Ankita Desai, Bengaluru
World Asthma Day is on May 5, 2015. I’d like to share with you my decades-long struggle with asthma and how I finally got rid of my symptoms.
In 1992, I contracted chicken pox. While I was still recovering from it, I contracted pneumonia. And since then, I started having asthma attacks especially during every seasonal change.
I hail from Gujarat, where season changes are very distinct unlike Bangalore. Every seasonal change brought with itself cold, cough and fever. That was followed by bouts of wheezing and breathlessness. I remember spending sleepless nights trying to catch some sleep in a sitting position.
I was given prescriptions for bronchodilators for long term effect, inhalers for immediate relief and cod liver oil capsules to improve my immunity in general. I still have the first Cipla spacer that helped improve the medication intake of inhalers.
As I grew up, the frequency of attacks remained as-is, but with proper medication, things were under better control.
In the meantime, I also identified that close encounters with dust and pollen triggered severe sneezing – almost like a case of flu. With this, anti-histamine prescriptions like Allegra and Citrizine made their way into my medicine box.
The year 1998 was special as I did not fall ill even once. The only thing that was done differently in this year was of daily consumption of 1 small spoon of turmeric in a glass of milk. It was because I was in 10th Standard and could not have afforded to fall ill.
In 2005, I moved to Bangalore. Initially the weather worked wonders for my health. No cold and no sneezing. It felt so different and free!
But by 2006, I started falling ill once again every 2 months – the cold, cough and fever were back. I consulted a general physician and he prescribed some medicine to be taken in courses. But it did not help much. The moment the course was over, it continued to fall ill.
In the meantime, I had got my first full health checkup done. Eosinophil count was high and lung capacity was low. I was recommended a consultation with pulmonologist. He prescribed certain tablets whose dosage had to be gradually tapered and then sustain with. I did not follow the prescription, tried to manage with some ayurvedic medicines I knew of and continued to fall ill.
By end of 2007, my condition had worsened so much that I could barely walk without gasping for breath. I consulted the pulmonologist once again. With a lot of concern in his voice, he told me that “By knowingly not taking care of your condition, what you have done is no less than committing suicide”. His words shook me up and from then on I followed the prescription with regular follow-ups, dosage regulations and self-monitoring through peak flow meter. Nasal spray, Inhaler and aero-spacers became my constant companions. I was doing good but regular medication was still needed.
In June 2014 it was in this state that I met Dr Achyuthan and discussed with him about asthma. His recommendations to start off with were:
- Every meal should have one bowl of fruit (First 1/3 of meal has to be fruits – preferably citrus fruits)
- One meal a day as only fruits – preferably breakfast
- Usage of more vegetables from gourd family
- Usage of more green leafy vegetables
- Avoid extra usage of oil and spices.
- Have juice (without sugar meals if hungry
- Things to avoid:
- Milk and Milk based products
- Wheat and wheat based products
- Sugar in any form – even in processed food
- Enema – every day
I could not follow his recommendations very well until end of 2014. But I had started making minor changes like reducing usage of oil, sugar, milk and milk products. I start seeing minor benefits. I wasn’t falling ill as often as before.
From January 2015, I started following his recommendations at least by 90% – except for the enema part! That took some time to start. And the magic unfolded not only for me to see, but for others in my family and among my friends as well.
From February till today, after I began the program to heal myself:
- I haven’t got cold, cough or fever. Not even one sneeze. Yippie!!
- I am able to do dusting without severe sneezing. It feels good to be able to work like normal people.
- My nose remains open most of the time. Because of this, my sense of smell seems to have returned!
- Despite the weather changes that we are seeing in Bangalore for some time now, touch wood – I haven’t fall ill even once.
- My cravings for sweets has miraculously vanished.
- I started enjoying eating fruits. They are much simpler to eat, digest and one feels so much more energetic.
- I don’t remember the last time I had to use the inhaler. And I feel confident of stepping out without carrying my inhaler.
- Water intake has stabilized, which has an explicit effect on better bowel movements.
All of these wonderful things happened to me only by change in my food habits. I now plan to combine it with regular exercise to get much better and faster benefits. I was so deeply impacted by what I learnt that I presented a short talk at the toastmaster’s club to show everyone how they can be healthy by eating right. Watch it here:
If I had to advise myself 20 years ago, I would recommend the following:
- Avoid extra usage of oil and spices – Food tastes equally good without them.
- Avoid milk and milk based products
- Avoid sugar
- Eat as much fruits as possible
- Regularly exercise
- Be your own doctor; listen and act to your body tells you – it knows what is good for you.
The author, Ankita Desai, is a software engineer at Infosys, Bengaluru, and is no more an asthma patient. She is an avid gardener and loves to speak.