Patients with chronic inflammatory diseases, such as asthma are typically vitamin D deficient and can benefit from both increases in Vitamin D and ginger.
According to new research published in the journal Allergy, Dr Ronit Confino-Cohen and colleagues at Tel Aviv University analysed data from more than four million Israeli's that are members of the nations largest healthcare provider -- finding that of the 21,000 with asthma, those with a vitamin D deficiency were 25% more likely than other asthmatics to have had at least one flare-up in the recent past.
The effect of the vitamin is strongest in people with asthma and other lung diseases who are predisposed to respiratory infections. People with the worst vitamin D deficiency were 36 percent more likely to suffer respiratory infections than those with sufficient levels, according to research in Archives of Internal Medicine.
"Vitamin D has significant immunomodulatory effects and, as such, was believed to have an effect on asthma -- an immunologically mediated disease," said Confino-Cohen. "But most of the existing data regarding vitamin D and asthma came from the pediatric population and was inconsistent. Our present study is unique because the study population of young adults is very large and 'uncontaminated' by other diseases."
She added that the study findings add further weight evidence of a link between vitamin D and asthma, "suggesting beneficial effects of vitamin D on asthma exacerbations."
"Increasing vitamin D levels is something we can easily do to improve patients' quality of life," she commented.
"We know people with high levels of vitamin D are better able to control their asthma - that connection is quite striking," said Professor Catherine Hawrylowicz from King's College London.
Indeed, Hawrylowicz explained that findings already suggest that supplementation with vitamin D may one day be used not only to treat people who don't respond to medications but also to reduce the doses of dangerous steroids in other asthma patients - so reducing the risk of harmful side effects.
Confino-Cohen and her team of researchers drew on the records of millions of patients and used physician diagnoses, rather than self-reports, for evidence of asthma episodes.
The team analysed vitamin D levels of 307,900 people, taking in to account key predictors of asthma, such as obesity, smoking, and other chronic diseases.
Of the 21,000 asthmatics studied, the team reported that those with vitamin D deficiency were at a higher risk of an asthma attack.
While most of the vitamin D in people's bodies comes from exposure to the sun, the team noted that due to the dangers of overexposure to the sun, dermatologists recommend obtaining the essential vitamin from other sources -- including fish, eggs, cod liver oil, or a dietary supplement.
Based on the findings, the researchers recommend that people whose asthma cannot be controlled with existing treatments have their vitamin D levels tested, and for those with a vitamin D deficiency measures are taken to restore levels.
"We expect that further prospective studies will support our results," said Confino-Cohen.
"In the meantime, our results support a recommendation for screening of vitamin D levels in the subgroup of asthma patients who experience recurrent exacerbations," she commented.
"In those with vitamin D deficiency, supplementation may be necessary."
Meanwhile, a team of US-based researchers have suggested that ginger compounds could also be effective in reducing the symptoms of asthma. The study, led by Elizabeth Townsend from Columbia University, investigated whether purified extracts of ginger that contained specific components of the spicy root could help enhance the relaxing effects of bronchodilators in asthmatic people.
Presenting their findings at the ATS 2013 International Conference, the research team explained that they studied the effects of with three separate components of ginger: 6-gingerol, 8-gingerol or 6-shogaol when exposed to airway smooth muscle (ASM) tissue samples that were caused to contract by exposing them to acetylcholine.
The contracted tissue samples were exposed to three mixtures of the ginger compounds in combination with the Beta-agonist isoproterenol as well as unadulterated isoproterenol, and the relaxation responses were recorded and compared.
"We demonstrated that purified components of ginger can work synergistically with Beta-agonists to relax ASM," said Townsend - adding that tissues treated with the combination of purified ginger components and isoproterenol showed significantly greater relaxation than those treated only with isoprotereno.
Indeed, one of the three ginger components, 6-shogaol appeared most effective in increasing the relaxing effects of the Beta-agonist.
"Taken together, these data show that ginger constituents 6-gingerol, 8-gingerol and 6-shogaol act synergistically with the Beta-agonist in relaxing ASM, indicating that these compounds may provide additional relief of asthma symptoms when used in combination with Beta-agonists," Townsend added.
About the author
Dr. Marianna Pochelli is a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine specializing in the treatment of disease through superfoods and herbal strategies. She actively promotes detoxification, colon cleansing, and a vegetarian lifestyle using living foods as a platform to health.