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Asthma and dairy products

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!


Some words about Euthanasia from a grieving pet mom

I wrote this post in 2012 when my most beloved companion of 19 years had to be helped across the Rainbow Bridge. I have occasionally shared it with friends to offer some tiny bit of comfort when they are in the same situation. I’m just moving it to my active blog.



Yesterday was a horrible, horrible day. I had to say goodbye to my best friend, a tiny little grey cat.

Tesh has been my constant companion for just shy of 19 years. She slept in my bed under the covers. We’ve traveled together. I hardly know how to eat a piece of chicken without tearing bits off for her. Spoiled rotten and the Empress of my universe just barely begins to cover it.

Euthanasia is a very difficult decision. When is it time? Do we have the right? How long should we wait? We are strongly conditioned against death in our western society. I’m not sure why. Death is a guaranteed part of life. It’s sad, but so is wasting away and living in pain. Surely we don’t want that for our loved ones. Why do we drag things out for them? Make them stay with us? When, with love, we should want something better for them.

Here’s what I learned yesterday. We’re thinking about it the wrong way.

A year ago I learned Tesh had developed kidney disease. We started some medication. A few months ago the progression warranted sub cutaneous fluids and another pill. Then my darling, who has always been exempt from the laws of gravity, stopped being able to jump on the bed. Then it was hard to get to my chair. She lost interest in food.

Then I started thinking maybe she’d pass in her sleep so I wouldn’t have to make a hard decision.

That was a big mistake. If you are starting to hope they’ll pass in their sleep? Its time to start thinking about helping them along. Because there comes a time when they turn the corner between living longer and dying slowly.

I was so conditioned against ‘taking a life’ and so afraid of my own grief that I was looking at assisted passing all wrong. I wasn’t taking anything. I was giving my darling the very last gift I could give her. I held her in my arms. I comforted her during her injection and I cuddled her just as I always had until her little spirit was free. Free from pain. Free from the prison of a body that held her back from all the things she’d always loved.

And I realized that I’d given myself a gift too. I’d had every possible second with her. If she had passed ‘naturally’ she might have been in pain. She might have been scared. She might have been alone. I might have missed those last precious moments. Instead, I was there. There was no fear. No pain. Just the trust that has always been between us, that I would take care of things and everything would be ok for her. She passed easily from her comfortable place on my chest, where she’s spent countless hours, to whatever comes next for those we love.

For me, there is only the knowledge that, as I always have, I did my very best for her. I did not fail her in her last days and minutes. A small comfort with the loss of her loving presence, but since she was going to be lost to me anyway, every little bit makes a difference. Sorrow, but not one moment of regret.

Gluten-free dining out: Burton’s Grill in Alexandria

I originally posted this in 2016 in a different blog, but I’m consolidating. The menu has shifted since I wrote this, but their commitment to being allergy-safe has not. Every order containing an allergy special order is delivered by a manager on a square plate, so you can be sure they were paying attention.

If you go, my favorite menu item is the g/f General Tso’s cauliflower, served with a ginger aioli. I’ve gone there just so I can have that. Delicious.


This past weekend for a small celebration we went to the new Burton’s Grill in Alexandria. It just went in by my Wegman’s, my new favorite grocery store. Better than Whole Foods.

My husband had heard about it; specifically that they are famous for having a gluten free menu. But it’s more than that. They are focused on catering to food allergies in general.

The restaurant is generally nice, and I have to say their chairs are more comfortable than many, having a wider padded seat, for those of us who don’t prefer booths. The space was open and airy and the Alexandria location has a great patio and easy parking.

Normally when you check the gluten free menu, it’s about a half page of the things that are already gluten free but that the kitchen will take special care with. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that. But sometimes its sad to look at a lovely long list of foods that the others at your table are going to order that aren’t available for you. Not at Burton’s. There are only a handful of items on the ‘regular’ menu that aren’t also on the gluten free menu. The menu is relatively simple, but with a good variety and a nice modern twist on classic dishes.

They have an extensive and fun looking drinks menu. We avoided alcohol, having indulged in Bahama Mama’s the night before over Tex-Mex, but there were still some fun options. He had the pomegranate iced tea which was very  nice, fully flavored without being too sweet. I had a huckleberry-lime rickey, perfect for such a beautiful warm day and I can see those being very popular as we move into the hot weather.

My husband ordered one of the few non-gluten free items, the Burton’s Imperial. This is a crab stuffed, breaded filet of fish, on that particular day it was cod. The fish was cooked perfectly, the breading wasn’t over done, and the seasoning was great. He’d started with the crab bisque, which *is* on the g/f menu, showing that they are making a serious effort, because bisques are often thickened with a little flour. It was apparently excellent, Mike is eager to order it again in the future.

I had the steak frites, a classic flatiron steak served with french fries, something I learned to love living in France. This had a fresh chimmichurri  on top to liven it up, but I don’t think it was needed. The fries were fresh, the steak had a lovely flavor and was both perfectly cooked and also nicely presented.

