Monday, August 13, 2007

Not an Essay Writing Competition!

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed are mine alone. My employers are in no way connected to the opinions expressed here. I can certainly assure you that this is no English Essay writing competition (and I don't posses such a vocabulary, for gods sakes!), but a true personal-experience of a person from my own very close quarters (Yes, Truly unfortunate!). Individuals willing to practice the same, do it at your own risk but results might vary and we deem no responsibility for anything whatsoever. This is just to spread the message and create an awareness - When these kind of things can be controlled by natural means, why reduce the immunity by introducing man made, (so called) miracles?

Travails of An Asthmatic – End in Sight?

2:00 am in the morning - A rude Awakening, a sepulchral paradigm, a sensation of having died and taken a one way trip to hell, a feeling of being throttled, smothered and pulmonologically weighted down by a set of cast iron bar bells - all at once. I am not referring to a murder motif in a Nick Carter novel, but a typical asthma attack that affects at least 20% of the Indian population.

For Long, asthma has been thought of as a typical problem occurring after 60, once the infirmities set in and the body responses become stymied .But the situation has changed thanks to the hackneyed, trite phrase of “Pollution and Contamination”, which has in fact spear headed the growth of a new medical community called pulmonologists.

To set the context, I have been at the receiving end for around 20 yrs now and the last 2 yrs have been possibly the most execrable of the lot as far as asthma goes. There was a sudden upsurge of a dormant problem and at least a 200% increase in the frequency and intensity of the attacks especially after the Tsunami. (I have no clue why this should be so but I got the worst attack of my life 3 hrs before the Tsunami struck Madras)

The trips to God's Secondary Representative (the Allopathic Doctor) started in 2004 - Dec .After a series of hospitalizations, SOS Steroid Injections, Immuno Supressants, Panic Attacks and a totally paralyzed life, I realized I had only jumped from the frying pan to the fire. These medications had totally suppressed by ability to fight infection - I was assailed by a measles infection, followed by 2 bronchial infections, so on and so forth forcing me to abandon western medication for good.

Anyhow this jeremiad is not to place my travails on record but to exhort and infuse confidence that "ASTHMA IS CURABLE --- BUT NOT THROUGH BRONCHODIALATORS, NEBULIZERS OR STEROIDS”, dispel conventional myths surrounding the problem, give a medical ignoramus's conception of what asthma is and last but certainly not the least, make people think about alternative strategies for asthma.

A small observation on the adage "Asthma is not curable -- It can only be maintained”. I would ask, can common cold be cured? Is anybody free from gastritis, heart burn, stomach upset, viral infection to name a few? All of us do get all these problems on an average of at least twice a year -- no exceptions. Then why such a special non redeemable status for asthma alone?

To Start with, Asthma is not a disease – it is a state of the body just like fatigue only more severe. There are 2 basic types - Intrinsic and Extrinsic .Intrinsic -occurs due to internal infection typically bronchial while extrinsic is typically allergic in nature .I donot profess to know any more about this topic than Adam but this level of understanding should eminently suffice in eradicating this recidivist.

Donning my raconteur’s cap again, I took a long arduous path through several alternative systems after stopping allopathy. My transition happened, from being a bronchial asthmatic to an allergic cum Bronchial asthmatic -- thanks to the typical side effects of Western medication. My intention is not to launch a diatribe or a tirade against the profession but their tools are so poisonous and are to be used only in emergency cases and not for any long term curative purpose is what is clearly palpable. Let me list down the side effects that I have experienced after taking these medications.

Steroids - kill your immunity - make your body susceptible to more infection. I should know. I have had around 100 odd steroid injections in the last year and a half.

Mast Cell Inhibitors - Repress your immunity to such an extent that, the day you stop using these drugs your system behaves like a drunken horse hyper reacting even to the smallest irritant in the environment.

Antihistamines or Anti allergens chemically dehydrate the airway / nasal passages and encourage the formation of phlegm plugs. Acute Rhinitis stops only to return the next day, but your bronchial constriction increases due to the solidification.

Nebulizers - whether steroid or non steroid, have the same effect as antihistamines - they parch the throat passages, increase phlegm agglomeration and actively promote dry cough which is again a vicious cycle.

In addition to all these nice embellishments, the final icing on the cake will be your stomach – an innocent bystander getting the screaming heebie-jeebies. These are called LABA (Long acting Broncho blah blah blah) and SABA (Short Acting Broncho blah blah blah). In Tamil, the transformation yields as Profit for the Practitioner (LABA) and a curse on the patient (SABA).

