Can Your Child Think Away Their Asthma?

Can you think your way to better health?

The Mind-Body Connection.

Let’s say you (or your child) have asthma – can simply imagining yourself healthier, breathing more easily, controlling your anxiety, actually improve your asthma symptoms?

Randomized Clinical Trials – the gold standard for medical evidence – are suggesting that the answer is yes.

Picturing yourself, in your “mind’s eye”, has long been a technique of athletes. They call it pre-visualization. They pre-visualize themselves making the high-jump, or hitting the home-run, whatever their event is. They visualize it over and over, done with perfection, and their performance is improved as though they have gone through many practices, even though they have not physically practiced their event.


What I am describing with the pre-visualization is simply one form of meditation.

Meditation has been used for Millennia – thousands of years – to help us exert some control over our bodies. It should be no surprise that some forms of meditation can help us to control anxiety, reduce stress, breathe more easily, be healthier. There is clearly a mind-body connection that we can tap into.

Early suggestions of this were appearing in the medical literature some decades ago.

More recent evidence is even more compelling. At least they are for me, because the studies are Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials. As a scientist, THIS is what I look for as evidence to support an alternative or complementary remedy.

Two Recent Publications on the Mind-Body Connection

Based on objective findings in asthmatics, things like Pulmonary Function Test (PFT) results (measured changes in expired lung volumes (FEV1), things that most asthmatics are familiar with), researchers are finding that people with asthma can reduce their symptoms using … thinking.

The techniques are called “Functional Relaxation” (FR) and “Guided Imagery” (GI). These are limited forms of meditation with specific goals.

Mind-Body Remedy for Childhood Asthma

Image: Mind-Body Remedy for Childhood Asthma

Adult patients with asthma were found to improve their FEV1 using both FR and GI. The benefits of FR lasted longer. The results were published in 2009 (see below in resources).

The mechanism by which thought control helps control asthma is open to speculation. A follow up clinical trial suggests that one benefit is to improve the immune system.

Allergic asthma” is thought to result from the immune system’s response to allergens causing bronchospasm – asthma. At least part of this response is based on the allergy-related IgE of the immune response. People with allergic asthma are known to have elevated levels of IgE.

A group of adults with dust-mite-associated allergic asthma were taught FR and GI techniques. After a 4-month period, those who were using the FR and GI techniques had a positive and clinically relevant reduction in their serum IgE levels. This study was published in 2010.

What About Our Kids?

Asthma, or any other chronic disease, is a huge source of stress for our affected children. They feel helpless, out of control. Any of us would (do) feel the same in their situation. These mind-body techniques – FR and GI – can help our children feel more in control of their situations.

According to Lawrence Rosen, MD and John D. Mark, MD (advocates of FR and GI for children):

“We can’t eliminate all the stress in our children’s lives, but we can give them tools such as guided imagery, visualization, and biofeedback to help them manage that stress.”

We clearly need more information – larger randomized clinical trials – but these limited studies provide a start.

So, if you or your child are challenged by asthma, or another chronic disorder, consider introducing complementing your treatments with stress-reduction, mind-body techniques. Search those terms for a local practitioner to help guide you in the process.

Lori Lite is passionate about reducing stress in our children. Be sure to check out her website, , for help de-stressing your child’s life. (Transparency: I have NO financial or other association with Lori Lite or


For those who want to read further:



  • Image Credit: “Mind” logo by Nicholas V. Thibault/Jesse T. Nichols, via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Image Credit: Brain PET Scan by Jens Langner ( (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Guided Imagery for Asthma (found decreased asthma, also decreased airway inflammation): In the journal, International Journal of Asthma 30: 171-183; 1993.
  • Functional Relaxation and Guided Imagery as Complementary Therapy in Asthma: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. In the journal, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, vol. 78 pp 233-239; 2009: (pdf file)
  • Effects of functional relaxation and guided imagery on IgE in dust-mite allergic adult asthmatics: a randomized, controlled clinical trial. In the journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, vol. 198 pp 125-130; 2010:
  • Dr. Lawrence Rosen’s site “thewholechild” is worth a visit:




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  5. Silas Knights says:

    That is really interesting that it’s possible for kids to think away their asthma. If stress-reduction or mind-body techniques can really help them with asthma, that is a huge relief. I have a friend who suffers from asthma, so I will pass this along.

  6. Richard Friedel says:

    The vicious circle of asthma drugs. As an asthmatic I got trapped in a vicious circle; bit like a person being trapped in the use of sleeping pills. However an addiction to sleeping pills is relatively easily overcome by force of will. This may apply for asthma medication addiction as well, except that for medical opinion will have it that the disease is incurable. This not true. vigorous nose inhales pressing the lips together releive asthma by a lips-lung reflex. Google for (npf perioral) or try pressing a lip with a finger.

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