How I use complimentary medicine to control my asthma and an asthma history!

Hi folks! I feel compelled for some reason to share a bit of my asthma history as I reckon I've turned a corner in it.

Firstly, I got a diagnosis of asthma aged about 7, am in my mid - late 20's now.

For a long time, I felt my asthma was very difficult to control. I especially noticed this in a holiday home that my family had bought, often having to wake up several times a night to use the blue ventolin inhaler, often finding its main effect was to make me dizzy rather than bringing about predicatble relief :( Like probably many children with asthma, my respiratory health was potmarked with lung infections and memorable occasions on the salbutamol machine in out of hours doctor centres.

Really looking back on it a lot of my life was affected by my asthma, places I would and wouldn't go, it also kept me from feeling comfortable enough to exercise regularly.

For some unknown reason I enjoyed a patch in my life relatively free from asthma when I started university, however this didn't last long and again I was back on the brown and blue inhalers. Should say I also had recurrent and quite violent migraines to boot as well as an (undiagnosed) anxiety disorder and recurrent ear infections - which didn't help at all!

I started taking exercise and began jogging on roads and noticed that that kind of aerobic exercise was making me clear my throat very regularly - as in, every few steps! I noticed that I was a lot phlegm-yer (!) than perhaps most other runners. At that stage I also got a medicines review and was placed almost by sheer chance on to symbicort after an asthma clinic as the doctor had a friend who was a rep for the company that produces it and an asthmatic who had noticed a great improvement despite being largely sedentary and a smoker.

Huge difference noticed - day before was jogging along to a local town (approx 1.5 miles) and day after beginning symbicort could jog there and back (1.5 miles) of course, could have been psychological - producers warn can take a few weeks for people to notice any difference.

However it wasn't too long before I noticed an increased usage and began to get worried it was ""wearing off"". I also did a pre employment test that suggested I had the lung capacity of the 50+ year old norm group!!

I had never really dabbled too much with ""alternative"" medicine, but had been introduced as part of a series of cursory value added lectures in my pharmacy course.

To cut a long story short, after becoming aware of it via my interest in yoga I decided to search through ayurvedic medicines to see what could help. I had a basic grasp of ayurveda theory which I wasn't quite sure how to apply. In the meantime I came across the local ""salt caves"" via press adverts - tried that weekend and was able to compete in a half marathon in the same area as my childhood nemesis holiday home without using the symbicort once.

I then had a look at a reputable UK ayurveda medicine/supplement producer (if I am allowed to name them, its Pukka - if not please edit and remove :) ) - of course current ridiculous UK health food legislation meant I had a LOT of research to do as they ARE NOT allowed to tell you what each supplement is used for [only in the UK!!]

Another good thing about the producer is that they are organic and have quite obviously blended each product to cope with a series of specific areas. I tried Tulsi [upper respiratory tract] as well as neem, using chywanaprash jam for a herb called Vacha and noticed an improvement; but it wasn't till I tried Trikatu plus daily ginger and liquorice teas that I really noticed a massive improvement, beyond symbicort usage.

Bear in mind I have no formal ayurvedic training, I believe I have done well. I also do regular sinus irrigations using previously boiled water and salt in a neti pot. I believe this regime really keeps my lungs from kicking out the excessive mucus that clogs my lungs both in the upper and lower tracts. I also rely on some ayurvedic remedies that sound a bit whacky! But help on occasions I get breathless. Of course regular exercise - especially aerobic exercise like ashtanga and jogging helps most.

I would not reccomend this to anyone but I have been able thusly to stop regular symbicort / inhaler use. Of course my asthma isn't completely gone but I can finally get to grips with and control my asthma better than I could when relying solely on prescribed medicine and the ""soft soap"" catch all advice. I also don't think doctors were taking my asthma that seriously despite the massive discomfort it caused me, they were only seemingly concerned with booking me in for ""asthma clinics"" for their figures :(

I also try and follow dietary advice to reduce foods that increase my propensity to overproduce mucus.

Any ayurveda buffs out there, have I got this right? I believe my problem is an excess of Kapha, particularily Kledaka Kapha in the lungs [salt, trikatu]. I'd be Kapha pakruti bodywise and use these medicines to increase dispersal and for their anti-spasmodic properties to relax the bronchioles.

So that's how I did it! I noticed that coming off symbicort has reduced my migraines significantly and noticed when I do take it it constricts my chest. My stamina is also better - don't have to walk as much when doing 10k distance. I'm not ""free"" but feel a good lot better, I reckon its a monitoring job but pleased I can finally give asthma a what for.

55 min 10k time on a flat course too! Happy to take any questions, thanks for reading :_ )

12 Replies

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  • Thanks for sharing your story. I have been interested in finding alternative ways of dealing with my asthma and feel inspired by your success.

