I’ve had asthma since I was a very young child and there is no greater truth than when you can’t catch your breath, nothing else matters. So what is asthma and how can we counter its impact?
Asthma is an allergic disorder characterized by spasms of the bronchial tubes (airways), swelling of the mucous lining in the lungs, and excess mucus production. It’s quite a serious respiratory disease and can cause death. And, it’s scary. Especially when you're a child. My worst asthma attack happened in the early 1980’s when I was about 15 years old at a family reunion on a ranch in the foothills of California. A combination of grasses and dust and who knows what else, had me in the back of our family’s Komfort trailer, struggling for breath for what felt like an eternity. Without any asthma medicine nearby. Each inhale took Herculean effort, and I didn’t know how long I would have the strength to continue. To make things worse, asthmatics know that panic or tears will only make the response worse, so we try very hard to stay calm and focus only on each breath, one at a time. I made it through that day and many other episodes. But, I don't go far without a rescue inhaler at hand.
Today, asthma rates continue to be problematic in the United States, especially among children. In the United States, almost 1 in 10 people have asthma and it was responsible for nearly 4,000 deaths in 2015. Asthma is most common in children under the age of 10, with a 2:1 male to female ratio, which equalizes by age 30. Why is this happening? Well, asthma is a “complex interaction” of environmental and genetic factors, the biggest risk factor is a history of allergies, such as eczema and hay fever. Asthmatics have a tendency to form higher levels of leukotrienes, which are responsible for producing allergic reaction and stimulating bronchial constriction. If the adrenal glands are not producing sufficient levels of cortisol and epinephrine, the stage is set for bronchial constriction. Perhaps it’s our compromised immune system? Today, more and more people are experiencing bigger stressors on their immune systems, from a wide range of sources, including pollution in our air, water and foods, food additives, and genetic manipulation of plants leading to greater allergenic tendencies.
Another possible trigger for asthma is the use of antibiotics before the first birthday. A study at the University of British Columbia concluded that infants prescribed antibiotics before their first birthday were more than twice as likely to develop asthma. Multiple courses of antibiotics increased the likelihood 16% for every course of antibiotics. Antibiotics can also contribute to a state of “excess hygiene” which leads to an oversensitive immune system triggering “over the top reactions” to pollen and dust mites. In this case, probiotics may be very helpful, lowering the risk of atopic allergic diseases like asthma and eczema.
Another interesting theory is that children with asthma may have a metabolic defect in tryptophan metabolism and reduced serotonin transport. This may be related to Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) levels and dramatic improvements can be seen with supplementation. Interestingly, common asthma medication can depress prydixoal-5-phosphate levels. In addition, for children, allergic reactions to grains and milk usually show themselves in childhood, just at the time when we are fed the most of these products. Allergy symptoms include earaches, stomachaches, constipation, and asthma, but are often ignored or misdiagnosed. The body then increases endorphin activity around those certain foods to comfort us from this chronic irritation. And guess what, that very same comforting mechanism is why we may find those very same foods utterly irresistible.
Another interesting note -- a high sugar diet can cause asthma (which may be yet another reason for asthma’s increasing numbers). Eating too many processed carbs and sugars can cause insulin levels to rise too high, which leads to formation of hormones known as eicosanoids. These eicosanoids function as mediators for relaxing or contracting of various smooth muscle groups, in addition to being involved with immune system responses. If insulin levels are too high, this eicosanoid balance is disrupted, the bronchial smooth muscles contract, the immune response is exaggerated, and the result is asthma. Another important point to consider is the “Respiratory Quotient” (RQ). RQ represents the amount of energy expended by the lungs to rid the body of carbon dioxide generated by metabolism of certain foods. The higher the RQ, the harder the lungs work. In this equation, carbs = 1, fats = .7 and proteins = .9. So, when dealing with asthma, the lungs work harder when processing carbs.
What to Avoid…
What to Consider…
COMMON SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Other symptoms of allergies...
© Jvezzani | Dreamstime.com - Crisp organic green lacinato kale
Kale. The darling of the vegetable world these past few years. And for good reason. As a dark green leafy cruciferous vegetable, kale supports your body's natural detoxification process. And, as a great source of magnesium, potassium, calcium and chlorophyll - all of which help signal our parasympathetic nervous system - kale also helps create a calmer, more relaxed you.
