The discovery of taste receptors in the smooth muscles that line the lungs could pave the way for a natural treatment for asthma and other lung conditions, according to new research from the University of Maryland.
The results of the study, which was published in Nature Medicine, indicate that inhaling bitter tasting substances could open the airways and reduce the symptoms of asthma more effectively than the drugs that are currently prescribed.
How Can Taste Receptors Affect Asthma?
When people experience the symptoms of asthma and other lung diseases, the muscles in their airways contract, obstructing their breathing and making it difficult for them to receive enough oxygen. Currently drugs such as Salbutanol are used to relax and open up the airways making breathing easier, but in many cases these are not sufficient.
When scientists discovered taste receptors in the muscles of the lungs, they assumed that the purpose of these was to protect the body from noxious gases, and that if they were exposed to bitter substances they would trigger coughing and the constriction of the airways.
However, the results of recent trials on mice surprised the researchers. They showed that when the taste receptors in the lungs are exposed to bitter substances, they actually opened up the airways making breathing easier.
Lead researcher Dr. Stephen Ligget believes that these taste buds could produce a protective response when exposed to bitter substances and then to the allergens that might typically trigger an asthma attack, stating that the bitter substances they tested “all opened up the airway more profoundly than any known drug that we have for the treatment of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”
How Close is a Natural Treatment for Asthma?
Further trials must be carried out to determine whether inhaling bitter substances can have the same impact on humans as on mice, and to rule out the possibility that this may cause inflammation. However it is likely that these results may lead to a more effective and natural treatment for asthma in the future.
Leanne Metcalf of Asthma UK believes that “this approach could potentially pave the way for a new range of asthma treatments based on bitter substances.”
The taste receptors discovered on the lungs are different from those found on the tongue, and although they appear to have a direct effect on the airways, they do not transmit signals back to the brain. Eating bitter foods does not appear to have any impact on asthma symptoms and should not be relied on as an asthma treatment.
Other Natural Asthma Treatments
There are many ways to treat the symptoms of asthma naturally, either instead of or alongside conventional medicine.
- Stress often triggers asthma so stress busting techniques such as yoga, shiatsu and massage can all be beneficial by rebalancing the nervous system. Be careful of aromatherapy which can trigger an attack.
- Homeopathy offers a wide range of asthma treatments, but you should consult a professional homeopathy practitioner to find the right solution for your condition.
- Herbal remedies can be used to calm and open up the airways and are often used as inhalations.
- Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to decreased lung function and increased use of asthma drugs, so take a Vitamin D supplement to reduce the amount of medication you need.