Stress Less, Breathe More

Stress can be as much of an asthma trigger as walking into a room with a cat if you're allergic to cat dander.

Why are stress and asthma entwined? Picture the rich network of nerves running through your lungs and bronchial tubes. When you are stressed, nerve impulses can trigger an asthma attack, much like a muscle twitch or a cramp.

Francis Adams, MD, a pulmonary specialist and author of The Asthma Sourcebook, encourages his patients to manage stress, anxiety and depression with talk therapy, incorporating breathing exercises to calm the body. Meditation and biofeedback help, too.

"Stress is a tremendously important source of asthma, and it's the hardest thing to treat," he says. "I can prescribe lots of drugs to relax the bronchial tubes and reduce inflammation, but it's not easy to say to someone, 'You need to take care of your stress.'

"And we're all stressed out," he adds. "I will not hesitate to tell people that at a stressful time in my life, I went to see a psychiatrist, and I would recommend not trying to fight anxiety and depression without professional help."