Is medication for asthma the only solution to controlling it?

Is asthma medication the only way to control asthma?

Three weeks ago, I moved into a friend’s house, knowing that they owned a cat, and the significance of that is, I have an allergy to cats.

Over the last few years, since I’ve started practicing breathwork daily, I’ve used my asthma inhaler on a handful of occasions, and I’d noticed that when visiting friends who owned cats, my allergic reaction appeared to be less strong than those I had before beginning the regular breathwork, and so wondered whether I had de-sensitised myself a little to cats?

On the day I moved in I needed to use my inhaler multiple times, however at that point I was living out of tons of cardboard boxes, and was surrounded by them, and knowing that I am also allergic to dust mites, it was far from clear whether it was the cat, the dust, or both.

A few days later, with fewer boxes and having hoovered, but the frequency of requiring the asthma medication not reducing, it seemed to become clearer that my thoughts about having desensitised myself to cats were false.

Is asthma medication the only way to control asthma?After two weeks of living there, it was pretty obvious the cat allergy was causing my regular wheeziness and shortness of breath. I now live in a very hilly area, and I was getting out of breath just walking up hills, whereas a few weeks before, I could walk up hills at a pretty fast pace with no issues. So last week I decided I needed to be proactive about this, and take some steps to address the issue.

I decided to do a daily routine comprising 4 protocols:
  1. Daily cold shower plus Wim Hof/Tummo breathing
  2. Buteyko breathwork exercises 5 times a day
  3. Adopted a low histamine diet
  4. Oxygen Advantage “Breathe Light to Breathe Right” breath-hold exercise

Below is a more detailed journal of the routine I followed.

But in short, I began this routine on Feb 9 and used the inhaler 3 times that day. My guess was it would take a few weeks for it to show some signs of improving.

As I had been using the asthma inhaler so frequently in the first two weeks of moving, it was running low. I contacted the new GP surgery I had registered with and requested a prescription for some new asthma medication. They told me I would need to speak with their “Asthma nurse”. It was a telephone consultation, which took place on Feb 10.

During the conversation with the nurse, she indicated she had never heard of the Buteyko method, and it was clear from her voice she was very dismissive of how any breathing protocols might help. She told me I needed to take the “Preventer inhaler” before sleep and after waking daily, but that it would take maybe a week before the effects really took hold, and so in the meantime, I might need to continue with the “Reliever inhaler” for a few days more, and to then come in and see her on March 17.

I told her I had started a routine to combat this and was quite confident that I would not need to take so much medication, and that I was feeling a little better already (that was the 2nd day of the routine). Again, she repeated I should take the medication twice a day and seemingly ignored what I had told her. Even though I had also informed her, I was trained as an instructor in these breathing methods.

The inhaler was used three times on Feb 9, once on Feb 10, and has not been used at all since then!

I’m writing this on the evening of Feb 14 and I feel immensely stronger than when I began this routine five days ago. I find it unlikely I’ll require use of the medication again between now and seeing the nurse on March 17, and it will be interesting to see how that conversation goes.

Here is a journal of how this progressed over a 5-day period:

Is asthma medication the only way to control asthma?
February 9:
First thing after waking: 5 sets of 30 rapid breaths in a Wim Hof/Tummo style, followed by a 90 second cold shower and then some more Wim Hof breathing and other exercises that are part of the Wim Hof method-WHM).
Followed by the first set of Buteyko breathing, which was 5 sets of breath holds on the exhale (Each set was 10% longer than the previous one.
1st set: 25 seconds
2nd set: 27
3rd set: 30
4th set: 33
5th set: 37
Between each set, 2 minutes of light breathing, followed by 1 minute of normal breathing)
Morning walk, up and down hills. Struggled up some hills and required use of inhaler.
2nd Buteyko session before lunch.
At lunchtime, I began the low histamine diet, which essentially reduces the amount of non-fresh and fermented foods.
Evening meal:
There were 3 further Buteyko sessions between 3pm and 10pm, followed by as part of my evening wind-down routine; 20 minutes session of slow breathing (known in the Oxygen Advantage method as “Breathe Light to Breathe Right” BLBR, in which I did
Inhale: 4 seconds
Breath hold: 2 seconds
Exhale: 10 seconds
Pause: 2 seconds

Repeated for 20 minutes.

