Mysterious shortness of breath

Posted by gabrielm @gabrielm, May 31, 2018

I will try to make this as short as possible, but this has been going on for over 5 years, so it might be farily long. 

Beginning in summer of 2012, I began having shortness of breath (SOB) with no other symptoms. I felt a constant need to yawn, and every few breaths wouldn't satisfy the SOB. I would take a deep breath, and felt like it would get "stuck" before satisfying the air hunger feeling. About every 3-5 deep breaths would satisfy it, only for it to return a minute later. 

I got an endoscopy and other tests done, which revealed that I had some esophageal erosion due to acid reflux and a slight hiatal hernia and was diagnosed with GERD. I had always have bad heartburn, so I was prescribed with Prilosec, which I have been taking daily since them. I've tried stopping it a few times but the reflux always comes back a lot worse. 

Lung tests and x-rays were normal. Heart tests normal. Blood test revealed a slight anemia but otherwise pretty normal. 

I did some research reading forums where someone suggested taking vitamin B-12. Strangely, I took it and the SOB disappeared almost instantly. However, it only lasted a few days for it to return just as bad. I then started taking an iron supplement, which again made the SOB disappear quickly- same thing; symptom returned days later. 

After further research, I came across a breathing exercise method called the Buteyko method. Essentially you do a lot of breath holding to build up CO2 and reduce breathing as the theory is that I had chronic hyperventilation causing too much CO2 to exit my body. After applying the method and reducing my breathing, the SOB disappeared after only 2 days and I felt completely normal. I continued the method a few more days then no longer felt the need to pursue the exercises. I was normal for a whole year when the SOB once again returned with some chest tightness. I applied the method again and the symptom went away, this time with a little more effort; after about 3 weeks. I included physical exercise which also helped with my breathing. 

After that, I was normal for about 2 years. I mistakenly stopped or at least slowed down exercise and the SOB returned once again. I applied the method and began running for exercise but the SOB kept getting worse. It got so bad, I had multiple panic attacks and the feeling of completely empty lungs with the inability to satisfy it with deep breaths. I had to stop exercise altogether, apply the Buteyko method and do breathing exercises very carefully with very light and slow exercise. This helped, but it took many weeks for the SOB to improve. Then, it was almost normal when over a year ago as I was running, I couldn't get a deep breath to satisfy exercise-induced SOB. I have had SOB continuously since then (a year and a half). 

I once again started doing breathing exercises and slowly building up physical exercise, but I can't do any prolonged cardio activity because the SOB gets to a point where deep breathing will not satisfy it. While the breathing exercises have helped, they have had very little effect compared to previous efforts. It seems that every time the symptom returned, greater effort yields few results.

I suspect there is something, some underlying cause that is causing the SOB that has alluded me this entire time. 

So for the past few months to a year, the SOB is worse on some days, better on others, but never gone. There's no rhyme or reason or pattern for it. It's just there, sometimes affecting my sleep. I sometimes can't get a deep breath to satisfy it every now and then, but for the most part, a big gulp of air will satisfy it. But it returns seconds to minutes later. It's as though every breath doesn't deliver what it's supposed to, the SOB builds up, and then I have to take a big gulp of air to get rid of the feeling, pattern repeats. My breathing pattern is normal, however. I don't feel like anything physical is happening, but sometimes it feels like my airways and nostrils are slightly inflamed due to allergies, but when I don't feel inflammation the SOB is still there. 

Recent lung function tests show normal- I don't have asthma, or any other problems with my lungs. Heart tests are normal though I did have about a two week bout of heart palpitations which came and went. Haven't had any for a while- it just mysteriously started happening then stopped. Blood tests are normal, though tests always show a slight elevation of biliruben which my doc thinks is Gilbert's disease. 

I don't have sleep apnea (normal test), bloody oxygenation is normal, heart rate normal. 