These are the only prescriptions available with Western Science - they preclude the current emergency, but pave way for an alternate problem down the line. There is a strong tendency amongst the corporate health care units to market steroids and flaunt them as the way of the future. There was even an article a couple of weeks ago in a popular daily by a top pulmonologist trying to Proselytize people into using these medications and to quote the esteemed person, “Not using steroids could result in side effects – even death".

Ayurveda - Helped control Bronchial Infections which was my primary problem but unfortunately by the time I got to this form of treatment ,my immunity had been rendered redundant by the amount of steroids I had consumed increasing my allergy based attacks .

Naturopathy - Mild and helps rejuvenate – Cannot solve intense, chronic problems

Desensitization - Possibly the biggest con in the field of allergic medicine. I had over 150 odd injections in the space of a year to desensitize me to a variety of allergens. Ostensibly, the Allergy Test It is to find what you are allergic to – Believe me it is next to impossible to find out and the inevitable mundane report would be “Reactive to dust mites and House Dust “. I am yet to meet someone who loves Dust Mites and House Dust. Have you?

Homeopathy - Worked sporadically - if the correct medication, suiting an individual's type can be administered intelligently, it will work wonders. In my case it was too late in the day to experiment and arrive at the right combination as each medicine took time to settle.

Siddha - Controlled Phlegm by 100% but could not minimize allergic reactions.

Yoga - Remarkably effective in suppressing allergies and also in avoiding their ramifications of asthma on the body –like back / shoulder pain and so on.

To sum it all up, these systems showed promise -- more than what allopathy ever did or can, and the advantage was that even if these systems failed, they did not throw up negative side effects and they all had some positive effect on the body.

I am not yet out of the woods ,or even barely comfortable but I have stopped almost all the medicines I had been taking and moved over to what I call the Preventive Maintenance Mode (PMM). Incidentally, the acronym also satisfies the Thermodynamic Utopia – Perpetual Motion Machine. Way to Go??
  • Turmeric, Pepper, Garlic with Milk in the morning - Absolutely stops bronchial infection (Turmeric is one of the greatest antiseptics known to man)
  • Minimal Diet of Fresh Fruits at Night - Detoxify the body and eliminate digestion problems (There is such a term as Gastric Asthma)
  • Avoid eating Chaat, Non Veg & Soft Syrupy Sweets that cause allergy and stimulate phlegm production
  • Avoid cold food / Drinks. Have things as hot as you can tolerate and Exercise (More to keep your mind healthy and positive)
  • Take a slight massage of Hot Coconut Oil and Camphor on the chest and back before going to bed .Relieves Broncho Spasm instantly. A more technologically advanced form this treatment termed “Bronchio Thermoplasty“ by the western world is under research. But this old world granny’s tip does work marvels
  • Jaal neeti - A yoga exercise where Luke warm salt water is poured into one nostril and comes out through the other. I was a skeptic as well and I found that it could be done without the necessity for a teacher and was remarkably easy to implement. The icing on the cake was that it works faster than any antihistamine and has 99.99% positive effects. I cannot resist mentioning that my allergic attacks - a combination of rhinitis and asthma, which would normally last for 2-3 days with more than 150 sneezes during the night has come down by almost 80%
A small note about Allergy and the relative Western and Ayurvedic Perception. Western Medicine describes in precise detail the mechanism of IGe antibodies, Mast Cells, Histamine and so on but unfortunately assumes the allergy to be a reaction between the immunity and the allergen. Whilst Ayurveda does not believe in differential Immunity behavior between individuals, it indicates the reaction to be between the Toxins accumulated in the body (Amavisha) and the allergen, which makes the concept of self detoxification more relevant.

That’s about all folks – It does cause a lot of angst seeing children being administered nebulizers for common cold, steroids being marketed like fresh fruit and that too by responsible health professionals, doctors going for extreme reactive modes of treatment where simple prevention can help and even educated people falling into a false sense of confidence in using Western Medication, at least where Asthma is concerned. If this statement can reach out and help reduce even one person’s agony, then my purpose would have been well served.


PS: I took up jogging as a means of relieving the psychological slump that every attack threw up. From a situation where I needed to use the bronchodilator continuously and take rest for every 100 mts that I covered, I am now able to do a 3 km stretch comfortably which I think is the surest proof of remarkable improvement in Lung capacity. The achievement of 3 kms a day will sound mundane but ask a chronic Asthmatic……

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Reminiscences