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Why I internally roll my eyes when I read nutritional therapy is quackery

Updated: Dec 7, 2022


quack therapy

This post is all about me, me, me…


So, if you are of a queasy disposition, don't want to read about me, or you are in the middle of eating, I would urge you to scroll on by.


I thought I’d start the year, sharing a little of my journey into nutritional therapy. Not in an attention seeking way, but so that I can explain why, when I hear people mock nutritional therapy as quackery, I internally roll my eyes.


You see, I have felt the benefit first-hand.


I’m the little girl at the front of the photo, aged 4. The day after this photo was taken, I stopped breathing with a severe asthma attack and needed lifesaving emergency treatment. In fact, this didn’t just happen once to my poor mum, I did it on several occasions, just to keep her on her toes. Among the treatment given was adrenalin injections, steroids, oxygen tent, antibiotics, and respiratory physiotherapy (which I’ll get to in a bit).


When people talk about asthma, they think of wheezing. I rarely wheezed. My lungs were quite silent. I would get a feeling of tightness and unable to breathe properly. Occasionally my face would have a blue tinge and then I would stop breathing. My brother on the other hand, could be heard wheezing all over the house. The noisy devil! The only drugs we had back then, was a little Ventolin tablet: bloody useless to be honest. Thankfully, when I was seven, I got my first inhalers. These stopped the acute, life-threatening episodes, but I still had severe asthma until I was in my early 40’s.


Sorry if I gross you out with the next bit, but every seasonal cold, flu or hay fever attack would result in a chest infection, which would ultimately trigger severe asthma. As a child, I remember lying face downwards over a mountain of pillows (postural drainage), with the nurses giving me lung physiotherapy. This involved a cupping and clapping motion on my back to facilitate draining the lungs of mucous. I would be told to try and breathe out as hard as I could, repeatedly, until I coughed up. They trained my mum how to do this and she continued the treatment regularly at home. Not easy with three other children to look after, I am sure! I eat yoghurt, but I’m not big on it. I see endless yoghurt smoothies and bowls on Insta and generally remember the big ole yoghurt pot, lined with a bit of loo roll, that would be my spittoon. A daily chest infection conversation focussed on what colour the mucous was (sorry! I did warn you). Colours ranged from yellow to green or brown and blood stained (from straining to cough) and the consistency was equally variable.


Thankfully, sport didn’t trigger an attack and if my chest was tight and I didn’t also have an infection, I would take my inhaler prior to whatever I wanted to do. I loved running with my dad, athletics, netball, hockey, gymnastics. I would have competitions with my brothers to do L-Pullups and push-ups and I would always win. I wish I could do just one now. Perhaps that is a goal for 2022?


Whereas both my brothers grew out of asthma, I didn’t. As the years went on, inhalers changed, and I learnt how to recognise signs and symptoms and adjust dose accordingly. I still needed the odd course of antibiotics or steroids, and it was still a major pain in the arse, but it was manageable, and I just got on with life.


Fast forward to my 50’s and I have been ‘mainly’ symptom free for about ten years. I use the word mainly because I would never say I am asthma free. I always have inhalers on hand just in case, and very occasionally, I will need a puff of Ventolin. This is usually if I’ve gone ‘off piste’ with my eating choices for too long and I can feel a gradual tightening of my chest. That’s my alarm bell to stop pushing my luck and get back on track.


“So, what made the difference then?”


I started studying a BSc in nutritional therapy, adjusted my diet and lifestyle and gradually felt improvement. Note, I said ‘gradually’ and not immediately. I didn’t just pop a load of supplements y voilà.


“Was dairy the trigger?”


The so called mucous maker? No! not at all. In fact, I’ve personally found no relationship with eating cheese, or putting milk in my tea with my peak flow measurement, or oximeter reading. Having said that, dairy can be a trigger for some: my little brother’s asthma and eczema would ramp up with cow’s milk, but not goat’s milk. I’ve also found no correlation between my symptoms and high histamine foods or sulphites. For me, the biggest difference to my lung health was when I stopped being vegetarian (I was also vegan for a time), reduced my carb intake (not NO carb) and concentrated on high nutrient dense meals. By that I mean high protein and lots of colourful vegetables, particularly dark green leafy vegetables. Yes, it takes a bit of planning, but this is highly preferable to not being able to breathe and believe me, not being able to breathe is a big motivator. This way of eating reduces inflammation, including inflammation in the lungs, thereby supporting the immune system, and improving lung function. Did you know that carbohydrates produce the most carbon dioxide for oxygen used? And protein is essential to keep the lung muscle (diaphragm) strong?


"Should all asthmatics eat this way?"


No, that’s not what I’m saying. We are all made differently, but on a very basic level, consider that each and every cell in your body is made from the food you eat. If you don’t supply your body with adequate nutrients, it will struggle to make healthy cells.


“So, what are the right amount of nutrients?”