This is my blog. I want to tell you about my experiences with health and wellness. I am not a health enthusiast per se but exercise and nutrition do interest me.
My story starts when I was in my mid to late 20’s. I was diagnosed with adult onset bronchial asthma. During a particularly bad allergy attack (I am allergic to various pollens and dust), I developed a cough. This cough persisted daily for 3 months before becoming a wheeze. At the time, I was starting graduate school, playing softball with my coworkers and taking aerobics classes through a local community education program. I also walked daily 3-5 miles. I was an active energetic person in fairly good physical condition and tended to eat healthy most of the time. The cough became a wheeze during an aerobics class on two occasions so I decided to seek advice from a doctor.
Since I didn’t have my own regular doctor, I tried to make an appointment with a doctor my family uses. I couldn’t get an appointment right away so made one with another doctor. This doctor was FIXATED on cigarette smoking. He decided before examining me that my cough was due to smoking. He asked me numerous times about how many cigarettes do I smoke daily, how long have I been smoking, do I cough more after having a cigarette, etc. My answer to him is the same thing I will tell you right now: I do not smoke. I have never smoked. I have never had any interest in smoking. I have never been curious about smoking. Anything. Ever. And yet regardless of how many times I said I never smoked, he continued to ask questions about smoking. I left his office and never went back. I did keep the appointment with the other doctor since I got NO answers from him.
This 2nd doctor was convinced from my breathing tests that I had the beginnings of asthma. I asked how it was possible that I got asthma as an adult. I have a cousin who has had asthma since he was a kid. I wanted to know what caused it, how one gets it, and, most importantly, how to get rid of it. He told me NOTHING of use. He didn’t know its cause, but we could determine what triggers my asthma attacks. He didn’t know how I got it, nor could he tell me how to make it go away. He did say he could treat it (aka mask the symptoms) and teach me how to manage it so I wouldn’t be limited by breathing problems. He immediately prescribed a bronchodilator and an inhaled corticosteroid. He said, “These are the most effective means of treating asthma.”
I started using both “puffers” per his exact instructions. I noticed 2 things almost immediately 1) my symptoms became more frequent and severe; and 2) my heart rate, which is normally fairly high, was even faster. Neither of things were particularly good. The medication was supposed to get the symptoms under control, not worsen them.
Not knowing anything about asthma, I continued to follow my doctor’s advice and treatment, hoping that eventually my symptoms could be controlled. I did also seek opinions from other doctors, allergists and even my chiropractor (more on chiropractics in later entries). Only my chiropractor (and he was my 3rd chiropractor) offered any useful information about asthma and its causes. Somehow the other doctors, instead of running tests and formulating their own opinions, continually insisted that if a doctor has already diagnosed me with asthma, then I have asthma and there is no cure for it. One doctor even told me that if I would not use a “rescue inhaler” (aka brochodilator), an asthma attack could be so severe that it could kill me. Way to go Doc! Good bedside manner!!! The only differences between doctors were the medications they prescribed. All prescribed inhaled medications (I may refer to them as puffers from time to time), but they didn’t all prescribe the exact same medications. All of them were bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids. In fact at least 2 bronchodilators I was prescribed contained the same active ingredient, albuterol. They were manufactured by different pharmaceutical companies.
What NONE of these doctors mentioned is that inhaled corticosteroids are incredibly addictive, decimate your immune system, slow any healing process in your body, cause weight gain, depression, and a whole host of other undesirable health issues. At the time, my father worked for a pharmaceutical company. His job was to make sure the manufacturing plants did not leak toxic waste & chemicals into the air and water. He was able to get annual copies of the PDR (Physicians Desk Reference) for Prescription Drugs and Over the Counter Drugs. These 2 reference books have the complete pharmacology for all medications, including adverse reactions. I looked up my medications in the PDR only after I started having problems with them. As my luck would have it, I had many of the adverse reactions for all of my prescribed medications and I was taking them exactly as my doctors advised.