I recently saw local naturopath (since mainstream docs aren't able to help) who immediately suspected a liver problem when I described my SOB, possibly liver inflammation. He used an electrodermal testing machine to test his theory which did seem to show a problem with my liver and gallbladder. He gave me digestive enzymes and a gallbladder formula to help clear a bile duct clog, thus reducing liver inflammation. He also determined with the machine that I have an egg sensitivity so I've been avoiding eggs. 

Been taking this and avoiding eggs for a couple of months, but there has been no noticeable improvement. Everything else is normal. Emotionally I'm normal- no anxiety, depression, etc. The SOB seems to be the only symptom of something, but always comes back worse, until a year and half ago when it came back and has remained since. I feel like I shouldn't have to do breath holding exercises every day just to maintain my breathing well enough to do every day things. 

Does anyone have any idea of a possible underlying cause?

@oliviah9

Hi all! I have just finished reading this whole thread. I also have all of these exact symptoms. I am a 20 year old female who is healthy and I also play college soccer and am about to return to school. So this situation is very scary for me. I started noticing this "air hunger" on June 28, so I've had it for about 6 weeks. I first noticed this happening while I was on my cruise trip and we were in Puerto Rico. We went snorkeling that day and a little bit after that I noticed this breathing thing occurring. I have to "fight" to get a breath, I crave that deep satisfying breath, I can only sometimes get that deep breath, I normally try to get the deep breath through my mouth (I don't know why but it makes it easier it seems), I also have chest/heart pain that is on my left side and makes me want to try to massage my heart, I have had a fast heart rate from this which I think is just caused by anxiety bc of not being able to breathe right. I have had all bloodwork done and everything seems fine. I have had a lot of heart exams done as well. I wore a heart monitor for 2 weeks and everything seems fine. I have an average heart rate of 90 which is higher than it used to be. I have a feeling I'm dealing with some anxiety because of these symptoms, but I don't believe it is causing it. I have not seen a pulmonologist, ENT, or GI. My doctors all are trying to write this off as I know most of you have experienced also. They are trying to pin it on stress and anxiety of course. I was prescribed lexapro which is an anti-depressant and anxiety medication. I am very hesitant to try it as messing with my neurotransmitters scares me a lot and I don't believe this will fix the problem. I also have a therapy appointment in a few weeks. Have any of you tried anxiety medication or therapy to help this? I am wondering if it is mainly a mental thing as all of us have gone through so many examinations and all come back normal. Let's please keep this forum going, so we can maybe solve this!! Please give me any advice 🙂

Jump to this post

I would also like to know because I to have the same problem

REPLY

No, I have not had any chest x-rays or CT scans. I think I might look into getting these done and seeing a pulmonologist and GI. It’s just that this is an awful time for my as I go back to my out of state college where I have no medical doctors or anything in about a week. So I just don’t know what to do at the moment. @merpreb

REPLY
@oliviah9

No, I have not had any chest x-rays or CT scans. I think I might look into getting these done and seeing a pulmonologist and GI. It’s just that this is an awful time for my as I go back to my out of state college where I have no medical doctors or anything in about a week. So I just don’t know what to do at the moment. @merpreb

Jump to this post

@oliviah9– Does your school have an infirmary?

REPLY

Does anyone here complaining of this shortness of breath have upper back or neck pain?

REPLY

You need to see your doctor. I understand problems with your vertebrae can cause breathing problems. Our bodies parts are so connected. I have had cervical surgery thru the back and and doctor believes this has caused other problems. Best answer is make an appointment.