    Can i ask, did you consult an Ayurvedic practitioner or just work it out yourself?

    I just found a dosha quiz online and my result was excess kapha!

    I have a neti pot too and use it when I have problems with my sinuses - works brilliantly. But now I'm thinking I should just use I regularly to keep mucus levels down.

    Have you changed your diet at all?

  • no problem, thanks for your comments!

    I didn't consult an ayurvedic practicioner - have been taught yoga by a traditional ayurvedic doctor (vadiya) though who did pass on some brilliant info especially as regards breathing exercises or ""pranayama"".

    For myself, I just downloaded an ayurvedic ""materia medica"" and researched as many books as I could - mostly by the wonderful Dr Vasant Lad, especially reccommend his home ayurvedic remedies book. Very useful.

    An ayurvedic doctor would do a whole lifestyle review - and to be honest, ayurveda is truly holistic so indeed I did look at what I was eating and sought out ayurvedic recepie books etc. I *try* and keep my diet as kapha beating as is possible - generally the idea is to avoid mucus forming foods, (dairy products with notable exceptions like ghee and goats milk)cold foods, bannanas and sweet things. However I like a treat!! :) I realized that it was a combination of things making my asthma worse. This includes sleep patterns, exercise, diet, state of mind etc. Thats what I love about ayurveda - its not just medicine in isolation, its your whole life that is looked at.

    I would ceirtanly reccommend consulting a practicioner, you seem to know a wee bit about the theory too! Maybe even try seeing if the NHS still has ayurvedic Drs on its books (it has accupuncturists). I'm thinking of doing something similar but I have to say I've gotten on very well just using my own research and knowledge. The great thing about Pukka is that sebastian pole [the ayurvedist that blends the products] has quite obviously combined herbs for specific ailments and conditions, and in pill form for us westerners used to taking pills rather than eating the plant!!

    Neti is great and I have been told it should be used everyday. Nasya oil can be used straight after blowing your nose too and supposedly the next step is to apply rose water to your eyes to cleanse the whole area. I'd use pre boiled and cooled water though, the things that do the rounds on the usual anti-""alternative"" med websites are the fact that some ayurvedic products aren't strictly grown and contain heavy metals - pukka for example avoid this by using strict organic methods and are FDA approved - i.e. certified safe. The other thing is that one fella died from using dirty neti pot in freak accident - completely eliminated by using pre boiled water and using from known sanitary water source. I believe he wasn't cleaning his pot and using polluted water.

    Hope that helps and do let us know how you get on

  • of course current ridiculous UK health food legislation meant I had a LOT of research to do as they ARE NOT allowed to tell you what each supplement is used for [only in the UK!!]

    Just a point about this - current UK regulations are there to ensure that health foods can only be advertised as fit for a specific purpose if it has been satisfactorily scientifically proven that they have the claimed benefit! I'm rather proud that the UK has this regulation, as it prevents all the completely unfounded claims about certain ""remedies"" that we used to see. Despite these regulations, the ""health food"" industry is still nowhere near as heavily regulated as the pharmaceutical industry is.

    Aside from that, I'll just add the usual Asthma UK reminder:

    Do not embark on any alternative treatment regimes without discussing it with your GP/asthma nurse/consultant first. There is always a possibility that something about any new regime may have adverse effects with your current medication or treatment plan.

  • Moderator Post:

    By all means consider ayurveda or other complementary therapies. However, discuss it with your own doctor/asthma nurse first please and don't stop taking usual medications.

    Some people find alternative/complementary therapies help, others don't and they can be quite harmful.

    Saline nasal/sinus rinses can help and are sometimes recommended by ENT doctors.

  • thanks mods! yes i concurr with your sage advice.

    Got to say though that I've worked in pharmacy - did degree etc - as has my brother, and have worked as a scientist. Would have to disagree with the idea that its more heavily regulated hence safer. I speak personally of course. I know you're keen on the UK legislation and yes its nice in theory... but in actuality, no products have gone off the market. For me, its main result is that you have hundreds of bottles with names and contents but no way of working out what its for in the shop. Its really the offline retailers that will be hit with this. Especially apparent with homeopathic meds, thanks to the ""Sterling"" work of celeb scientist simon singh et al. Really we're taking the nanny state to a beauracratic extreme, and people can still google a products' therapeutic usage wether substantiated or not, so what have we really changed??

    Health foods don't command the monolithic weight of pharmaceuticals due to many factors, economics being chief amongst them in my opinion. There is less money in a supplement than there is in a BP brand named drug. Regulation, as many a doctor has confided in me, really doesn't make any medicine safer, its just we are more aware of the risks/ side effects, which can be worse than the disease itself. Less research done on ceirtain health foods due to the companies that produce them less able to pay for the fees of proper research, and the likelihood is that should it come to a conclusion that runs counter to orthodoxy it will be savaged.

