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Monday, February 25, 2013

An end to asthma


Hi all,

I felt inspired to share my story of ending asthma. I came across this site inadvertently and got very excited to see so many members exploring ways that work for them and to discuss their stories here. It is my hope that many, many people get to benefit from what I have learned and experienced.

I've had asthma since I was a kid and have only just become med-free at the age of 45. I began to explore more 'successful' ways to return to a life of unrestricted breathing around 15 years ago beginning with nutrition. What works for some people won't necessarily work for everyone. I learned that after reading In the book Eat Right 4 Your Type that meat, for example, is beneficial for blood type O (50% of western populations), the caveman diet. Blood type As, however, are the opposite and do well with 'modern' foods like dairy and grains. I first experimented with the recommendations (I'm an O) and went on to play my own game where I would adopt whatever food made me feel energised, light and vital. This, I learned later in life, is just another way to live how you're supposed to live and when you do all health problems will gradually evaporate. I'm of the opinion that the body is continually striving to heal itself and will do so if only you can get any offending irritants out of the way.
A general rule of thumb is to avoid any acidifying foods and adopt alkalising ones but it's not that straightforward. Lemons are acidic, right? But they have an alkalising effect on Os and are very powerful. Raw vegetables, such as broccoli, are the nirvana in health foods but Os don't have the enzymes to break down some raw foods and do better when they're cooked. Again, what works best for you. Your body will tell you what works best.

I had some success with this approach and moved on to removing as many chemicals from my home as possible. I live in a warm country so there is no carpet and even though laundry liquid, dish washing powder and food are all more expensive if you go chemical-free, it's worth it in my opinion. By now I was off the steroids, except for emergencies, and just took the ventolin generally before sleeping.

I learned about the oxygen and carbon dioxide mix in the blood studying Buteyko and it's not a simple case of more oxygen in, more oxygen absorbed. I've seen children in hospital wards being fed gallons of ventolin and oxygen and nurses wondering why the oxygen saturation levels (sats) weren't going up. It was painful to watch when i knew this wasn't the right approach. The body simply normalises the O2/CO2 mix when you adopt good breathing practices. It was a good lesson in the role carbon dioxide plays although the 'breathe in just a tiny bit' approach didn't sit well with me. I learned some good posture techniques from a Buteyko consultant, however, to simply take the strain off the breathing column. For sleeping, to alleviate symptoms, lay on your side and extend the breathing column, essentially the whole spine, and keep it straight. You can bow your head and bring your knees up if that's more comfortable but try not to collapse the chest. You can't always maintain that position especially if you squirm about in bed but be conscious of whenever you hunch your chest in bed because that is heading in the wrong direction.

I then learned diaphragmatic breathing and how you breathe in, through the nose, from the belly and not the chest. Breathing in through the nose, in addition to the well-known myriad benefits, stimulates the production of nitrous oxide, a muscle relaxant critical for smooth lung function. I theorise that mouth breathing is behind many cases of some forms of heart disease where the heart muscle is hardened and performs sub-optimally as a result. Worth investigating, but I digress!
In diaphragmatic breathing it's not quite the belly you are engaging to breathe but the diaphragm, a muscle, where the belly is. So, move the muscle out, not just the belly fat out, when breathing in. I found that the more I breathed out, using the diaphragm and sucking the belly right in, the more my breathing would improve. If I had a cold, which tends to exacerbate symptoms, the first thing to improve would be the clearing of a blocked nose. I also noticed that adopting improved breathing practices also accelerated the curing of a cold! (It's all related) As I improved I noticed how I didn't need to breathe in as much (the Buteyko approach) and the more I tried to breathe out and visualise my breathing lower and lower in the breathing column as far as the pelvic floor, the better my breathing became. Along the way I would start coughing. Coughing is always a good sign in an asthmatic because it signifies stuff is wanting to shift. The prior state in recovery is wheezing and rattling where it's clear there is mucous lodged but not coming out and the worst state is simply tightness with no sign of improvement. So, celebrate any coughing you do and smile sweetly at any anxious onlookers who want to give you medicine to dry up your cough! Once the mucous is dislodged you're looking at peaceful breathing at 4-5 cycles a minute ... sweet!
The sad thing about ventolin I've come to experience is that it makes you breathe more rapidly and from the chest. It makes it tricky to resume the calm, diaphragmatic breathing, and you'll resume symptoms once the drug has worn off I'd you can't get back to that improved way of breathing. A cruel irony!

I learned yoga, primarily for the muscle building, but realised there are some good postures to adopt to shift any mucous plugs. Anything that opens up the chest is a bonus and any activity that has you hunched, for example over a computer, is detrimental.

The best explanation as to why people get asthma attacks, at least my form of asthma, is that if you're a mouth breather then the body attempts to conserve the loss of moisture, which is needed for smooth bronchi and proper organ function, via vapour from the mouth. This is the source of exercise-induced asthma and the body then forms mucous plugs to keep the bronchi smooth. Your natural instinct is to simply stop what you're doing and relax. In any kind of 'disease' it helps to try and understand what the body is trying to make you do as a consequence, or prevents you from doing that you want to do, in order to understand where you're going wrong, the metaphysical view.

So, what to do when you feel an attack coming on? I check my posture. Am I hunched over like I have been almost my entire life, collapsing the chest? Open it up, sit up straight (I find the yoga lotus position effective and practical if I want to do laptop work on the sofa) and review your breathing. I've found the following works well for me and can return to good breathing in under 15 minutes.
Breathe in as much as you want and forget the Buteyko method that forbids big breaths in. If you want to breathe in gulps of air then just do it! Once satisfied, breathe out, using the diaphragm and pulling the stomach in, for as long as possible before breathing in again. The first few times it won't be a very long time but don't beat yourself up about it. Repeat the exercise and know that it will get easier. The goal is to breathe out as much as possible each time and notice how you don't need to breathe in as much each time. Before long your breathing will normalise. Follow these practices, be aware of what triggers symptoms, keep up your good work and before long you will have developed sound habits and will have forgotten where your meds are!

I truly hope this has been of value to you and welcome any questions or anything I can do to help more.


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