My favorite kale is lacinato or "dinosaur" kale (pictured above). I love the flavor and texture and it is delicious cooked or raw. It's always easy to add a handful of kale into your protein shake or salad, or to sautee quickly with some olive oil and garlic, but I thought you may enjoy a few more recipes. Hope you love adding kale to your day as much as I do!
Simple Raw Kale Salad
Add Kale to Soup
Adding a little kale into your life doesn't have to be boring or tasteless - it can be delicious, satisfying AND help re-direct you from other choices which challenge you. Enjoy!
Kicking off your longer term weight or health goals with a 14 Day Detox is a great place to start. Two weeks of eliminating highly allergenic and sometimes toxic foods (along with nutrient support for detoxification processes), can reduce cravings, decrease brain fog, increase energy, and imbue you with enough optimism to keep at it for longer term goals. One of my favorite strategies while detoxing (or anytime really), is to have vegetable soup always at the ready. For me, it's a great afternoon lift - it tastes great, is bursting with nutrients, and it doesn't rev up my afternoon cravings for sugar or salty snacks.
Here's the recipe I made yesterday - you can adjust to suit your tastes, including any non-starchy vegetables you choose.
Detox Vegetable Soup
Whether we're business owners, entrepreneurs, busy professionals, or simply trying to make a living in this crazy busy world, one thing is almost assured - we're overwhelmed and tired much of the time. Whether our world is booming or busting, self-care is often the first thing to go "out the window" when the pressure is on.
This type of go-go-go lifestyle can only be sustained for so long before something has to give. And here are a few symptoms that things are "giving":
Let's look at each of them, shall we?
Do you find yourself:
So.... What if?
None of the examples I’ve given on sleep, stress and food habits are unusual. They are all taken directly from clients or my own experiences. So, what would change look like?
A few quick tips
If you'd like to explore how you can create positive changes in your life with the support to make it happen, shoot me an email and we'll talk!
I share this in honor of my friends whose daughter Keira would be turning 4 this February. I've read these words at SIDS memorials and conferences and although I believe the author is unknown, the words always resonate so deeply with me. The images are mine - from the neighborhood we share with Keira's parents.
Lately, I've been hearing of many friends and family who will be undergoing surgery in the near future. If this is you (or someone you love), I'd like to share with you a few nutrition and lifestyle suggestions for the week prior to surgery. These pre-surgery recommendations are intended to help boost your immune system and possibly allow you to recover from surgery more quickly.
Diet & Nutrition
I hope this is helpful and you are feeling better very soon!
So, did you know spaghetti squash (also called vegetable squash) is technically a fruit? Just like avocados, tomatoes and cucumbers - it has seeds, so it's "fruit." But whether or not we call it fruit or veggie, it is a great addition to your healthy living repertoire. Not only is spaghetti squash low in calories (a cup is about 31 calories), it also contains Vitamin A, beta-carotene (a precursor to Vitamin A), potassium and folic acid.
But what I like best is it's easy to make, filling, and can "substitute" for other less-healthy foods you may be craving. Here are a few ideas:
"A circle has no beginning and no end. No part of it is more or less than any other. A circle is an endless sphere that encompasses, embraces, and encloses. It is a cycle of forward and backward loops, a symbol of enduring love, a joining together without borders."
And with these words, I opened the 23rd Annual California Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Conference in the fall of 2001. At that time, our daughter Lauren had been gone for four years, dying of SIDS during an afternoon nap on her third day of daycare. Today, more than 14 years later, I'd like to share my opening comments....
Circles. Circles. Before grief entered my life I probably thought of surviving the death of a loved one as a straight line. That grief started horrible and eventually got better. All in a straight line. The circle of life - a very simplistic pattern of birth, growing up, having children, getting old, and eventually, after a nice long life, having your children bury you. I think I remember - back when I was another me - contemplating the symbolism of the wedding ring and the universe and the wholeness of the circle. But it never meant as much as it does now.
Circles. Circles. We grow up expecting certain circles in life. All of us have surely heard Elton John's theme from The Lion King, the "Circle of Life." In case you never quite heard those words, here are a few of them:
I think about the circles of Lauren's life. Only 3 months and 27 days old. Yet she touched so many with her life and even in death she is still present in our lives. The ripples of her life - her story - are concentric circles, growing and expanding.
