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Monday, March 19, 2012

Can A Cup O' Joe Treat Your Asthma?

Physicians have known about the beneficial effect of coffee for treating asthma and COPD symptoms since at least 1859, when its effects were documented in the Edinburgh Medical Journal. How does coffee help treat asthma, to what degree, and what side effects might be encountered?

Briefly, let's look at asthma. It is caused by a constriction of the bronchi, which can be allergy-induced, exercise-induced, environment-induced or stress-induced. Studies indicate asthma may also be exacerbated by vitamin D deficiency. Typical treatments for severe asthma include theophyllin or epinephrine – which is in the adrenaline family. The key to treating asthma is to relax the bronchial tubes to allow oxygen to pass.

Coffee helps on two levels.

First, the chemical composition of caffeine is similar to that of theophyllin. It is in a class of drugs, methylxanthines, which are very close to adenosines, which may mean nothing to anyone who doesn't weat a white coat. Caffeine binds to adenosine cells without activating them, which in turn releases adrenaline, and nonadrenaline, to the brain. The presence of adrenaline serves as a potent bronchodilator and an effective anti-allergen.

Second. The warmth of the coffee may have a soothing effect, helping the asthma sufferer to relax, thereby relaxing the bronchi. It's a comfort factor that can be achieved with other warm, non-dairy beverages, such as tea, boullion or a hot toddy.

It's easy to see how caffeine can replicate some of the effects
of theophylline and provide short-term relief for asthma sufferers.

Side effects for theophyllin may include nausea, vomiting, persistent headaches, insomnia or rapid heart beat. Caffeine intake may exacerbate these symptoms, and is not recommended in conjunction with theophyllin treatment.  Documented studies show the positive effects for caffeine last about two to four hours, which could be enough to prevent a major asthma attack or emergency room visit.

In a pinch, coffee can be used as a bronchodilator and allergen represser.  

Next week: Cooking with Beer

Article ID: TAK4-coffee_asthma

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