    Pharma businesses are of course corrupt - plenty of proper books written by reputable sources (like the ex head of the pharmaceutical society amazon.co.uk/The-Truth-abou... that index corruption. Just trying to bring balance to your points guys! I really do not like at all the fact that some people are healthily sceptical about some things but treat others as completely sacrosanct, and my career within medicine has taught me this is done at your peril. Of course I agree with the mods that you need to convey ceirtain points for legal reasons etc.

  • Got to say though that I've worked in pharmacy - did degree etc - as has my brother, and have worked as a scientist. Would have to disagree with the idea that its more heavily regulated hence safer. I speak personally of course. I know you're keen on the UK legislation and yes its nice in theory... but in actuality, no products have gone off the market. For me, its main result is that you have hundreds of bottles with names and contents but no way of working out what its for in the shop. Its really the offline retailers that will be hit with this. Especially apparent with homeopathic meds, thanks to the ""Sterling"" work of celeb scientist simon singh et al. Really we're taking the nanny state to a beauracratic extreme, and people can still google a products' therapeutic usage wether substantiated or not, so what have we really changed??

    Health foods don't command the monolithic weight of pharmaceuticals due to many factors, economics being chief amongst them in my opinion. There is less money in a supplement than there is in a BP brand named drug. Regulation, as many a doctor has confided in me, really doesn't make any medicine safer, its just we are more aware of the risks/ side effects, which can be worse than the disease itself. Less research done on ceirtain health foods due to the companies that produce them less able to pay for the fees of proper research, and the likelihood is that should it come to a conclusion that runs counter to orthodoxy it will be savaged.

    Pharma businesses are of course corrupt - plenty of proper books written by reputable sources (like the ex head of the pharmaceutical society amazon.co.uk/The-Truth-abou... that index corruption. Just trying to bring balance to your points guys! I really do not like at all the fact that some people are healthily sceptical about some things but treat others as completely sacrosanct, and my career within medicine has taught me this is done at your peril.

    The big problem I have is that many people seem to think that it's okay for ""natural"" remedies to claim to be safe and do all kinds of magical things, and they take this as sacrosanct rather than doing proper research into it.

    I didn't claim that regulation makes things safe, but as you have pointed out, it does make people more aware of the side effects. It also makes people aware of the adverse interactions drugs can have with each other. Whilst this cannot ever hope to make anything completely safe, it certainly makes them significantly safer than they would otherwise be.

    And whilst you can bash the pharma industry, let's not forget that the ""natural""/""herbal"" remedy industry is also hugely corrupt, and is far more prone to prey on vulnerable people who are at their wits end and would do anything to get some relief. Many claims by manufacturers of such products are simply outright lies, and this at least is something that regulation prevents the pharmaceutical industry from doing. I think that proving that stuff doesn't have any beneficial effect (the work of Simon Singh et ál) is very much sterling work.

    Is there really less money in herbal remedies than in pharmaceuticals? I've not seen any evidence that this is so - indeed, the proliferation of websites etc. providing herbal remedies suggests that it is a rather lucrative business to be in, especially considering the huge costs of testing drugs for efficacy and safety are not required before a herbal remedy goes on sale.

    I have no experience of the pharma industry, and neither does any member of my family. I am, however, of a very scientific bent and like to see proper proof before accepting what something will or won't do. I think I'm allowed a healthy cynicism towards unfounded claims, be they by the herbal remedy industry or by the pharma industry - it's just that regulation tends to prevent the latter.

  • I'm no expert but I believe (and this has been confirmed by experts) that a suppliment sold widely in health food shops would have a detrimental effect when used with one of my prescribed meds. I think its good to be sceptical and check things out properly, these things may not always be obvious to a non-expert such as me.

  • My head is buzzing with Ayurvedic theory!

    Saw GP who is supportive of alternative therapies but for now says to stick with allopathic drugs esp as I have only just come out of hospital.

    Also feel its best not to mix the two for now. But once I have recovered from this episode, I feel that Ayurveda could provide a good solution. Perhaps not a complete cure but just better health in general.

    In the mean time I have started drinking lemon and ginger tea rather than regular tea with milk (to reduce dairy) and used my neti pot - I forgot how clear it makes your head feel!

    Don't know if I'm allowed to mention books but I dug out 'The Ayurvedic cookbook' by Amadea Morningstar - loads of great recipes to balance kapha.

  • Don't know if I'm allowed to mention books but I dug out 'The Ayurvedic cookbook' by Amadea Morningstar - loads of great recipes to balance kapha.

