Originally posted in 2009 when I gave up dairy products and stopped having asthma symptoms.
This week I made a new friend. She’s an older woman and while we were chatting a number of things she said sounded like *classic* asthma symptoms. I’m not a doctor, but I have owned a set of asthmatic lungs my whole life. Her husband is even a respiratory therapist, and yet she’s just been dealing with it with no medical support.
This meeting caused me to reflect on how far I’ve come from Advair and Singulair and Clarinex and regular use of my rescue inhaler to…nothing.
That’s right, I said nothing. Life long problematic asthma to perfect control at age 35 with no drugs. I think I’ve used my rescue inhaler 3 times in 3 years, always cold related.
How did I do this? I gave up dairy products. You’re probably horrified. I’ll tell you that cheese used to be my all time favorite food, with ice cream a close second. But I’ll tell you a secret. Breathing is better than cheese.
Several years ago I was on a food related discussion forum and came across a small group talking about how going dairy free had practically ‘cured’ their asthma. My ears perked up; I payed strict attention because I was in the throws of one of my chronic bouts of bronchitis, reading forums because I was too sick and oxygen compromised to do anything more productive. I thought about it. I thought it couldn’t possibly be true. I thought I could never live without cheese. Dairy product are so healthy and nutritious!
But I was pretty desperate. The forum group suggested just 2 weeks would be enough to know if it was helping. Well, I can do almost anything for 2 weeks. So I went cheese free for 2 weeks.
4 years later, I’m still cheese free.
During those 2 weeks I went on a camping trip. I’d taken all my meds in the morning, filled my pockets up with tissues, and stuck an extra dose of allergy meds in my pocket because the usual dose never cut it during a day of fun, sun, and pollen, grass, and tree allergens. Round about supper time I sneezed and grabbed a tissue. And realized it was the first one I’d used all day. Only another allergy sufferer will understand how huge that was! (Seriously, did you know its possible to breathe through of both nostrils at the same time? I’d thought that was a myth!)
I never went back to cheese. I suddenly had better control over asthma than I’d had in years from that one simple change. It took me most of the next year to wean myself off dairy completely. I was very unwilling to give up cream, Indian food, creme brulee, and my beloved ice cream. But the longer stretches I could make myself hold out, the worse I felt when I fell off the wagon. I noticed digestive upsets I thought were ‘normal’. I noticed how much more allergy trouble I had for the next 2 days after I ate dairy. I finally manged to get myself completely off. And a few short months later I was also off all of my medications. (Those have to be weaned off slowly, preferably with medical supervision. Don’t just leap off willy-nilly!)
No more regular attacks. No more chronic bronchial infections. I’ve gone from 3-4 infections per year, to 3-4 years clear. No more trouble with exercised induced wheezing. No trouble camping and hiking. No trouble with indoor swimming pools. Only the very, very rare issue if I go warm to cold to warm again quickly, and not always then. No more regular heavy duty prescription allergy meds. I can take an OTC homeopathic as needed that gives me the relief I need on very bad allergen days.
No more spending $350/month on regular medications!
I just spent some time with google and am a little horrified at how many articles are out there saying that there is no reason for asthmatics to avoid dairy, that milk doesn’t increase mucus production. I can’t say for certain if it does or not, but I don’t think that’s the problem. As I said, I’m not a doctor, but I think its a food related intolerance to milk protein, casein, that puts our bodies in a state where we’re more sensitive to allergic triggers. Interspersed with the official medical stance are anecdotal tales from other asthma sufferers though, and so many people have found relief this way!
If you or someone you care for has trouble with asthma, I strongly urge you to just try dairy free for 2 weeks. If it doesn’t help, you’ve lost nothing. If it does help, think what you’ve gained!