Well I don't know about that, but that shirt always makes me laugh. If you could hear the nasty cough I had last month, you would ...

Asthma is Sexy

Well I don't know about that, but that shirt always makes me laugh.
If you could hear the nasty cough I had last month,
you would know why I'm doubting asthma's sexiness. 
Well let me tell you just how not sexy my asthmatic journey has been. I was diagnosed with asthma when I was 7 years old. As a young child it was mostly illness induced. I didn't have any serious attacks until track in 8th grade. Running was my biggest challenge all through high school. Instead of avoiding that which aggravated me most (running fast and/or long distances outside in the sagebrush), I, like any good, rebellious teenager, made it my new favorite thing.

Many, many asthma attacks later, I finally came to the place where I realized how incredibly unhealthy it was to push myself to the point of passing out. I had to admit I had limits that should be respected. By this time I was in college so I backed off of running, but did not find relief from my asthma. One particularly nasty illness caused lots of problems. It escalated to what I thought was a bad enough attack I had Brian take me to the ER. When I got there they tested my oxygen saturation and said I was fine and just needed to calm down. I became angry with the doctor for not listening to me and left the hospital against medical advice. As I was leaving I realized that my breathing had gotten better on its own. This was when I started to realize my asthma attacks might be partially anxiety.

I was embarrassed at the idea that many of my attacks might have just been anxiety.  I wasn't faking it after all, I was really having a hard time breathing. The problem is that once you've had a bad asthma attack, you know exactly how scary the feeling is of not being able to breathe. So once anything triggers your asthma, the natural reaction is to immediately panic, causing an anxiety attack that feels a hell of a lot like an asthma attack. Once I was able to understand and admit this, I was able to learn how to control it.

For me, controlling it required the following:
  1. Learn how to breathe properly- this meant yoga with lots of practice on breathing techniques.
  2. Learn anxiety control- again more yoga and also meditation and relaxation.
  3. Healthy diet- low on mucous producing foods like dairy, sugar, and alcohol.
  4. Regular exercise- lots of cardio keeps the mucous and swelling in the bronchial tubes to a minimum.
Once I did these things consistently, my asthma improved drastically and I was able to stay off of all medications. I even learned how to handle playa dust at Burning Man, which our first year there scared me away after a few short days. I became confident enough that I didn't even carry my inhaler or consider myself an asthmatic.

But asthma is a sneaky punk and I have recently been reminded that it still lingers in my body if I don't take care of myself. So far this year, I have been sick more days than I've been well. Last month my cough got so bad I started having asthma symptoms for the first time in about 5 years. I not only had to get an inhaler and use it a few times, the doctor even gave me a breathing treatment when I was in the office. I'd almost forgotten how much I absolutely HATE asthma medicine. Side effects from hell and such temporary relief it's just not worth it. I tried going to an allergy and asthma specialist to see if it was maybe seasonal allergy related. My breathing tests showed my asthma was sucking it up as expected but the allergy test came back negative. The doctor wanted to put me on a steroid inhaler. He was hesitant to fully recommend it since I'm still breastfeeding. He admitted studies done on children taking asthma medicine showed it stunts their growth (wonder if this is why I'm short? Awesome.). Also there are very little studies done on the effects of steroids in breast milk. I decided against taking the steroids. Not just because I'm breastfeeding though, I wouldn't take them anyway unless I was unable to breathe at all and had no other choice. I spent many years in my teens and early twenties on steroid inhalers, nasal sprays, and allergy meds and my asthma never improved. It wasn't until I followed the above steps and quit the medications that it improved. The doctor did not believe this, which I think is sad. Why are doctors so reluctant to believe in natural remedies? How many other asthmatics could be helped by lifestyle changes I wonder? How many people are taking unnecessary medications? I hope other asthmatics read my post and give other options a try. I am not telling anyone to quit their meds, just encouraging a healthy lifestyle to see if your symptoms improve. I am clearly not a doctor. Just a healthy living advocate!

So my plan is to get back in shape as quickly as I can manage. A challenge these days as a second kid is obviously quite time consuming. I can do a lot by being stricter on my diet, which I have done the past month and already seen an improvement. It will probably take awhile to get back where I was, but it will be so worth it to be healthy and asthma free again. And to of course be able to put the sexiness back in asthma.

After my 10k race 3/3/2013
Maybe not sexy, but damn cute