    Yes, mentioning that is fine. We don't allow commercial advertising (in other words, if Amadea Monrningstar was a member here we wouldn't allow her to advertise her own book!) but recommendations are allowed.

  • I've got that book Angel65! Love the tasty chickpeas recipie. Do have to say watch out for its american terms for things - other books should also let you know that Hing is the hindi name for Asafoedita. She also refers to ""pressure cookers"" which I do not own, but use cooked beans (i.e. from cans readily available in tescos) and remove the long cooking time for some of the recipes. Good luck with your ayurvedic adventure! :)You've summarized it quite well.

    Oh and Steve - slightly preturbed you were not aware of the massive value of the pharmaceutical industry!http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/markets/ftse100/7863113/Top-ten-most-valuable-companies-in-the-FTSE-100-June-2010.html?image=7 , abpi.org.uk/industry-info/k... versus the supplements themedica.com/articles/2009... - these seem to suggest supplements aren't worth a 1/10th of the pharma industry, and the graphs say pharma exceeds aerospace and indeed most manufacturing industries. Have known a fella who was in an industry talk where the new labour minister berated the food industry and stated that pharma was the new big thing that would lead UK economy. Beyond the handful of stage magicians, celeb scientists et al I can't see any systematic corruption allegationbs on the levels of say price fixing, refusal to remove drug patents for developing countries to allow cheap medicine to become available and the epidemic of ""me-too"" R&D focus instead of treating disease. Not to mention how evidence is used in lawsuits against big pharma companies.

    Sure you have interactions - like, glucosamine with arthritic medicine, but then again cranberry juice interacts with warfarin and cigarette smoke with schizophrenia medicine. Health food shops, esp chains like h&b train people to ensure these don't go to people for whom they may cause interactions - none fatal however. The worst interaction I have seen is the drug Chlorpromazepine and natural sunlight. Awful. Really and honestly I don't think a handful of stupid miracle claims justifying red tape and the insinuation that people are generally not mature enough to make wise decisions about their own health is disheartening. Plenty of decent systematic evidence for a lot of widely used supplements, even ayurvedically foxnews.com/health/2012/05/... in the usage of turmeric.

    Looks like we will have to agree to disagree though ;) I hope you don't find this insulting, I'm not meaning to have a go, but I have noticed generally a lot of people that share your POV are not scientists by training nor have they worked in healthcare setting as professionals. Also very popular amongst the rise and rise of people that share rich dawkins philosophy of obligate materialism. And hugely popular in england!

    Cheers folks, great interesting stimulating conversation! Thanks guys

  • Oh and Steve - slightly preturbed you were not aware of the massive value of the pharmaceutical industry!http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/markets/ftse100/7863113/Top-ten-most-valuable-companies-in-the-FTSE-100-June-2010.html?image=7 , abpi.org.uk/industry-info/k... versus the supplements themedica.com/articles/2009... - these seem to suggest supplements aren't worth a 1/10th of the pharma industry, and the graphs say pharma exceeds aerospace and indeed most manufacturing industries. Have known a fella who was in an industry talk where the new labour minister berated the food industry and stated that pharma was the new big thing that would lead UK economy.

    Ah, but I never said that pharma wasn't big business, I just questioned whether it was more profitable on a like-for-like basis than the natural remedy industry.

    Beyond the handful of stage magicians, celeb scientists et al I can't see any systematic corruption allegationbs on the levels of say price fixing, refusal to remove drug patents for developing countries to allow cheap medicine to become available and the epidemic of ""me-too"" R&D focus instead of treating disease. Not to mention how evidence is used in lawsuits against big pharma companies.

    There must be hundreds of websites claiming that certain natural remedies do things that there is absolutely no evidence for. This is just as corrupt as any of the example you give, and much more widespread.

    Looks like we will have to agree to disagree though ;)

    Oh, absolutely. But if we all thought the same thing, there'd be no point in us having different names ;)

    I hope you don't find this insulting, I'm not meaning to have a go, but I have noticed generally a lot of people that share your POV are not scientists by training nor have they worked in healthcare setting as professionals. Also very popular amongst the rise and rise of people that share rich dawkins philosophy of obligate materialism. And hugely popular in england!

    I have an MSc, if that helps! It is, admittedly, in Software and Hardware Engineering, but nonetheless it has given me a decent scientific analytical background.

    oh and do people REALLY assume natural is better? I hope you are referencing several studies mr ;) lolz

    No, that was just based on seven years of moderating this message board. The number of posters who have unquestioningly believed the natural remedy industry war outweighs those who unquestioningly believe the pharma industry and doctors. After all, even I don't fall into that latter camp.

  • oh and do people REALLY assume natural is better? I hope you are referencing several studies mr ;) lolz

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