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?

@joangma

sir how about copd that's my sob problem

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@joangma– Hello. I'm a female, my name is Merry. I have COPD too. Are you asking me about eating a healthier diet for that?

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Hi everyone, This discussion prompted me to also look into evidence available regarding alkaline diets and. Here are my key takeaways:

– The alkaline diet reinforces healthy eating, like eating more vegetables, fruits and drinking lots of water and cutting back on sugar, alcohol, meat and processed foods. All of these things will help improve your overall health, help you lose weight and even help lower your cancer risk, but not for the reasons proponents of the diet claim.

– Changing your diet "may change the pH of your saliva or urine because these are waste products, but there’s no way you could ever eat enough alkaline food that it impacts your blood.”

– "The alkaline diet is healthy because it is based on whole and unprocessed foods. No reliable evidence suggests it has anything to do with pH levels."

These 3 articles provide good reviews of the evidence:

– The alkaline diet: What you need to know ( MD Anderson) https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/the-alkaline-diet–what-you-need-to-know.h18-1592202.html

– The Alkaline Diet: An Evidence-Based Review (Healthline) https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/the-alkaline-diet-myth

– The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health (PubMed) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195546/

When considering complementary or alternative treatments, be open-minded yet skeptical. Learn about the potential benefits and risks. Here is an article from Mayo Clinic that might interest you about evaluating claims made by the producers and/or sellers of supplements, natural products and other alternative medicines. A lot of the information also applies to health claims of diets. http://mayocl.in/2tGC0Jp

@helpnywhereucan, I appreciate your sage advice, underlining that people do their own research, and the reminder that what may work for one person may not for another. Thanks for sharing your experience and the articles you found as you searched for answers.

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In reply to @joangma "yes mam" + (show)
@joangma

@joangma– This is a terrific question. Although I'm not a dietician nor do I have a medical degree. I can just attest to my own health. Keeping my weight down by eating a balanced diet is very helpful to me. Any added weight puts pressure on all of my organs. I can really feel it in my lungs. I take vitamins and some supplements. I also drink a cup of turmeric tea to help with inflammation. To be honest I have no idea if any of them have helped me, but not being over weight certainly has.
Here is a good study that might interest you. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1365-2222.2001.01064.x
If you have any further questions about this I'll gladly help research the answers. To find out more about this and see some positive results would be fantastic. What questions could we ask to get more up to date information?
https://thorax.bmj.com/content/62/9/786.short

Liked by msulcer

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@ethanmcconkey

Hi everyone, This discussion prompted me to also look into evidence available regarding alkaline diets and. Here are my key takeaways:

– The alkaline diet reinforces healthy eating, like eating more vegetables, fruits and drinking lots of water and cutting back on sugar, alcohol, meat and processed foods. All of these things will help improve your overall health, help you lose weight and even help lower your cancer risk, but not for the reasons proponents of the diet claim.

– Changing your diet "may change the pH of your saliva or urine because these are waste products, but there’s no way you could ever eat enough alkaline food that it impacts your blood.”

– "The alkaline diet is healthy because it is based on whole and unprocessed foods. No reliable evidence suggests it has anything to do with pH levels."

These 3 articles provide good reviews of the evidence:

– The alkaline diet: What you need to know ( MD Anderson) https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/the-alkaline-diet–what-you-need-to-know.h18-1592202.html

– The Alkaline Diet: An Evidence-Based Review (Healthline) https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/the-alkaline-diet-myth

– The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health (PubMed) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195546/

When considering complementary or alternative treatments, be open-minded yet skeptical. Learn about the potential benefits and risks. Here is an article from Mayo Clinic that might interest you about evaluating claims made by the producers and/or sellers of supplements, natural products and other alternative medicines. A lot of the information also applies to health claims of diets. http://mayocl.in/2tGC0Jp

@helpnywhereucan, I appreciate your sage advice, underlining that people do their own research, and the reminder that what may work for one person may not for another. Thanks for sharing your experience and the articles you found as you searched for answers.

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You're welcome! And I might add that in spite of all the data and research available, don't discount the personal testimonies that exist everywhere on the internet. As I said all the information anyone needs is just a few clicks away. I can personally attest to the fact that changing my diet and lifestyle increased my pH and as a result the acidity in my body has left and so did the shortness of breath, stiffness, body odor, PMS, heavy periods, insomnia and other things. I feel so much better. And to clarify, the diet is not designed to change the pH of your blood which must remain at a constant of 7.35 or 7.45. If the range of blood deviates you will experience a medical crisis possibly even death ( In previous posts I recommended looking up alkalosis/ acidosis–these are medical terms). Instead, the diet (for lack of a better word) is designed to provide sufficient minerals that help the body buffer acids so that the blood can stay in that tightly regulated range. If the blood moves toward a lower pH (acidity) it will rob minerals from bones and teeth to buffer the acids which creates osteoporosis and tooth decay. Even receding gums that comes with age is a sign of jaw bone loss, ie lack of calcium. If anyone has been diagnosed with those conditions you might be helped by changing your diet. It's a sign that you do not have sufficient mineral reserves and things could quite possibly get worse from there.

