I've never told about my experience with asthma and seasonal allergies and how my body has healed from these ailments on the GAPS Diet. I mentioned it briefly on Day 275 but have never really told the whole story. The good news is that I have never had to go back on the asthma medication. I'm going to share my personal thoughts and experience here. I am not a doctor and we are all individuals and our bodies react differently. By doing GAPS I was able to get off asthma medication and no longer suffer from seasonal or dust allergies and I'm pretty darned happy about it.
This recent story from USA Today is saying that climate change is connected to the rise in allergies and asthma. It's being postulated that there is more carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air which is causing more plants to grow, which are releasing more pollens.
Cold or Allergies?
I first became aware of seasonal allergies in the 8th grade. I had another “cold” and one of my teachers asked me if I had allergies or a cold. I told him I thought it was a cold and he told me he thought it was allergies.
In my twenties I can remember having long sneezing bouts in the mornings. I tried taking over the counter allergy medications but as soon as the medication wore off the sneezing bout would resume. That's when I decided maybe my mother was right and doctors don't know everything. I learned if I just hung in there the sneezing fit eventually it would end. I'd be left for the remainder of the day with a stuffy nose and sinus pressure but at least I wasn't on medication.
Why I Avoided Dairy in the Last Month of my Pregnancy
When I was pregnant with my second son in 1988, I was seeing a midwife who agreed to be my doula at the hospital. She recommended that I stop having all dairy products for the month before my delivery as she said this would decrease or completely remove the need for my baby's mouth and nose to be suctioned at birth. As I felt this was a very invasive procedure for a newborn baby to endure I agreed to her suggestion.
I noticed a difference in how I felt when I stopped having dairy products. Of course these were conventional pasteurized dairy products – I didn't even know raw milk existed back then. After my son was born I resumed my love affair with dairy products and soon the thick phlegm in my throat that came back after I started on dairy products was once again easily ignored. I was not about to give up cheese and ice cream, phlegm or no phlegm.
Month Long Bout with Bronchitis and Pneumonia
In 2002 I came down with a very bad cold. I was bedridden and grew worse over the course of several days. When the constant coughing kept me awake for several days and nights I finally, reluctantly went to Urgent Care. At that time I was diagnosed with pneumonia bronchitis induced asthma. I was very sick, sicker than I had been any time in my life. I was so sick that I spent an entire month in bed, so sick that I couldn't even sit at my computer! In looking back I suspect this was my first adrenal crisis. It took months to regain my energy. When I returned to work after that 30 days we had recently moved to the rural area where we live now and in order for me to make the hour long drive home I had to go to my friend's home after working just four hours and take a nap. I had to ride in those shopping buggies at Walmart because I did not have enough energy to walk through the store, I was in an extremely weakened condition. It really changed the way I viewed people riding those carts from that time on. Prior to then I would see someone who “looked” perfectly healthy and wonder why they were using the electric cart. Even worse I learned that those carts often don't work very well. More than once the battery ran down completely while I was in the store and I had to walk back up to the front of the store on my own two feet. By that time I was so exhausted it was all I could do to get out to my car and drive home.
About six months later I had recovered most of my energy and felt much better but I was having a lot of trouble breathing. My primary care physician wanted me to start using asthma medication. I couldn't catch my breath and I was wheezing at times. I was extremely reluctant, and refusing the medication. So my doctor asked me if I would agree to see an allergy/asthma specialist. After a breathing test I was diagnosed with mild asthma and the allergy test came back showing I was allergic to almost everything I'd been tested.
I remember crying at that appointment because I felt like my body had failed me. My AAS (asthma/allergy specialist) said to me, “Ma'am, why are you crying? Asthma can be treated with medication. Of all the illnesses to choose from, asthma is one of the simplest ones to manage.”
I reluctantly agreed to start medication. Initially I was prescribed Serevent and Flovent to be used at the same time, plus Nasonex and Albuterol. My AAS told me it was okay to use the Nasonex on a “as needed” basis and I used it only when I absolutely needed it. Usually after an exposure to dust, for example, cleaning my closet or cleaning the milking parlor (back when we had goats). After a time the AAS asked me if I had considered tapering off the Serevent or Flovent. To be honest I had never considered such a thing. I thought once a person was put on a medication it was for life. He told me how to taper off the Serevent and eventually I was only on Flovent. Over time we decreased the strength until I was on the lowest strength Flovent and used it only once daily.
My son Matthew also contracted pneumonia a couple of weeks after me – he actually had to be hospitalized for ten days because he was not getting enough oxygen and his lower legs and lips had turned blue. That was incredibly frightening. He was diagnosed with asthma and placed on medication.