Dessert is another place I think they excelled. The key lime pie, one of Mike’s favorites, isn’t gluten free but it was reportedly excellent. There was also a g/f chocolate-espresso mousse and a g/f berry compote cheesecake. But where they really hit the home run is there was also a non-dairy gluten free dessert. That never happens. It was a chia seed pudding with fresh fruit. Definitely not something you see every day and suitable for both those with dairy allergies and vegans. I’m really impressed.

I also want to mention that beyond the menu, our server was lovely and took the ordering process very seriously. She had a datapad of some sort and made extensive notes on my multiple requests so nothing was garbled or lost in translation. Each item was prepared correctly and not only do all special allergy-related dishes get put on square plates for special over site, they are then hand delivered by a manager so they can see that everything was done according to the needs of the customer.

I’m very excited to see Burton’s Grill claiming the allergy friendly space, and I certainly plan to do my part in making them a success.


Time for more

One thing that everyone with unrelenting health issues knows is, it’s exhausting. Constantly struggling to manage better, trying new treatment options, diets, supplements, exercises… There’s always something, and it’s both tiring and tiresome.

Yes, I get completely bored with my own issues.

Which is why I haven’t posted here since January. I was tired. I was uninterested. I’ve written other things, but not what I usually cover. That’s no way to run a blog, so I’ll be expanding my subject. It’s still the same old rat, we’re just expanding the study.

Cold things only.

The other day a friend of mine posted to Facebook and used the hashtag #coldthingsonly.

I had a moment of profound and overwhelming empathy. Oh, my friend, I wish you weren’t there. And then a moment of “I thought it was only me, I’m not alone.”

#coldthingsonly is about running out of spoons before the day’s work is done. It means you had enough energy to go to the store (or no choice) but you used up all the energy you had shopping and when you get home, you hurt too much, or don’t have the energy to bring in all the groceries. Just the cold things. The rest will just have to stay in the car until you get back to them. Or urgently need them. Or if you’re very fortunate someone in your life will bring them in for you.

Because, remember, bringing in the cold things isn’t the end of the chore. You have to have the energy to put things away once you’re all in. This is one of the things I know normally healthy people don’t really think about.

Is it selfish to have a moment of comfort because you aren’t the only one? It’s a hard mental place. I don’t want my friends to suffer. I don’t want others to be in pain or exhausted. But there is a small comfort from knowing that someone else can viscerally understand what your situation is. What ever it is.

I’ve got your back my friend.


Getting it done.

I don’t much care for exercise. I never really have.

I hear people say how invigorated they are after a run, or how their body just craves movement after a long day.

I am baffled. I have never, ever felt like that. Not even as a child. Maybe when I was very small, before conscious memory, but most of my childhood involved sneaking around until I could find a quiet place to read my book, so I’m doubtful.

But the reality is, getting exercise is the only real way to keep your muscles strong and responsive, and to keep aging joints loose and as mobile as they’re going to get. Now there are lots of ways to exercise. Dancing is great exercise. Hiking, biking, walking the dog. If you can find something you enjoy, absolutely do that.

I’ve never been able to find something I really enjoy. So I’ve settled for maximum result with minimal pain. Both figurative and literal. Iron will now sees me in the local rec center pool for mornings a week. I have to work hard not to resent it. It feels like it takes up so much time for other, more interesting things I could be doing.

I  can’t read or write in the pool.

It does do the job though. I walk in the shallow end. Buoyancy takes the weight off my knees, but moving the water adds difficulty and builds strength. Adding floats lets me bring my arms in on the action. I’m there with a collection of regulars, most of whom are older than me, but we’re all friendly. I’ve even made some good friends in the pool.

I was grateful during some recent travel that I’ve been putting in the effort. I was able to navigate long airport hallways and getting in an out of small seats much more easily than this time last year.

Me and my creaky knees will see you in a pool then.

It’s all in the incantation


When I went to see my sleep specialist, he did 2 things. He gave me a great new med that seems to have fixed my restless leg. And he referred me to another sleep study.

The new drug works great. Restless leg is basically a misfire in the brain, and the drug stops that. It’s lovely. My husband reports that he no longer sees me rhythmically twitching when he comes to bed. This is excellent. Not only am I sleeping better, but my knees are much happier when they aren’t running marathons all night. Who knew.

The sleeps study. Well, that’s the reason for the Harry Potter clip. Because in dealing with insurance, it’s all about getting the incantation correct, and I guess we didn’t. My rejection letter was pretty ridiculous. It said that we had failed to prove that my daytime sleepiness wasn’t from a more common cause like sleep apnea. Even though they already paid for the study that clearly found restless leg and no sleep apnea at all. So I guess they didn’t even bother to read my chart before they declined.

It’s appalling really. We have excellent insurance. And yet it’s a darn good thing I don’t have a traditional day job because I have spent hours in the last year getting various issues sorted that should have been covered, but I had to argue about it. I even have a company-supplied advocate who helps me with these arguments.

Our system is so very, very broken. Excellent insurance should not still require me to fight for necessary tests and justify things  with reams and reams of paperwork. I’m grateful, but disheartened.