I'd move away from term "Alkaline diet" etc because the word diet seems off putting to people. It simply means you eat way more fruits and vegetables than you eat meat, coffee, sugar or alcohol. You don't stop eating meat if your body requires it and you don't have to give up alcohol. We're talking about an overall commitment to eating healthy food. I'd also add that this approach is new and MD's that have spent their entire lives focusing on protocols, pharmaceuticals etc (and we need those for sure) are not yet believers that diet affects health in a way that others have learned through personal experience. Be your own advocate. This is not a suggestion that anyone forgo medical care but for anyone dealing with any type of health issue a good, healthy diet is your ally. We learned that in grade school with the food pyramid but somehow seem to have forgotten it. As we fill our bodies with fast food and soda and then scan the drugstore aisles at night looking for an antacid…which by the way is calcium, we've lost sight of the fact that if we put the minerals in our bodies in sufficient quantities beforehand, we won't need an emergency fix. When we are balanced, a little late night chili on occasion, won't do anything because the body already has what it needs to buffer acids.

If any of the information intrigues anyone in this forum simply go to the health food store and purchase pH strips and test if you are seeing signs of acidity…heartburn, skin conditions, stiffness, cavities etc. Spend a few days (might take longer) feeding your body the minerals it needs and then test again to see if your pH raises and see if your condition improves. If so, you have your answer despite what research might say.

I knew this issue would turn into a hot topic. There are people on both sides of the coin and as I said previously, there's no right or wrong. I just hate to see people suffering with minor health problems when they might simply be resolved by looking in the refrigerator. And again, I'm not speaking to anyone who has a chronic or serious ongoing illness who needs medical supervision and maintenance. Talk to your doctor about changing your diet. As I said previously, my posts were for those who have had no diagnosis provided for shortness of breath. It's a sign that your body needs something and I'd start with the right food.

But…before you do anything. I'd suggest doing the research first. Know what to do and why you are doing it. Be your own advocate for yourself and for your family. Your health should be the highest priority for you and for them. Be willing to do whatever it takes to ensure you live a long healthy life. Spend time on the internet reading research, data, personal testimonies and find what works for YOU. And partner with your doctor for your WELLNESS.

Here is a site with lots of personal experiences with alternative treatments…what worked, what didn't as well as precautions:

http://www.Earthclinic.com

Here are a few highly credentialed MD's (ie Harvard and Cornell) that advocate diet for maintenance of health (I'm not a proponent of being vegan–find what works for you):
https://www.humanedecisions.com/medical-doctors-advocating-a-plant-based-diet/
Dr Hyman on Magnesium:

Good luck Everyone!

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Here's another link for those who are interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzZwZ7bsoIc

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@gabrielm and @helena4000 as this discussion has turned to food and what we eat, I wonder what, if any, diet or eating habits have you changed or looked into to help control the acid reflux you mentioned? Has the SOB been resolved? I'd love to get an update.

@helpmywhereucan @fracturedd and @merpreb, healthy eating habits certainly contribute to overall health. Hearing your first-hand stories of how changing your diet has contributed to resolving specific symptoms, such as shortness of breath, are instructional and inspiring. But changing how you shop, cook and eat (out and at home) can be challenging. What helped you make healthy eating a habit? What keeps you motivated for the long haul? Are there things that are more challenging to stick to than others?

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@ethanmcconkey

@gabrielm and @helena4000 as this discussion has turned to food and what we eat, I wonder what, if any, diet or eating habits have you changed or looked into to help control the acid reflux you mentioned? Has the SOB been resolved? I'd love to get an update.

@helpmywhereucan @fracturedd and @merpreb, healthy eating habits certainly contribute to overall health. Hearing your first-hand stories of how changing your diet has contributed to resolving specific symptoms, such as shortness of breath, are instructional and inspiring. But changing how you shop, cook and eat (out and at home) can be challenging. What helped you make healthy eating a habit? What keeps you motivated for the long haul? Are there things that are more challenging to stick to than others?

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@ethanmcconkey– Good morning and thank you for your response. I changed my diet because I had stopped smoking and needed to drop the 15 lbs that I had gained. I changed my whole life around after my first cancer, a cleaner diet was one of them. I also began exercising and researching the importance of certain foods to add to my diet or eliminating them. The word diet is very limiting. I like to consider it a life change when I want to get healthier. And the only way that this can happen is to only buy healthier foods, more fruits and vegetables, lots of water and enough protein to keep you going. And yes to have something fun and sinful every once in a while. And as I said above, keeping my weight down allows me to have more fun, I can move around better because I breathe better.

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@merpreb

@joangma– This is a terrific question. Although I'm not a dietician nor do I have a medical degree. I can just attest to my own health. Keeping my weight down by eating a balanced diet is very helpful to me. Any added weight puts pressure on all of my organs. I can really feel it in my lungs. I take vitamins and some supplements. I also drink a cup of turmeric tea to help with inflammation. To be honest I have no idea if any of them have helped me, but not being over weight certainly has.
Here is a good study that might interest you. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1365-2222.2001.01064.x
If you have any further questions about this I'll gladly help research the answers. To find out more about this and see some positive results would be fantastic. What questions could we ask to get more up to date information?
https://thorax.bmj.com/content/62/9/786.short

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ask your doctor if you might need a zephyr valve procedure -might help.

