A Smoothie and a Story (and Some Relief for My Fellow Asthmatics)

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For the last week or so my asthma has been flaring up. I’ve been experiencing slight tightness in the chest, a bit of inflammation, intermittent cough, and a small amount of mucous production. My symptoms haven’t been severe enough to go to the doctor, but noticeable enough to create some discomfort.

So this was supposed to be a simple post about one of my favorite go-to smoothies to help with my asthma symptoms. I’ll get to that shortly, but, I realized there’s a story behind this smoothie recipe. And, if you haven’t noticed yet, I always have a story to tell!

I was diagnosed with asthma in my early teens. As a child I was always sick with some type of respiratory virus. The virus would always stay long enough to allow bacteria to have it’s way with my respiratory system, which usually resulted in me needing antibiotic therapy. Usually 7-10 days of antibiotics. I have no idea why it was called the common cold. Because something that was supposed to be “common” usually ended up being complicated. Here’s why: once the bacterial infection set in (commonly referred to as bacterial bronchitis) my lungs were in trouble. My chest would feel tight and heavy, along with a constant non-productive cough, fever, and fatigue.

And let’s not forget about how those antibiotics prescribed to make me feel “better” also stripped my GI tract of it’s normal flora. Ladies, you know what that means… that’s right: yeast infection!! Ugh!! Which meant another trip to the doctor to be treated for that (this was before the medication was sold over the counter). Great, another seven days until I start feeling better. No one ever provided me with patient education about antibiotics and the possible side effects!

How could something as simple as a common cold/respiratory virus become this month-long ordeal to return my body back to baseline? Not to mention the fatigue associated with my immune system being compromised.

One day I got fed up. I was fed up with the cycle of being sick every three months, going to the doctor to be “treated,” and then being even more annoyed (okay I was angry) that I was not offered alternatives to my chronic condition. When I asked for prevention measures, I usually got a blank stare from the provider with instructions on how to use my inhaler. Did I ask you for instructions on how to use my inhaler? No, I asked for alternatives and ways to help manage my chronic condition. By the way Doc, thanks for “treating” me?!

By the time I made it to my twenties, I decided there must be something else out there other than prescription medication that could help with my respiratory issues. My Mom was always looking into alternatives to medication. She had various books around the house with natural remedies for common acute and chronic illnesses. So I called her, asked for her books and started doing my own research. What I discovered was life changing. You mean, there are foods that can help with chronic conditions? Why didn’t my doctor tell me this? I must say I felt a little confused by all this information. Maybe the home remedies didn’t really work and that’s why my doctor neglected to mention them or suggest I do some research. I decided to conduct my own experiment. Little did I know, this was yet another lesson in learning to  listen to my body.

I tried the home remedies, and they worked! No more being sick every three months, the congestion significantly decreased, and the struggle to breathe was diminished!  My confusion turned into feelings of mistrust (mixed in with more frustration, anger) about my doctor at the time (this is not about my current medical provider). But, I also quickly realized that doctors/providers are only treating the disease within their scope of practice based upon the training that they received in medical school…which typically does not include holistic preventative care.  (That’s definitely a topic for another blog post!)

With that being said, here is where my experience as an ER nurse comes in: go to your doctor if you have symptoms of an asthma attack. These symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and/or uncontrolled cough. My smoothie recipe is not a replacement for medical treatment, seek help if you need to and use your inhaler!

Okay, taking my ER nurse hat off, and holistic nurse-in-training hat goes back on.

According to the American Lung Association, asthma is a chronic lung disorder that causes inflammation and bronchoconstriction in the lungs, which makes it pretty difficult to breath. Triggers such as dust, weather changes, chemicals and cigarette smoke, can make it worse. Even though asthma is a chronic condition with no cure, it can be managed through awareness and simple lifestyle changes. One of the ways that I manage my symptoms is to identify my asthma “triggers”, which can help reduce a full blown attack. One of my symptoms that a flare-up is on the way is an achy feeling in my upper back, and fatigue. However, more recently I have discovered that there are certain emotions and stressors that also seem to contribute to my asthma flare-ups, even before the achy back feeling occurs. Yet another lesson in listening to my body.

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My favorite go-to when I am starting to have an asthma flare-up is my orange, carrot and… GINGER smoothie! Studies have shown that ginger may help to relax the smooth muscle in the airway (also known as bronchodilation) and also has anti-inflammatory properties. The Vitamin A in the carrots and Vitamin C in the oranges gives my immune system and lungs the extra boost they need to fight my symptoms. I notice that I use my inhaler less frequently (notice I didn’t say I never use my inhaler) and my recovery time is significantly less. And I’ve noticed a decreased use of antibiotics. I went from using antibiotics four times a year to once every 12-18 months. Now that’s more like it! Just so you know it’s not just about the smoothie, there are other home remedies that I have incorporated to reduce my “triggers”…of course that is another blog post!  Stay tuned!

What are some of your go-to home remedies that help your asthma? Feel free to comment and post below!

 

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Yummy!

Orange, Carrot, Ginger Smoothie

2 organic carrots

2 organic clementines, peeled

Small piece of organic ginger root (I tend to use a little more than a small amount because I like the spice)

1 cup water

1 cup ice (it’s so good when it’s cold)

Stevia for sweetness (this is just to satisfy my taste buds)

Blend on high until the texture is smooth. Simple and clean…Enjoy!

 

 

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