Monday, September 30, 2013

How I Beat Asthma by Bicycling

Okay, first of all, you dont beat Asthma.  You control asthma.  Asthma sucks.  Anyone who has it can tell you how it feels like having an elephant sit on your chest.

I was diagnosed with asthma as a kid.  I was allergic to cats. Fine with me; I didnt really like cats.  Had these knock out pills I took any time I had an asthma attack.

Life went on.  I grew old.  And then maybe 12 years ago, my asthma went terrible.  Went from never using my inhaler to using it multiple times a day.  The doctor I went to see said that technically I was dead - that's how bad my lungs were.

The doctor had me take an allergy test; I failed the test.  I was allergic to everything (well, at least I reacted to everything).  Doctor said I was a disaster.  He gave me a big bag of powerful medicine and put me on monthly allergy shots.

Life went on. And I didnt get better.  I am one of those guys who always ask questions.  Whenever an allergy / asthma doctor was on the radio, I would listen.  I read a lot.  I listened a lot.  And I paid attention to myself.

And I didnt get better.  And I asked my doctor, I said, "you know, you have been treating me for a long time, and I havent gotten better.  What is the deal?"  He said I should come in for more testing. 


I was getting sick of testing.  I was getting sick of testing, and allergy shots that didnt do anything, and bags full of medicine, and a doctor who didnt seem to be making me better.

And finally I had enough.  I stopped all of medications; I stopped the allergy shots; and I did three big things:

Triggers:  I paid attention to my triggers.  And though I did not want to admit it, my trigger was a hockey locker room.  I cant tell you what it was.  Mold.  Bacteria in bags that were never emptied.  Just general stench.  But hockey rinks made triggered me.  I stopped going in hockey rinks; I stopped having allergic reactions.

Salt: I was sitting at a party.  And it turned out the guy I was sitting next to was a doctor.  I am not the type to hit people for free advice, but he was offering it.  He asked, "is there a time you ever feel good."  I said yeah, at the beach.  He hit me upside the head.  "Salt water through your sinuses.  Get your sinuses clean and you will feel better."  I started using a neti pot.  Yeah, its weird.  But it is great to have clean sinuses.  It has been huge help. I feel like I can breath.

Cycling: I had not yet controlled my asthma but at this point I was doing a good job.  I was looking for something else to get me all the way home.  I listened on the radio to someone talking about using yoga to help control asthma.  The person said yoga is effective because of the breathing, which increases your lung capacity.

Sounded like aerobic exercise to me.  Having ended my career as an ultimate frisbee player, I decided that I would cycle - every day.  Good hard aerobic exercise.  Forcing air in.  Forcing air out of my lungs - as well as any mucus that might come up.  Make the lungs healthy.

These three things have made the world of difference.  Gone is the bag of drugs.  Gone is the steroid treatments.  Gone is the allergy shots.  Gone is the constant visits to a doctor's office who could not make me well.  I feel better than I have felt in, well, about 12 years.

If you have asthma, it is on you to take responsibility, and work this out with your doctor.  Asthma is a serious medical condition. 

Dont be satisfied with being ill - ask questions and listen to smart people.  If your doctor isnt making you well, consider getting a different doctor. Change your lifestyle.  Keep a journal and see if you can figure out your triggers.  Most importantly: Live healthy - really healthy (get enough sleep, eat good foods, take your vitamins, get away from pollution).  Experiment with a neti-pot. Finally, consider exercise; make your lungs healthy by using them.  

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