REPLY

The only reason I asked is pay attention to other triggers. I also noticed that I have upper back pain in the rhomboid muscle. Whenever it is extremely uncomfortable is when my breathing difficulties are there. I put 2 and 2 together after a recent massage and a little relief on my back. I realized I was able to breathe again. Let’s see if it holds up

REPLY
@floridaguy123

The only reason I asked is pay attention to other triggers. I also noticed that I have upper back pain in the rhomboid muscle. Whenever it is extremely uncomfortable is when my breathing difficulties are there. I put 2 and 2 together after a recent massage and a little relief on my back. I realized I was able to breathe again. Let’s see if it holds up

Jump to this post

@floridaguy123 Thoracic outlet syndrome can cause chest tightness and pain and interfere with breathing. It can be treated with physical therapy and myofascial release. Here are some links with information.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/thoracic-outlet-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20353988
https://www.painscience.com/articles/respiration-connection.php
https://trainingandrehabilitation.com/how-truly-treat-thoracic-outlet-syndrome/
https://trainingandrehabilitation.com/shoulder-pain-scapular-stability/
https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/myofascial-release-therapy-mfr-for-treating-compression-and-pain/

Liked by kjconrad

REPLY

I went and saw a pulmonologist a couple days ago and my doctor thought right away that I had asthma. I did the asthma test and passed it with flying colors so no asthma. He still said to try using an inhaler since he has no idea what it could be. I won't be doing that I don't think. I went to my ENT doctor yesterday and they diagnosed me with silent reflux by using a camera to see down my throat! She said all of our symptoms can be caused by this as other people here have stated. I've start taking Omeprazole 40mg every night when I'm going to bed. I really hope this will help me figure this out!!! I'm having high hope right now.

REPLY
@oliviah9

I went and saw a pulmonologist a couple days ago and my doctor thought right away that I had asthma. I did the asthma test and passed it with flying colors so no asthma. He still said to try using an inhaler since he has no idea what it could be. I won't be doing that I don't think. I went to my ENT doctor yesterday and they diagnosed me with silent reflux by using a camera to see down my throat! She said all of our symptoms can be caused by this as other people here have stated. I've start taking Omeprazole 40mg every night when I'm going to bed. I really hope this will help me figure this out!!! I'm having high hope right now.

Jump to this post

Hi @oliviah9 how are you taking the 40mg? All at once or 20 and 20 at different times? Did the doc give you a script or is it just 2 Prilosec? I am asking because I too definitely have reflux that also causes me some grief….. I had it my whole life but managed it but now that the big 40 hit things get less tolerable. TIA

REPLY
@floridaguy123

Hi @oliviah9 how are you taking the 40mg? All at once or 20 and 20 at different times? Did the doc give you a script or is it just 2 Prilosec? I am asking because I too definitely have reflux that also causes me some grief….. I had it my whole life but managed it but now that the big 40 hit things get less tolerable. TIA

Jump to this post

I'm taking one 40mg capsule at night so all at once. Yes, my doctor gave me a prescription for this. I will definitely send some updates on here as I continue with it!!

REPLY

I also forgot to mention that my doctor recommended me to drink some alkaline water. It's pretty much at every store, but it is a little pricey. She said it will help balance the ph in your stomach and it's filled with great electrolytes, so I'm also trying this out!

REPLY
@helpnywhereucan

Hey all…just wanted to stop by. Hope everyone is getting to the bottom of their issue. As I stated in previous posts, I tried the natural route. My doctor stated it was anxiety. I'm not buying it.

Anyway…I'm feeling much better. Here's what I did:

Ate healthier, including potassium rich foods; potassium helps with lung expansion and contraction and alkalization

Focused on getting more greens and vegetables to combat acidity. I took vegetables and powdered supplement (this will help if you have GERD)

Made sure I was getting ample amounts of magnesium. If you decide to supplement, do your research. Magnesium can cause loose stools. Find the form that works for YOU. Magnesium helps with anxiety, asthma and allergies and a whole host of other things.

Get adequate Vitamin D. I get lots of sunlight, I supplement. Vitamin D also helps with certain lung infections and certain forms of asthma.