Over the next 3 years, my condition worsened, my cough continued, and the adverse effects of my medications became more pronounced. If I used my bronchodilator after 11pm, I would wake up at 3-4am freezing, shaking, disoriented, wheezing, coughing and sweating with my heart racing. The only thing that would help was for me to bundle up: 2 pairs of sweatpants, 2 pairs of socks, 3 shirts and a jacket and dressed as such, take my dog for a 2 1/2 mile walk. By the time I’d return from my walk, I’d still be sweating, but all the other conditions would have subsided. Because of this, I never wanted to touch my bronchdilator. I repeatedly expressed concern to doctors regarding this but they all wrote it off as “nothing”. In fact, one doctor took 3 vials of blood to be tested and told me he could prescribe a definitive test for asthma that had to be administered in a controlled atmosphere in a hospital. After taking all of this blood, he sent me home and promised to call with the results. He didn’t call, so I called him. On the 3rd attempt, I was finally able to talk to him (I was told on each of the first 2 attempts that he was “busy” and would return my call). I asked about the results of my blood work. He said, “It revealed nothing. The symptoms you described are the adverse reactions to your broncdilator but you MUST be wrong about when they occur. You would experience these symptoms immediately after using your inhaler.” I asked about the definitive test. He advised against it because he was convinced I had asthma and that was good enough for him and that I must have had a virus when I came to his office. End of conversation. Clearly, I would get no where with him. To quote Fraggle Rock, “The Trash Heap has spoken!”
I continued to see the doctor who became my “regular doctor” and started to see an allergist. My allergist did a whole lot of testing to conclude I was allergic to NOTHING. Several weeks later, I visited his office with proof of something I knew, before his testing, I was definitively allergic to…poison ivy! I had this horrific rash on my face, arms and legs. The rash on my legs was so swollen it looked like I was clawed by an animal. He admitted that I was allergic to poison ivy. Yay! A break through!! We also figured out together why my tests all came up negative: from the time I was in grade school, I had been taking 500-1000mg of Vitamin C daily for my allergies. When my allergist asked what I took on a daily basis and told me not to take ANY antihistamine before the allergy testing. I told him about the Vitamin C at that time and he said it would not affect my tests. I later learned that Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine!!!! He decided I should go for poison ivy shots which made me sick, so I stopped them. He did suggest that my breathing issues could be caused by years of sinus and nasal inflamation. Two ENT’s (Ear, Nose & Throat specialists) confirmed that one nasal passage was completely closed (I didn’t notice this) and that none of the air going through my nose was being filtered or moistened. This causes unfiltered, dry air to enter your lungs (like when you only breathe through your mouth) and therefore could cause my bronchial tubes to become inflamed. Both concluded a full nasal septal reconstruction was HIGHLY recommended. I had the surgery, which helped but didn’t eliminate my symptoms entirely.
My symptoms persisted, despite medications and surgery, to the point where I could not exercise without coughing and wheezing uncontrollably, even walking was taxing. I stopped exercising. I became physically exhausted (all while working full time and attending grad school). As a result, I gained weight…70lbs over the course of 1 year. Then, a doctor prescribed 2 inhaled steroids and an oral steroid. I gained another 10lbs in 1 month!!!
Finally, a coworker recommended a natural remedies, Pynogenol and Grape Seed extract. He even had a cassette tape published by a chiropractor in Washington state who described the wonders of Pynogenol (aka Pine Bark extract). After listening to this cassette thoroughly, I visited a health food store near work and found OPC (Oligomeric proanthocyanidins) which contains Pynogenol. I started taking that along with my asthma meds and within 3 weeks, I had stopped using my rescue inhaler (the bronchodilator), entirely and was weening myself off the inhaled corticosteroids. Since all steroids are highly addictive, you need to slowly work them out of your system. I did and still suffered from withdrawal. Go me!!!
Natural remedies and nutritional supplements brought me greater relief from my asthma symptoms than surgery and any of my medications did. I have been virtually symptom free for about 15 years and became enthralled by alternative remedies and treatments. This blog will contain information I have learned over the years about various alternative remedies, some of which I have tried/practice and others I know about but have not tried yet. I hope you find this to be informative and possibly fun!
Thanks for reading!!!