The trillions of cells in our body need oxygen to survive. Once oxygen is used up, cells produce a waste product carbon di-oxide which needs to be thrown out. It is the shared responsibility of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems to facilitate this process.
The respiratory system helps in the exchange of oxygen and carbon di-oxide between blood and the atmosphere, while the blood transports these gases throughout the body.
This whole process is of utmost importance because the cells cannot live without oxygen for more than a little while. It is therefore important to maintain the health of our respiratory system.
Bronchial asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways or respiratory tract.
The hallmarks of asthma are as follows:
· Periodic obstruction of the airway tract, which is reversible.
· The airways become more sensitive and start responding to foreign substances aggressively.
· Chronic inflammation of the bronchi or wind pipe.
· The smooth muscle cells of the air passages increase in size and sensitivity. This leads to spasmodic contraction of the airways during an asthma attack.
· There is also an increase in mucus secretion throughout the respiratory tract.
300 million individuals suffer from this disease worldwide. About 1/10th of this burden is attributed to India.
If you are asthmatic, you are likely no stranger to the struggle of having an attack at an inconvenient time. Rummaging around for your inhaler while experiencing wheezing, breathlessness and chest tightness is no joke. And worse yet is the daunting realization that you don’t have your inhaler around.
In situations like these, this common and ubiquitous beverage could come to your rescue. This rich, dark, aromatic beverage is not just a drink, but a culture, an economy and a passion for many.
Yes. You guessed it right. I’m talking about coffee.
Scientific evidence shows us a cup of hot black coffee might actually be a potential natural remedy for asthma.
Coffee is the source of largest number of anti-oxidants in the diet. Anti-oxidants neutralise harmful reactive substances called free radicals. This maintains cell health and is associated with benefits in chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases etc…
The active ingredient in coffee is caffeine which is a xanthine derivative. Other xanthine derivatives include theophylline and methylxanthine which are drugs used to treat asthma. Caffeine is similar in structure to theophylline and therefore is postulated to have similar chemical effects (Welsh et al., 2010).
Caffeine is known to have an anti-inflammatory effect and also helps in relaxation of smooth muscles of the airways. The major use of caffeine during an asthma attack is for relief of bronchospasm, which is the obstruction of the wind pipe due to contraction of smooth muscles (Xanthine Derivatives - PubMed).
Caffeine is also known to be a weak bronchodilator, meaning it can induce widening of air passages.
Research has suggested that regular caffeine consumption may reduce asthma symptoms and interest has been expressed in its potential role as an asthma treatment. One study found that caffeine improved airway function for up to four hours after its consumption (Welsh et al., 2010).
An Italian study used data from the 1983 Italian National Health Survey. They analysed a total of 72,284 individuals aged over 15 years, randomly selected to be representative of the whole Italian population. The study concluded that the prevalence of bronchial asthma was inversely related with the level of coffee intake. Regular coffee drinkers were at lower risk of getting asthma than non-coffee drinkers (Pagano et al., 1988).
People who regularly consume coffee are also less likely to die from respiratory diseases (Alfaro et al., 2018).
But the numerous benefits of this magical drink is not without a few side effects. The multitude of advantages of regular coffee drinking must be weighed against potential risks. These include anxiety, insomnia, tremulousness and palpitations (O’Keefe et al., 2013).
On the whole, a primary survey of existing literature suggests that coffee consumption may be a part of a healthy lifestyle. Moderate coffee consumption (2-3 cups a day) is generally safe and well-tolerated.
So, if you are asthmatic you may want to consider adding a hot cup of black coffee to your daily routine.
Alfaro, T. M., Monteiro, R. A., Cunha, R. A., & Cordeiro, C. R. (2018). Chronic coffee consumption and respiratory disease: A systematic review. Clinical Respiratory Journal, 12(3), 1283–1294. https://doi.org/10.1111/crj.12662
O’Keefe, J. H., Bhatti, S. K., Patil, H. R., Dinicolantonio, J. J., Lucan, S. C., & Lavie, C. J. (2013). Effects of habitual coffee consumption on cardiometabolic disease, cardiovascular health, and all-cause mortality. In Journal of the American College of Cardiology (Vol. 62, Issue 12, pp. 1043–1051). Elsevier USA. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2013.06.035
Pagano, R., Negri, E., Decarli, A., & La Vecchia, C. (1988). Coffee drinking and prevalence of bronchial asthma. Chest, 94(2), 386–389. https://doi.org/10.1378/chest.94.2.386
Welsh, E. J., Bara, A., Barley, E., & Cates, C. J. (2010). Caffeine for asthma. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2010(1). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.cd001112.pub2
Xanthine Derivatives - PubMed. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31644255/