If either of us got a cold it was really scary because there was a high chance we would end up with a terrible cough and wheezing, and who knew what all would happen? Of course the doctor insisted that we had to take antibiotics and prednisone for several days. One time I ended up in the emergency room I was wheezing so bad. After spending the night wheezing I was finally seen, given a shot of prednisone and a prescription of prednisone to take home. I hated the feeling I got on prednisone. I was super wired, couldn't sleep and felt extremely hungry. “Watch what you eat because you could gain weight,” admonished the doctor. Right. No fun managing such voracious hunger.
I hated it. I hated being on medication, I hated the risks, I hated being fearful of catching a cold, I hated having to pick up prescriptions, I hated calling them in, I hated having to budget money for them.
I also had seasonal allergies. Only I could never figure out what was causing them as there seemed to be no rhyme or reason, I just seemed to have them most of the year.
I tried a few things to help my allergies. I tried eating honey [affiliate link] from bees in the area, that didn't work. After we got our dairy goats I started to drink their milk raw and I was able to get off the Flovent but only for a few months. The theory was that drinking their milk since they were exposed to the allergens where we lived would heal my allergies since their bodies would produce antibodies which would be in their milk. It worked for a while and I went off the Flovent but after a couple of weeks I was using my rescue inhaler so much that I had to admit I needed the Flovent to breathe easily. 🙁
Starting on GAPS
Then I started on GAPS. Since I already knew that my body was sensitive (allergic?) to dairy products I decided to start with full GAPS with no dairy products (except butter which has almost none of the substances that cause dairy reactions).
After being on GAPS for mere weeks I decided to try and get off the Flovent. Flovent is a corticosteroid. I was not aware at the time that one of the serious side effects of Flovent was decreased adrenal function. I tried to go off too quickly. I do not recall feeling tiredness or weakness which is a sign that adrenal function is decreased but I did feel like I could not catch my breath and had to use my rescue inhaler regularly in order to breath properly.
From the Flovent site:
FLOVENT can cause serious side effects, including:
- decreased adrenal function (adrenal insufficiency). Symptoms of decreased adrenal function include tiredness, weakness, nausea and vomiting, and low blood pressure. Decreased adrenal function can lead to death.
With great disappointment I went back on the Flovent.
Success – No More Asthma Meds
However, a few months later, having done Introduction and having been on GAPS for almost ten months I started to super slowly decrease my doses. I started skipping a dose every few days. It took me several weeks to slowly, slowly, slowly decrease my doses and finally I stopped. It felt so liberating to be released from having to take medication.
I have had no problems breathing and have been off asthma medication since September 2010. I had one cold a few months later with some slight wheezing and used my rescue inhaler and the next cold I had no breathing problems whatsoever. I have not had a cold since.
As for my allergies, they are also gone. I can tell when it's “that time of the year” because most of my coworkers suffer from allergies. They are sneezing, wheezing, clearing their throats, coughing and taking medications both prescription and over the counter while I am breathing clearly. No clogged sinuses, no sneezing, no scratchy throat, no symptoms whatsoever. And Matthew no longer has to do breathing treatments since he has been on GAPS. It is so nice not having to be stressed out and afraid that Matthew is having trouble breathing and “Oh no, Matt has to go to to the doct-oh!”
Heal Your Gut – Heal Your Allergies
When we heal our gut our body no longer reacts to these outer influences. I can even get in my closet which is terribly dusty and move things around and I have no reaction to the dust. This is good because I live in a dusty rural area and it's very hard to keep things dust-free.
My friend Cara from Health Home and Happiness was able to heal her dairy allergies in just six weeks on GAPS Introduction, unfortunately when I have tried to reintroduce fermented dairy (the only kind allowed on GAPS) I was plagued with sinus congestion to the point where I can't breathe through my nose. I have grown fond of sleeping comfortably at night with my mouth closed and bonus: no more drool on my pillow! And here is something else that I just realized – I just checked and my tonsils appear to be of a normal size. I have had enlarged tonsils for my entire life. I thought due to the repeated infections for so many years that my tonsils were scarred and would always be huge.
I'm very thankful that I was willing to give GAPS a chance to help my body heal. I was so resistant to give up any foods for so many years… I guess it just became time.
Have you found healing on GAPS or are you just starting out? I would love to hear from you in the comments. Even if you just say Hi or Thanks, I would love to know you stopped by.
Wardeh from GNOWFGLINS interviews Lydia Joy Shatney In Know Your Food Episode #036 about Heal Your Gut Course