24 June 2008


I think I've finally figure out why my asthma's been so bad this summer. I had been assuming it was due to the kittens and their dander. That might be contributing, too, but it's not the primary problem. It was getting bad enough that I looked for asthma specialists in Pocatello, and found one who had a double specialty: asthma and heartburn. At the time this struck me as odd.

Then I started paying attention to other sensations that I had assumed were unconnected. In the fall, I started having frequent cold-twisting sensations in my chest (there aren't good words to describe them). Not pain, and not in the heart. At first, they seemed to be associated with the onset of a cold, but then they started showing up at other times. In the past few weeks, I've also had mild pain in the same area. This, strangely enough, is referred to as "heartburn." No burning, and not actually at the heart.

A bit of research turned up a link between acid-reflux (which causes heartburn) and asthma. The acid getting into the esophagus can also get into the breathing apparatus, with suffocating results. The mechanism at fault is a muscle that is supposed to keep the acid from getting out of the stomach. It gets week or too relaxed or something, and so acid can escape upward. This is particularly problematical when in a prone position, and worse if in an inverted position.

So I have a projection for the course of events. The Advil I was taking for my knee last summer may have compromised that muscle flap (the LES, I think), and my insane fall schedule had me often eating dinner very near to bedtime. That ups acid production just before going to a prone position. That doesn't explain why it would suddenly get worse in the summer, but I started increasing the amount of yoga in my daily practice, and many of those are inverted or prone postures. Incidentally, about 15 minutes after taking a generic-equivalent-to-Pepcid, my breathing started to calm down. The trick will be getting things to calm down without becoming dependent on the medication, as taking it for too long can result in an acid-rebound-effect.

Here is where I got information from a recent study on acid reflux. There was no consistent correlation with the various foods that most of the literature insists you should avoid. The only things that consistently helped across the board were (1) not laying down too soon after eating, and (2) Sleeping with the head of the bed elevated. Incidentally, I just put 5-inch risers under the head of my bed, and that seems ridiculously slanted. The article recommends 6-8 inches, which would have me and my mattress sliding clean off, methinks.

I did notice that the orange juice I had today made my throat sore, so I'm thinking citrus drinks are out until the esophagus can heal a bit. I'll just keep an eye out for what foods irritate my symptoms and avoid them rather than follow someone else's list. Tea, for instance, seems to improve my breathing, but is on most of the lists as "to avoid." Anyway, I'm rapidly losing coherency, so that's all for tonight.

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