On (no longer?) being an asthmatic

Tank Green/ September 25, 2022/ Health

I’ve had asthma since I was a kid. I don’t know if I was born with it or if it developed after a serious case of pneumonia that saw me hospitalised when I was around 8 or 9, and which left me with scarred lungs and a pathetic peak flow score. Unfortunately, since the NHS has lost all my medical records, I cannot ever know for sure when the asthma first started (as in, was it caused by the pneumonia or did it predate it?), but I know I have had it most of my life.

By about my early twenties, although I retained a pathetic peak flow score, I had mainly grown out of the asthma except for when I was ill. Then it kicked in with a vengeance and it seemed like every respiratory bug (aside from covid) went straight for my lungs as a weak point. I have had pleurisy about six times and pneumonia about four. I dreaded flu season and have always tried to be proactive about keeping my immune system healthy because of this.

In my early thirties, as I have said before, I developed what I called ‘winter asthma’ whereby, between late September to March of every year, I would get a constant and serious flare up of the asthma, as well as chronic sinusitis and other hay-fever-like symptoms. At some point, a nurse in an allergy clinic told me to supplement with vitamin D which helped somewhat. I later added in turmeric and black pepper supplements actually for my arthritis, but it turned out to have a big effect on the asthma symptoms instead. I would say that the vitamin D plus turmeric supplementation 90% solved the problem.

However, these were control mechanisms: if I didn’t take them for a couple of days during the winter months, the asthma and other allergy-like symptoms would come right back. Moreover, they did not make a difference to the fact that, whatever the time of the year, if I caught a respiratory virus, the asthma would severely flare up.

At some point in either 2018 or 2019, I read Ed Yong’s I Contain Multitudes which I would wholeheartedly recommend. It started me off on a journey to learn more about microbes and to actively try to cultivate beneficial ones in my life. Since then I have read so much more, including Alanna Collen’s 10% Human which I also wholeheartedly recommend. I think Collen and Yong’s books make a good pair, as Yong’s focusses more on the external world, and Collen’s on our bodies. Last year, I came across a journal article which said that supplementing with sea moss (aka Irish moss) caused a decrease in the pathogenic Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria in rats.

I was aware of sea moss, since it’s one of those plants that people with Caribbean heritage tout as a ‘cure all’. Add to that its ability to reduce a bacteria which not only causes pneumonia, but other things I was suffering from like rhinitis and sinusitis, I figured I would give it a whirl. I knew there are any number of bacteria and viruses which cause pneumonia, but that one is the most common. So I wondered if perhaps I had some residual excess of Streptococcus pneumonia that was  cyclicly flaring up each winter? As eating some seaweed every day was never going to hurt, I figured I would try an experiment to see if it had an effect on my symptoms.

That was around about a year ago now, and I have been having approx. one tablespoon of sea moss gel most days in my breakfast smoothie. (I also put it in my homemade ice cream as well but the amount is negligible.) The benefits to both my gut / IBS and my breathing were obvious within a few weeks of starting the sea moss supplementation. I found that I did not need the turmeric supplements and that the asthma control was at 100%. I felt like I could breathe better than I had been able to in years, even during the dreaded ‘winter asthma’ months. So I have just been taking it most days ever since. I have not taken my Ventolin once in this period.

A couple of weeks ago, a test arrived: I caught a respiratory bug (not covid, I tested). I can’t moan as this is the first time I have been ill since catching covid in early April 2020. As per usual, the bug went straight for my lungs and I developed pleurisy, which I actually still have the tail end of. Interestingly, this time I only got the pleurisy on one side, but more interestingly, my asthma did not, and has not, been triggered at all. Despite the agonising pain of pleurisy and consequentially only being able to breathe very shallowly, I can breathe. There has been no asthmatic obstruction to the breathing in the slightest. This is a bloody miracle as far as I am concerned.

I am now convinced that my theory is right: I had some kind of low-level Streptococcus pneumonia infection which grew out of control during the flu season / winter months each year. I do not know if the ‘winter asthma’ will come back if I stop supplementing with sea moss, and frankly, I have no interest in actively trying that. It is too much of a gift to be able to breathe so well, even if this stupid pleurisy means I can’t currently breathe deeply.

I would really recommend adding sea moss to your diet. Aside from the asthma stuff, seaweed has an abundance of vitamins and minerals. It is inexpensive and you can buy it dried at good health food stores and online. Making your own sea moss gel is really simple. The hardest part is making sure you clean it properly first to wash off all the salt. This takes about 5-10 minutes and several bowls of water. Then you put the sea moss in a bowl, pour some recently boiled (but not boiling) water over it just so it covers the sea moss, cover the bowl, and leave it on the counter for 24 hours. After that, blend it (possibly with a little extra water), and then pop it in the fridge and you’re done. I think it lasts a month or two in the fridge when it’s pure.

You can keep it pure as I currently do, at which point it is flavourless and you can add it to smoothies, etc. Or you can buy or make flavoured gels (I went through a blueberry, mint, and lemon phase which was sooooo good!) and eat the gel straight from the jar. You add the flavours at the blending point, but beware that you only have a week (max) to eat it at this point, so think carefully about how much you make to avoid waste.

I hope some day that someone searching sea moss and asthma, or natural asthma cures more generally might find this post and give sea moss a try. Especially if there is a link between respiratory bugs and your asthma.

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