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Air pollutants cause a tremendous amount of oxidative stress in the respiratory tract and in turn, the body. When you add the most severe cause of oxidative stress to the body--cigarette smoking, the nasal passageways and lungs are literally under attack. Still, God did not leave us defenseless. He created a sophisticated and elaborate defense system against such attacks on our respiratory system.

The first line of defense against poisonous pro-oxidants is the Epithelial Lining Fluids (ELFs). From your nose to the tip of your lungs the cells are covered with a thick mucous lining. The epithelial cells have a very fine brush border called cilia. This brush border sweeps inhaled foreign particles, bacteria, and viruses back outside.

The thick mucous lining contains many antioxidants, which then neutralize the inhaled pollutants like ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and fuel emissions; providing a layer of protection that is so effective that most of the time these pollutants don't even come in contact with the underlying epithelial cells. However, when these air pollutants are especially intense, an inflammatory response develops in the epithelial lining fluid.

With ELF's as the first-line of defense, the mucous, ciliary's clearance, and immune response form a team that is extraordinarily effective in preventing infections in the respiratory tract. The underlying epithelial cells actually produce and secrete several antioxidants into this mucous barrier as well. Therefore, the mucous barrier also contains many different antioxidants including vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione. All of these antioxidants work together to neutralize all the pollutants we inhale and thus protect the underlying lung tissue and lung function. Vitamin C is the most prominent antioxidant in this protective fluid lining. It is not only an important antioxidant in this fluid but also has the ability to regenerate vitamin E and glutathione.

Still, respiratory tract infections or exposure to airborne pollutants can overwhelm the local anti-bacteria, anti-viral, and antioxidant systems found in the epithelial lining fluids (ELFs). When this happens, there is a tremendous inflammatory-immune response. The fluids in the lining of the lungs become very thick as the immune response attracts in many white cells that (literally) attack the invading organisms or pollutants.

If the invaders are quickly cleared out, everything settles down. But, an inability to terminate or control the inflammatory response can result in injury to the underlying epithelial cells. This in turn can lead to chronic inflammation that can cause marked damage to the lung tissue and impair the lung function. It is felt by most researchers that the real culprit behind most of our lung diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease, and even lung cancer is oxidative stress resulting from these pollutants and the resultant chronic inflammation.

This chronic inflammation in the lung causes significant fatigue and a depleted immune system in those who struggle with asthma. Whether the immune system is fighting a chronic infection or whether it is fighting pollutants in the air, chronic inflammation created by both of these conditions takes its toll on asthmatics, especially the children. Kids with asthma seem to continually fight one infection after another and their energy level is nowhere near that of children with healthy airways.

When I first began my private practice in the early 1970's, physicians believed the underlying problem with asthma was bronchospasm. This is a condition where the circular muscles surrounding our airway tubes actually go into spasm and narrow the passageways of our lungs resulting in a very tight feeling in the chest, shortness of breath, and wheezing (usually loud enough to hear without a stethoscope). Our first line of therapy back then was to use drugs like Theophylline or Albuterol, which primarily worked on relieving the bronchospasm. If the person was in serious trouble or even had to be admitted to the hospital, we would then add a potent anti-inflammatory medication called Prednisone.

After a few years into my practice, research started to reveal, however, that the underlying problem with asthma was a chronic inflammatory response. Inflammation was actually causing the bronchospasm. Our therapies changed considerably and we shelved the theophylline-like drugs in favor of anti-inflammatory drugs (inhaled steroids or Intal) as first-line therapy. Research conducted over the past decade has since deduced that the underlying cause of asthma, and most every chronic lung disease, is the result of oxidative stress.

Most drugs are now aimed at decreasing this inflammatory response and relaxing the accompanying bronchospasm. Nevertheless, the underlying "root" problem, oxidative stress, is still not addressed.

I have read several clinical trials wherein patients with asthma are found to have significantly depleted antioxidants in the extra-cellular fluid lining of their lungs. Antioxidant levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene were found at low levels even when the children were not having an acute attack. They also exhibit markedly higher levels of by-products produced by oxidative stress leading to chronic inflammation and hyperactivity of the airways.

The key in truly helping these patients is to rebuild their natural antioxidant defense system and natural immune system back to optimal levels. This can best be accomplished by the following nutritional recommendations.

To get Dr. Strand's specific nutritional recomendations Join his online Medical Practice.

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