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@gabrielm

Yes @tonyagregg, I'd like to keep in touch with you. Sounds like what you have is pretty similar to me. It's been much worse before, but it's stabled out. Still not gone by any means, but I can at least live with it. Let's stay in touch. Maybe we can tag team our research or let each other know if we find some kind of answers.

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I am now 31 and have had these issues since I was 20 years old. No one can figure out what it is and nothing helps…If you find anything out please message me.

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@ethanmcconkey

@gabrielm and @helena4000 as this discussion has turned to food and what we eat, I wonder what, if any, diet or eating habits have you changed or looked into to help control the acid reflux you mentioned? Has the SOB been resolved? I'd love to get an update.

@helpmywhereucan @fracturedd and @merpreb, healthy eating habits certainly contribute to overall health. Hearing your first-hand stories of how changing your diet has contributed to resolving specific symptoms, such as shortness of breath, are instructional and inspiring. But changing how you shop, cook and eat (out and at home) can be challenging. What helped you make healthy eating a habit? What keeps you motivated for the long haul? Are there things that are more challenging to stick to than others?

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I can say that I follow the Pritikin diet to a T and none of these diet changes have had any effect on bettering my shortness of breath

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@ecassidymitchell– Welcome to Mayo Connect. In my experience as a mentor for Connect I think that SOB is the most frustrating anomalies. So many things can cause it. Before I can help know that I am not a doctor and can only make suggestions based on my experiences and knowledge. Have you read the posts written in this post? I know that there are a lot but one of them just might hit home, and tada!
Eating as cleanly as you can is a great base for any person. What other ways have you tried to eliminate your SOB? Have you seen any doctors?

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Yes I have seen many doctors. I’m currently at Pritikin … you can look it up. It’s a health and wellness center to help individuals with specific issues such as weight , hi cholesterol, bad eating habits ……. I am 31 years of age and have been dealing with this since age 19. I was laying on my floor painting a picture and took a breath in and it was never there same since that day. I couldn’t get a full breathe … The day it happened I spoke to my mom about it and just tried to ignore it … over the weeks it progressed. I went to my first doc … he told me it was anxiety .. he put me on Xanax and klonopins (he lost his license) I. WAs acared of pills and didn’t like the way they made me feel so my mom would half them and give them to me as needed … but it never helped with the breathing …. I stopped it then went to asthma doc…he said I had COPD!! Which I later ruled out … he put me on ADVAIR 500/50 … it helped for a little while … I lost insurance couldn’t afford … then years later when I got insurance again I tried advair 250/50 … I took my first puff in and my lungs felt like they froze over! I started seeing sparklies every where and held my chest until I could breath normal again…. needless to say I haven’t touched that since! A few months went by I just tried to handle on my own went to my next doc … he said it was anxiety and put me on Xanax … told me to half them (blue) then peaches …. this worked ! It was a miracle drug … problem went away for a while… moved to another state… doctors make u see a psychiatrist in order to get them there. I could never get appt bc the wait was so long and I had to leave for Miami for work… now I am here and can’t breathe for CRAP… but trying so so so hard to cope … it brings me to tears I’m so so sick of this … I work out 4-6 days a week here I eat extremely clean.. the food is fresh not processed, cooked to order , no meat unless bison or fish … no butter no additives and mostly vegetable and fruit based … I eat three times a day. We have therapy sessions twice a week in group and singles … I do steam room and sauna and ice baths …. I do yoga …the only thing that can help is in yoga (BELLY breathing) which is EXTREMELY HARD TO GET INTO when u have this problem but when you do ,,, it makes a difference for that TIME BEING …. I meet with the yoga instructor today and tomorrow to see if she can help me … she says she has helped others with same problem ….

My personal opinion is that somewhere in the beginning of this my vagus nervous system bc unhinged from my normal breathing patterns … maybe I shallow breathe constantly and then want a big breathe and bc I don’t know how to properly breath anymore … I won’t be satisfied …. I do catch myself holding my breath ALOT! .. my mom did that and grandma but they never had breathing problems ….. my dad and Aunt however had the same breathing problem I had. My aunts got better after her 50s … my dad didn’t make it past 54

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@merpreb

@ecassidymitchell– Welcome to Mayo Connect. In my experience as a mentor for Connect I think that SOB is the most frustrating anomalies. So many things can cause it. Before I can help know that I am not a doctor and can only make suggestions based on my experiences and knowledge. Have you read the posts written in this post? I know that there are a lot but one of them just might hit home, and tada!
Eating as cleanly as you can is a great base for any person. What other ways have you tried to eliminate your SOB? Have you seen any doctors?

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And yes I read all the post before I commented on anything bc I am too, lookin for answers!

I will post on Saturday on here to let you know how the yoga class went , what all was involved in it and if it helped

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