly and late-onset adult asthma. Allergy. doi: 1111/all.13258
  7. Bantz SK, Zhu Z, Zheng T. The atopic march: progression from atopic dermatitis to allergic rhinitis and asthma. J Clin Cell Immunol. 2014;5(2):202. doi: 41682Faair.2011.3.2.67

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