About one in 12 people in the US (about 25 million, or 8% of the population) had asthma in 2009. More than 1/2 of all adults and children with asthma had an attack in 2008. 185 children and 3,262 adults died from an asthma attack in 2007. These numbers are likely to be higher in 2014 (source: CDC).
Asthma is thought to be a chronic inflammatory disorder of the lungs. Symptoms include chronic cough, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
A recent study out of Taiwan reported that teenagers with asthma had a significantly higher chance of developing depression or bipolar disease 10 years later. After adjusting for other conditions such as allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis, and other confounders, patients with asthma were 1.81 times more likely to develop major depression, 1.74 times more likely to develop any depressive disorder, and 2.27 times more likely to develop bipolar disorder than patients without asthma. This was the first prospective study linking asthma with mood disorders.
Not too coincidentally, another study came out that showed that pepsin, a stomach enzyme, was found in 71% of bronchial washings in children with chronic lung diseases. In contrast, healthy children had no cases of pepsin in bronchial washings.
Obstructive sleep apnea is found in up to 10% of chidden and about 25% of adults. During an apnea, tremendous vacuum forces are created in the chest cavity, leading to a suctioning effect of normal stomach juices into the throat. These juices can then go into the lungs or the nose and ears. Stomach juices not only contain acid, but also bile, digestive enzymes, and bacteria. Even microscopic amounts of these materials can wreak havoc inside your lungs or nose.
Here’s a review of the link between asthma and obstructive sleep apnea. Not too surprisingly, the peak time for the highest levels of restricted breathing in asthmatics is during 3 to 5 AM. This is also the same time that REM sleep peaks, when apneas are most common. There are countless studies showing strong associations between obstructive sleep apnea and mood disorders.
This is another great example of how everything comes together when you start to connect the dots.