To help you breathe better……

After last week, I decided to do some investigating of my own to find any natural remedies to aid my Asthma. I already know about the benefits of fresh lemon juice and its links to Asthma. I often drink lemon and ginger tea when unwell and have recently been having fresh lemon squeezed into a glass of water if any wheezing begins. It is not a cure by all means but it certainly helps. Other remedies include a few drops of eucalyptus oil on a tissue to be gently sniffed or drinking a strong black coffee (apparently it helps to open the airways).

I wanted to search for some breathing techniques too. For too long have I solely relied on my inhalers to relieve my Asthma symptoms. However, for my own resilience, I feel it is essential that I develop some more natural strategies to soothe and appease the pain.

A colleague of mine suggested Yoga. She is not the first person to mention it. My friend Katrina is constantly telling me to give it a go. She too suffers from Asthma and her regular love and practise of Yoga has practically sent it packing. I am not adverse to it, I just can’t seem to find enough willpower (or forced interest) in going to a Yoga class. It doesn’t seem “me”. Yes, health comes first before embarrassment but I doubt I’d feel very comfortable. I do not enjoy exercising around other people; an unfortunate side of Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I decided to take a look on YouTube and eventually fell onto a clip to do with the art of  “Pranayama” breathing. A Sanskrit word meaning “extension of breath”. Studies have shown it can be a great way to relieve asthmatic symptoms and reduce stress. I have only practised two forms of Pranayama – Shitali otherwise known as ‘Cooling breath’ where the breathing is done through the mouth with the tongue extended and Bhramari – Also known as ‘Bee Breath’ – where you make a humming sound while breathing. Both are equally effective. I tend to do the exercises at home before sleep and first thing in the morning (granted I have time before work!). I hope that over the following few weeks I can endeavour to attempt the other Pranayama exercises and hope that they also provide the same comfort as the others.

During my time at Drama School, we spent a lot of time before our dance and voice classes warming up. Much of this focussed on the way we breathed. We explored several techniques, drawing inspiration from Pilates, the Alexander Technique and general vocal warm ups. One exercise that I remembered was a technique that involved a partner. As you inhaled, you were to imagine your diaphragm and ribs expanding. You are to focus on only this part of your body moving. You must try to control your chest and prevent it from rising. If it does, you are not doing the exercise correctly. As you inhale, your partner needs to put their hands onto your sides, holding your ribcage. As they feel you breathe in, they must push against your ribs. You need to try to push against their resistance. At first it will be tough. Your ribs may not be used to moving like this but over time, you will start to see them expand more easily. As you exhale, your partner’s hands will maintain the pressure whilst continuing to support your ribs.

Try it. It might work for you. If anything, it’s a good exercise for your waist too!

Other tips include:

  • Counting and breathing – counting is a tried and tested way of calming people down in moments of anger – especially children. It works for a reason. It keeps you focussed on your breathing and distracts you from the feeling of panic or stress.
  • Keeping your head slightly tilted forward- it is tempting, in discomfort, to want to lean back or tip your head backwards. If you do this, you restrict your airways and the flow of oxygen to your lungs decreases. The same applies for the recovery position. You must tilt the head down to prevent choking on the patient’s tongue or vomit.
  • Relaxing – close your eyes, put on some peaceful music.
  • Buteyko Method (Nasal breathing) – making a conscious effort to breath solely from your nose is proven to be a better way of getting oxygen into your lungs. Breathing nasally will filter the air more efficiently through your sinuses unlike breathing through your mouth. It also helps to humidify the air that you inhale.
  • Good posture – keeping upright and not slouching are simple solutions. A good way of spotting an Asthma attack is if the sufferer is leaning forward. This is a natural reaction to the chest closing up and can bring some relief but keeping the chest area open will aid the patient more. Get someone to rub your back gently if needed.
  • Steam – one of my favourite remedies as it involves a hot bath. You don’t even have to get in it. If you feel tight chested, run a hot bath, shut the door and sit down in the bathroom. Lean against a wall so that you do not slouch. Take deep breaths in. You could count to keep a slow pace and inhale the rising steam. I assure you that this is an incredibly soothing remedy.
  • Keeping a control of your emotions- this can be a tough one and slightly ambiguous. This doesn’t mean become a wall of stone, just be aware of how you may be feeling. Extreme stress and upset can fuel Asthma attacks so I am going to state the obvious now – sorry – but do not PANIC! It will only make it worse. Anger won’t help either. Even side-splitting laughter can trigger an Asthma attack. I cannot be tickled as I end up wheezing like crazy. It is strangely difficult to explain that to people.

I hope these tips are useful to any fellow Asthma sufferers out there.

Keep well and look after yourselves.

xxx

*Asthma UK – The United Kingdom’s leading Asthma Charity. Image from Google.

Last night in hospital.

One week into the new year and I’ve already managed to gain a trip to the hospital via ambulance yesterday! Not what I was expecting for a Tuesday afternoon. I am off work today under the advice of the paramedics and doctors. A painful and poorly two weeks have passed where it was clear that either I was becoming ill or that I was patently run down. I have been having mild asthma attacks over the holiday but nothing so worrying that a doctor would be needed. However, since Sunday and after two nights without sleep, it was obvious that something was not quite right. 

Yesterday at work, around lunchtime, I noticed my chest had tightened so much that even standing up from my seat felt like a chore. My face had become slightly bloated and most frighteningly, the Asthma medication that I use to relieve any pain was not working. There was no relief. 

I left work early and made my way home. I called my mother on my way. It is safer to not be alone in these circumstances. Luckily, she was there and waited for my arrival. As soon as I entered the front door, my mother was alarmed. To her, I looked awful. I was finding it hard to string a full sentence together. She knew what to do. The doctors’ surgery wouldn’t give us an early appointment and in all honesty, I felt like I had to convince them of how ill I actually was. Not something you should have to go through when you can barely breathe. My mum called an Ambulance. It was too big of a risk to leave it.

They came immediately and quickly put me at ease. 

The paramedics were angels. They are amazing people who probably aren’t acknowledged enough for the job they do. With an oxygen tank beside me and a mask over my mouth, the medication quickly soothed my aching and wheezy chest. I felt calmer too as the paramedics joked with me. My chest opened up and I began to feel slightly normal again.

We all take breathing for granted. Such a basic thing we do day to day. Yet without the ability to breathe, life would not exist. Many people do not understand that Asthma is a life-threatening condition. The paramedic described it well. Imagine breathing underwater: no mask, no oxygen, just you, stuck underwater for hours and struggling to breathe, struggling to get your head above water. That is what it feels like inside an Asthma sufferer’s body during an attack. It is fiercely dangerous, and although we may look fine, we are not necessarily okay. Believe us when we say something is wrong. Some of the deadliest diseases and conditions are ones that lie silently and hide themselves well.

I was taken to hospital to be checked over. After four hours, my ordeal was over and I was welcomed home by my worried husband. My chest remains tight today. I have a dry cough that ends with a melodic wheeze. It is still difficult to breathe hence my choice to listen to the professionals and stay at home today. Hopefully, with the help of antibiotics, it’ll sort itself out by tonight. 

I wake up every day and I think, ‘I’m breathing! It’s a good day.’
Eve Ensler