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How Losing Weight Improved My Asthma Symptoms

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Last year, I made a commitment to lose weight and start eating better. I had recently gone to the doctor for my annual physical and I heard the dreaded words after stepping off the scale, “You should think about losing some weight.”

My heart sank.

I had chalked the weight gain up to moving to Chicago, where the pizza is served deep dish and there’s no shortage of new restaurants to try. The truth was that I had stopped working out regularly and I wasn’t eating well at all. When I indulged, I went all in. I have a massive sweet tooth and loved to reward myself with a sweet snack and a glass (or two) of wine at the end of a stressful day. I also continued to eat like an athlete who was training, overloading on carbs and eating whatever I wanted. I was also feeling sluggish and uninspired, relying on caffeine to help pick me up. Working a high-stress job did nothing to help my situation. I was in desperate need of a change and my doctor’s words were a rude awakening.

In early March, I set my weight loss goal at 15 pounds. If I could do that, I would be in a healthy range for my height and would be out of the woods for any immediate health issues. Also, with wedding dress shopping right around the corner, losing a few pounds wouldn’t be a bad thing! I chose a diet that eliminated all immune-responsive foods, as I have always struggled with allergic reactions to certain foods, but never explicitly identified them.

After three months of eating well and exercising more frequently, I reached my weight loss goal. I was sleeping better, had more energy, and had even cut out coffee and anything with added sugar. After six months, I was down a total of 25 pounds. I was training for a marathon and my times were faster than ever. I felt strong for the first time in a long time. I tracked my blood pressure throughout the process to see the impact on my resting heart rate. It was amazing to see it drop into a very healthy, athletic range.

I honestly couldn’t believe it. Watching the number on the scale decrease to a weight I haven’t seen since high school was such an incredible feeling. It feels silly to think about it now, but I had lied about my weight on my driver’s license — and had even surpassed that fictitious number! I didn’t realize that I had so much weight to lose.

Weight loss and asthma symptoms

The biggest surprise for me has been the positive impact on my asthma.

According to the American Lung Association, asthma is more common in obese individuals and obesity makes asthma symptoms worse and harder to control. Research indicates that fat tissue produces inflammatory substances that might affect the lungs and studies suggest that these substances affect asthma.

Any extra weight can cause problems for people who already have asthma, which is exactly what I experienced. I was waking up during the night coughing due to uncontrolled asthma, and experienced even more shortness of breath than usual when trying to walk upstairs and work out. I had increased my inhaler usage and was even put on a maintenance medication. There were so many red flags to my poor health, weight was just one of them.

While I do think inflammatory foods may have played a small role in my poorly controlled asthma, there’s no denying the almost immediate benefit weight loss had on my symptoms.

If you’re struggling with uncontrolled asthma and want to lose weight, talk with your doctor about safe and effective ways to do so. In the meantime, these activities may help you establish healthier habits and improve your overall health:

  • Take walks regularly throughout the week.
  • Prep healthy meals and snacks instead of going out to eat.
  • Reduce your alcohol consumption.
  • Avoid added and artificial sugars.
  • Eat lean meats.
  • Drink more water.

Don’t be intimidated by a number on a scale, and don’t expect to see results overnight. When you’re on the road to a healthier you, just remember to take things one step at a time.

For more information on how to manage asthma, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team. 

RESP-US-NP-00096 FEBRUARY 2019

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