Used asthma inhaler 3 times.

February 10:
After waking: 5 sets of 30 rapid breaths in WHM/Tummo style
90 second cold shower and then some more WHM breathing and other exercises part of WHM.
First set of Buteyko breathing: 5 sets of breath holds on the exhale
1st set: 25 seconds
2nd set: 27
3rd set: 30
4th set: 33
5th set: 37
Between each set, 2 minutes of light breathing, followed by 1 minute of normal breathing)
Morning walk, up and down hills. Struggled up some hills , took a rest partway.
2nd Buteyko session
Lunchtime: Decided to do a 42 hour water fast (I have been doing regular water fasts for a few years now, so am very used to them).
No food today. Last meal was at 4.30pm on Feb 9.
3 further Buteyko sessions between 3pm and 10pm

Evening wind-down routine; 20 minutes session of BLBR

Used asthma inhaler 1 time.

February 11:
After waking: 5 sets of 30 rapid breaths in WHM/Tummo style
90 second cold shower and then some more WHM breathing and other exercises part of WHM.
First set of Buteyko breathing: 5 sets of breath holds on the exhale
1st set: 35 seconds
2nd set: 38
3rd set: 42
4th set: 46
5th set: 52
Between each set, 2 minutes of light breathing, followed by 1 minute of normal breathing)
Morning walk, up and down hills. Struggled up some hills , took a rest partway.
2nd Buteyko session
Lunchtime: Continued on Low histamine diet.
Evening meal:
3 further Buteyko sessions between 3pm and 10pm

Evening wind-down routine; 20 minutes session of BLBR

Used asthma inhaler 0 times.

February 12:
After waking: 5 sets of 30 rapid breaths in WHM/Tummo style
90 second cold shower and then some more WHM breathing and other exercises part of WHM.
First set of Buteyko breathing: 5 sets of breath holds on the exhale
1st set: 35 seconds
2nd set: 38
3rd set: 42
4th set: 46
5th set: 52
Between each set, 2 minutes of light breathing, followed by 1 minute of normal breathing)
Morning walk, up and down hills. Hills were much easier, but walked relatively slow.
2nd Buteyko session
Lunchtime: Continued on Low histamine diet.
Evening meal:
3 further Buteyko sessions between 3pm and 10pm

Evening wind-down routine; 20 minutes session of BLBR

Used asthma inhaler 0 times.

February 13:
After waking: 5 sets of 30 rapid breaths in WHM/Tummo style
90 second cold shower and then some more WHM breathing and other exercises part of WHM.
First set of Buteyko breathing: 5 sets of breath holds on the exhale
1st set: 40 seconds
2nd set: 44
3rd set: 48
4th set: 53
5th set: 58
Between each set, 2 minutes of light breathing, followed by 1 minute of normal breathing)
Morning walk, up and down hills. Hills were much easier, walked slightly faster and felt much stronger.
2nd Buteyko session
Lunchtime: Continued on Low histamine diet.
Evening meal:
3 further Buteyko sessions between 3pm and 10pm

Evening wind-down routine; 20 minutes session of BLBR

Used asthma inhaler 0 times.

February 14:
After waking: 5 sets of 30 rapid breaths in WHM/Tummo style
90 second cold shower and then some more WHM breathing and other exercises part of WHM.
First set of Buteyko breathing: 5 sets of breath holds on the exhale
1st set: 40 seconds
2nd set: 44
3rd set: 48
4th set: 53
5th set: 58
Between each set, 2 minutes of light breathing, followed by 1 minute of normal breathing)
Played football, and again felt far stronger.
2nd Buteyko session
Lunchtime: Continued on Low histamine diet.
Evening meal:
3 further Buteyko sessions between 3pm and 10pm

Evening wind-down routine; 20 minutes session of BLBR

Used asthma inhaler 0 times.

Is asthma medication the only way to control asthma?
Disclosure:
I am an Oxygen Advantage instructor and also a Health Coach trained in nutrition.

Before moving into this house, I was pretty fit, and was alarmed at how quickly my respiration declined. However, the fact that it had been at a strong starting point was almost certainly a contributing factor to the speed of this recovery.

The above is not intended as advice. The routine that is right for a person depends on many different factors, including their age, fitness level, metabolism, time available to practice, how they eat, how their sleep quality/quantity is, and stress levels, to name a few.

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