I think about the journey of grief. I have long likened grief to walking on a difficult path with a huge boulder blocking the way. The boulder is too big to go around, you can't turn back, and you have no dynamite to blow it up. The only option is to just start climbing over that rock. No easy way around it. And the trick is to never give up.
There is a strong circle metaphor to grieving that works for me too. The early days of grief for me were an endless loop of tears and doubts, and whys and what ifs. I would replay the day before she died in endless detail. The sunny day - the smiles - planting flowers. Like a tape in endless loop. The same was true of the afternoon she died. The phone call - the trip to the hospital - receiving the "news" from the pediatrician on duty and the emergency room doctor - saying our goodbyes and slowly, sadly and so excruciatingly alone, we walked through those hospital doors into the hot August night, without Lauren.
Circles of despair. Circles of sadness. Circles of doubt. Tears. Each day, each 24 hour day, was a struggle. One foot in front of the other and then it would start all over again the next morning. Circles of minutes. Circles of hours, days and weeks. Circles around the sun. First birthdays, first anniversaries. The circle of time expanding. The moment of impact at the center of the circle growing more distant in time, but still reverberating strong and clear in our very bones.
But the circle changes ever so subtly and eventually new circles begin to move within your life. The circle that once possessed every waking moment and felt like a downward spiral of despair, begins to feel like a wheel - a way to journey on, a way to transport, a way to move into the future. Circles of support. Circles of community. Circles of caring. Friends, family, SIDS professionals, and especially other SIDS parents who really understood and listened.
So we join today at this celebration of the circle. This morning we will light a candle. Later this afternoon, we will form a circle and speak the names of our children. Children, while no longer physically here, will always be a part of our circle of life.
We come together as a community. A circle of protection. A circle of strength. A circle of shared sorrow and the promise of future joy. We journey together and together the circle is made stronger.
Tis the Season, yes? The season of love, joy, hope and peace. The Season where we honor the spirit of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the Winter Solstice. Ahhh, peace on earth, goodwill to all.
But for many of us, it's also the Season of Stress Balls.
We have so much to do .... Gifts to buy, gifts to wrap, decorating, parties, shopping, family events, and the list goes on. Many of us find ourselves stretched to the limit - out of time, money and patience and overstuffed with too much food and too many indulgences.
Yes, the stress grinch can really take a bite out of one's holiday spirit.
When you consider the daily chronic stress load that most people are carrying - perhaps up to our eyeballs - when the stress of the holiday season is poured on top, we can simply be overwhelmed. So what can we do about it? Well, here are a few ideas.
What Else Can You Do?
To Sum It All Up
For over 8,000 years, humans have been growing olive trees, and harvesting the fruit for curing, eating and extracting the oils. In addition to being delicious, olives are also beneficial therapeutically, as they can help reduce blood pressure, protect against cancer, act as an anti-inflammatory, and can even improve serum lipid profiles. And, if that wasn't enough, as a supplement, olive leaf is also a powerful anti-microbial with antioxidant power, protecting against intestinal or respiratory infections.
When buying olive oil, look for the highest quality, extra virgin grade. Avoid olive oils that are "pure" as that can mean the oils were extracted with heat and solvents, getting the last little bit of oil out of the olives and the pits. Instead, virgin means the production was physical, with no chemicals involved and extra virgin means from a virgin oil production with no more than .8% acidity and of "superior" taste. Pay attention to the labels - as many supermarket brands have been "cut" with canola or "pure" olive oil.
And as we head into the holiday season, remember that olive oil's anti-inflammatory properties may help you keep those stress levels down. Here's an easy seasonal way to roast vegetables with olive oil:
your choice (in combination or solo):
Peppers (red, orange, yellow or green)
Rough cut or slice vegetables and place into casserole dish. Brush with olive oil and then sprinkle seasonings you'd like (I'm partial to simply sea salt, but you could add rosemary, thyme, cayenne, pepper, garlic or other seasoning). Bake at 350 degrees until tender. Roasted vegetables are delicious on their own or served with protein (like chicken, turkey or beef) or over a vegetarian protein like quinoa.
Lorie Gehrke, NC
It's all about the journey... Here's where you'll hear from me on any number of topics to help you understand yourself and what works best for you, including grief, nutrition, stress, sleep, detox, self-care, recipes, and more.