Updated: Jan 29
...you could say. I was packing to travel cross-country for a professional conference and was certain I had all my essentials. But arriving at the airport in an unrelenting downpour and having to park in a remote lot because the garage was full resulted in a somewhat harried collection of my luggage, raincoat and umbrella from the car before beginning my trek to Terminal A. This unplanned sequence of events trifled with my efforts to be organized and ultimately led to an accidental discovery that changed my life.
You see, I hadn’t brought all my essentials with me. I had left on the passenger seat of my car the bag of a few daily medications that I truly relied upon. Three of them were for asthma, and two of those I took twice a day. (One was a combo med, so technically I was taking four asthma drugs every day.). Upon entering peri-menopause six years prior, I had suddenly developed asthma that fluctuated from mild to moderate in severity, but at times woke me up in the middle of the night requiring a rescue inhaler. Before that I had enjoyed very good health and really only had to deal with seasonal allergies which were mostly under control. I could run, surf, swim, bike and do any other activity without breathing difficulties. Earlier in my life, when I occasionally over did my weekend warrior endeavors or had monthly menstrual cramps, I might use a little ibuprofen to help ease discomfort. I had no drug sensitivities, could eat whatever I felt like, and generally took my good health for granted. Well, I try not to take any good fortune for granted, but let’s say that I didn’t put a lot of thought into the details of my habits. But after having one of the fittest and most athletically accomplished years of my life, I suddenly developed asthma and severe allergies to ibuprofen and aspirin as well as to melons and cucumbers. Ingesting any of these sent me into a violent asthma attack with wheezing, intractable coughing and vomiting. This was all new to me and required some lifestyle adjustments as well as a daily regimen of asthma- and allergy-controlling medications. It was annoying. It was inconvenient. But I got by. I still ran when I wanted to run, put the occasional long event on my calendar, and otherwise did the many recreational activities that I enjoy...as long as I had my inhaler.
Then this unintentional event occurred— flying cross-country for a three day conference without my medications...
So what happened next? Well, for the first day I was too busy and exhausted from the red-eye flight to think about it. I had to attend sessions, present my program, and then cheerfully participate in the evening reception where faculty and guests mixed and mingled. That night I made it to bed early and slept for twelve hours. (Did I mention that I’m a big proponent of sleep?)
On the second day I was more lucid and energized, and even managed to go out for a 75 minute walk-jog on the beach in the sunshine. It was glorious after so many hours under fluorescent lights looking at power point presentations. Note that I wasn’t running at my usual moderate pace because I had only recently decided to rebuild my aerobic base by staying at a low heart rate (my MAHR) for two months, and at this point in the game my heart rate monitor advised me not to exceed a walk jog pace. So maybe that’s why I didn’t miss my inhaler and long-acting beta agonist— I was going slowly and not working hard at all. It crossed my mind at the beginning of my outing that things might not go well in the blooming Florida air, but I had no breathing trouble. At the time I didn’t give the situation a lot of thought. Then on the third day, as I was high in the sky flying westward toward home, breathing comfortably and reading the first few chapters of Chris Kresser’s Unconventional Health, it hit me. My asthma had abated (as had my hot flashes), and the only thing I had changed recently was my nutrition. Four weeks prior I had intentionally but somewhat casually decided to alter the representation of macronutrients in my meals. I also had begun a loose form of intermittent fasting— delaying my first meal of the day until after 10 am and often closer to noon. The exception of course was my daily latte which was never in question. It is a ritual that I savor every morning. As for the evenings, I mostly tried not to eat after 7 pm. I was flexible to accommodate special circumstances like a goodbye dinner for a cherished collage who was retiring. I had also modified my workout schedule to help shift my metabolism to be fat-adapted, and honestly had “worked out” less in the past few weeks than in the months prior.
This was no big strain. I was motivated by a desire to feel my best and bring my best to the relationships and endeavors in my life. When I started this experiment, I had a general idea of what I wanted to do and I followed my intuition and body signals as I gave it a try. Then voila, as I sat on a plane and realized that I was now four days without my meds, I also realized that I was experiencing very tangible and meaningful health benefits in short order! Incidentally, I had also noticed that the tummy flab that had snuck onto my middle section over the past couple of years was diminishing before my eyes. That was fun, but the breathing relief was powerful. So was the disappearance of those pesky hot flashes! What was going on here?
Now I don’t consider myself as an evangelist, but I believe there is a story here to be told. And as a physician and health coach, I feel I have a duty to tell it if it might help others live more healthful lives.
Since 2001 I have practiced conventional medicine and I have also practiced a bit in the functional/ lifestyle based medicine realm. I keep up more or less with the mainstream literature on chronic diseases as well as emerging knowledge in nutrition, inflammation, stress management and exercise. In my clinical practice I had helped others successfully address their inflammatory conditions, reduce use of pain medications and other medications, and significantly increase their functioning and participation in the pleasures of an engaged and active life. This we achieved together by applying simple nutrition principles and following prescribed movement and stress management plans. Additionally, as a trail runner and recreational endurance athlete, I have long taken an interest in the nutrition and training approaches that might help me optimize my time on the trails and be more successful with my goals. So putting this together: I had helped others improve their health and address their inflammatory conditions, I read the articles and listened to the podcasts on health and wellness, and yet I continued many of my own behaviors that seemed fairly benign at that time. That was until one day I decided to modify my nutrition approach with the vague objective of feeling better, interacting better, and maybe being more successful in my next endurance race. It never occurred to me that this change would cure, or at least significantly improve, my asthma and eliminate my hot flashes. Experiencing this first hand reopened my eyes to the wide range of illnesses and health conditions that are inflammatory in nature and can be addressed through simple lifestyle programs focused on real food, whole movement and a connected heart.
Since making these changes and enjoying the benefits in my own life, I have developed an approach to help others achieve the improved health they desire. My practice, Gage Health Institute, offers programs for simple sustained healthful living. Our programs can help you once and for all take control of the fatigue, weight gain, high blood pressure, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, autoimmune disease and other inflammatory illnesses taking joy away from your life. Small changes can have a huge impact on your health. Are you ready to get started?