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NCCIH Clinical Digest

for health professionals

Asthma and Complementary Health Approaches

May 2022
Man using an inhaler

Evidence does not support using complementary health approaches instead of proven medical management for asthma; however, when used in addition to proven medical management, complementary health approaches that help people with asthma manage stress, anxiety, or depression might help them feel better and improve their asthma control. This issue of the digest provides a summary of the current research on several modalities that have been studied for asthma, including acupuncture, breathing techniques, meditation, yoga, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, soy isoflavones, and vitamin D.

Modality and Summary of Current Research

Several studies have examined the effects of acupuncture and asthma, and there is some evidence that the use of acupuncture may be associated with modest improvement of symptoms but not with improvement in measures of lung function.

Read more about the research on acupuncture for asthma >

Breathing exercises may have positive effects on quality of life and hyperventilation symptoms, but they are unlikely to have a beneficial effect on asthma symptoms.

Read more about research on breathing techniques for asthma >

Only a few studies have been conducted on the effects of meditation in people with asthma, but there is some limited evidence that meditation may help improve quality of life in asthma patients.

Read more about research on meditation for asthma >

There is some evidence that yoga may lead to small improvements in quality of life and asthma symptoms in people with asthma. 

Read more about research on yoga for asthma >

Studies of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for asthma have had inconsistent results.

Read more about research on omega-3 fatty acids for asthma >

Environmental changes such as improved hygiene may lead to reduced contact with microorganisms early in life, and this decrease may have contributed to an increase in diseases related to allergies, such as asthma. Studies have been done in which probiotics (live microorganisms that are intended to have health benefits) have been given to pregnant women and/or young infants in the hope of preventing the development of allergies. To date, probiotic supplementation has not been associated with a lower risk of asthma in infants or had beneficial effects in children with asthma. The effects of probiotics in people who already have asthma have also been studied.  

Read more about research on probiotics for asthma >

Data suggest that soy isoflavone supplementation does not improve lung function or clinical outcomes in people with asthma, but it may be associated with a reduction in the number of severe asthma attacks in certain populations. 

Read more about research on soy isoflavones for asthma >

There is some evidence that suggests that vitamin D may help reduce the risk of asthma exacerbations in adults, particularly in those with low vitamin D levels. Some research has suggested that women with lower intakes of vitamin D may be more likely to give birth to children who develop asthma; however, two large studies have investigated this and found no difference in the occurrence of asthma between children whose mothers had received high-dose vitamin D and those whose mothers had received lower doses.

Read more about research on vitamin D for asthma>

NCCIH Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, DHHS. NCCIH Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary health approaches, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCIH-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is dedicated to exploring complementary health products and practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary health researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCIH’s Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH website at NCCIH is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.


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