Take Cod Liver Oil: Vitamins A & D are important for lung health. Cod liver oil has also been shown to combat lung disorders including infections like pneumonia and asthma ( I took it just in case my SOB was related to that) https://hvmn.com/blog/supplements/cod-liver-oil-benefits-of-this-super-supplement

A take a good food based multivitamin

I take a trace mineral supplement occasionally and eat small amounts of salt that contains trace minerals. Sodium helps regulate electrolytes. Doctors have told us not to eat it, but we need small amounts to be healthy

I maintain adequate hydration. In addition to regular water, I drink alkaline water that contains trace minerals

I walk every day. I read exercise helps balance o2/ co2 levels.

These are all the things I've done. I wanted to leave no stone un-turned. I still experience SOB from time to time if I get dehydrated or stray too far from my diet but I can tell it's on its last leg. Compared to what it used to be, I can handle a minute or so of it, here and there. Just like it took time for nutrients to deplete, it will take time to build them back up. I hope to come back in a few months and tell you it's completely gone. Fingers crossed.

Jump to this post

Hi! Thanks for your post!! Is your SOB still continuing to get better?

REPLY
@floridaguy123

Does anyone here complaining of this shortness of breath have upper back or neck pain?

Jump to this post

Yes, me! Every since I got my Peloton bike. My massage lady also said two vertebrae in my neck are straight and should be curved.

REPLY
@kjconrad

Hi! Thanks for your post!! Is your SOB still continuing to get better?

Jump to this post

It is. For me I think it may have boiled down to a few things. Making sure I control acidity…I too drink alkaline water and consume green powders and juices. Getting the proper electrolytes…main ones being magnesium and potassium and lastly staying hydrated. Since being acidic and dehydration mess with electrolytes, I could probably just say it's an electrolyte issue. I think it will just take a bit more time but it's sporadic and extremely tolerable now. I can go days without it happening at all. As soon as I eat poorly or get dehydrated…there she blows! I feel best with lots of water, greens, and a potassium rich diet ( I also supplement potassium no more than one dose per day- be careful with this one guys it can cause heart arrhythmia) and magnesium as well as other things I mentioned in previous posts to cover all basis . Warrior on you guys!

REPLY

Hi Gabriel,

Have you found any relief since your last post? I struggle with this exact same condition. It started suddenly almost 10 years ago. My muscles are permanently weak as a result of low c02 and the hypoxia that results from the Bohr effect. I have seen so many different types of doctors, and no one can find the mechanism. I have tried Buteyko on multiple occasions. I first tried it in 2015, but I didn't understand the mechanism of it. Then I tried it again this past winter when I had a better understanding of what was actually going on with me and that I was chronically hyperventilating. I have experienced minimal relief throughout the years. The first time was after doing EFT/tapping. The second time was after taking coca leaf powder in Peru. I don't know that the coca leaf got to the root of the problem, but it may have helped with oxygen delivery and temporarily reset my respiration. The third time was with an Africa root shrub called iboga (the root of ibogaine). It is a very strong psychedelic, but has been used for centuries in Africa to heal the body and the mind. After vomiting heavily and then expelling dragon-like belches for 4-5 hours, my respiration was reset and I could breath normally. Oxygen flooded to my cells and my legs were no longer stiff. This happened every time I took iboga (all six times). Unfortunately the recalibrated breathing didn't last longer than a couple of days and my hyperventilation returned. I haven't done iboga since because while it's a very healing medicine, it's too physically painfully (hours of stomach upset and belching) for effects that don't last. I, too, have acid reflux, and I have gut issues as well. I thought Buteyko would be my saving grace, but I just couldn't get my CP up, and I practiced religiously. I am now trying 4-7-8 breathing. I am in an existential crisis of sorts – is hyperventilation the cause of all of this, or is the hyperventilation caused by some deeper issue that is happening in my body. After iboga, I tasted what it was like to breathe normally again, but I still find it so odd that I would start hyperventilating so quickly again afterwards.

Anyway, I am simply curious to hear how you are doing and if you have found any more relief.

Best,
Caitlin

REPLY
Please login or register to post a reply.