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?

@ecassidymitchell

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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@ecassidymitchell– It's difficult to believe what some of us have to go through to not even get a helpful diagnosis.
Actually one of the best ways to get more air into your lungs is through pursed lip breathing. It does entail "belly" breathing because in order to fill your lungs up as much as possible you have to relax your diaphragm and get air deep deep into your lower lobes.
Here is a great video about this. It is hard to learn it but it works. Be patient with it and try it in all different exercise you do.
Humidity is a big culprit for me when it comes to daily activities and exercise. Anything over 55% humidity and I begin to feel the heaviness in my lungs. My muscles begin to ache because I am getting enough air, and of course I am short of breath. Have you given this any thought for when you use the sauna or steam room? Why do you do ice baths? Ouch!!!
Also I found that it's better to eat 4-5 times a day and eat smaller meals. Your stomach won't fill up as much so pressure on your lungs will be much less, if at all.

Are you seeing a pulmonologist at all?

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@merpreb

@ecassidymitchell– It's difficult to believe what some of us have to go through to not even get a helpful diagnosis.
Actually one of the best ways to get more air into your lungs is through pursed lip breathing. It does entail "belly" breathing because in order to fill your lungs up as much as possible you have to relax your diaphragm and get air deep deep into your lower lobes.
Here is a great video about this. It is hard to learn it but it works. Be patient with it and try it in all different exercise you do.
Humidity is a big culprit for me when it comes to daily activities and exercise. Anything over 55% humidity and I begin to feel the heaviness in my lungs. My muscles begin to ache because I am getting enough air, and of course I am short of breath. Have you given this any thought for when you use the sauna or steam room? Why do you do ice baths? Ouch!!!
Also I found that it's better to eat 4-5 times a day and eat smaller meals. Your stomach won't fill up as much so pressure on your lungs will be much less, if at all.

Are you seeing a pulmonologist at all?

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pritikin suggest that we eat six times a day I only eat when I’m hungry though . i’m hungry for a snack I’ll eat a snack but it’s very rare . Pranayama and meditation (belly breathing , nasal breathing etc) is what we did today in yoga… it did wonders for my breathing. I really feel we all may have bad allergies and also DO not know how to breathe properly. I way to tell that u haven’t been getting enough oxygen when you do take this class is getting dizzy when doing the breathing exercises bc your body isn’t used to taking in so much oxygen , it’s only used to the inadequate oxygen we have been feeding it . I think relearning how to breathe is the best thing and doing yoga/meditation everyday until you have relearned how to breathe. Humidity does suck and I think seasonal changes affect us as well. I work or a lot bc I’m training for something and ice baths help with muscle soreness … stretching and ice and hot switching back and forth help.

Today doing yoga didn’t fix my breathing completely but I will say during it I was able to breathe as well as afterwards for a short time and throughout my day today I am more calm and catch myself gasping for air at some points and holding my breathe and I feel more in control today than I have before….. do any of you ever catch yourself holding your breathe or CHEST breathing .

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@merpreb

@ecassidymitchell– It's difficult to believe what some of us have to go through to not even get a helpful diagnosis.
Actually one of the best ways to get more air into your lungs is through pursed lip breathing. It does entail "belly" breathing because in order to fill your lungs up as much as possible you have to relax your diaphragm and get air deep deep into your lower lobes.
Here is a great video about this. It is hard to learn it but it works. Be patient with it and try it in all different exercise you do.
Humidity is a big culprit for me when it comes to daily activities and exercise. Anything over 55% humidity and I begin to feel the heaviness in my lungs. My muscles begin to ache because I am getting enough air, and of course I am short of breath. Have you given this any thought for when you use the sauna or steam room? Why do you do ice baths? Ouch!!!
Also I found that it's better to eat 4-5 times a day and eat smaller meals. Your stomach won't fill up as much so pressure on your lungs will be much less, if at all.

Are you seeing a pulmonologist at all?

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And the sauna and steam room apparently are great for it…. I try to belly breathe in the steam room but not toooo deep of breathes and in the sauna I stretch my muscles and relax

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@ecassidymitchell

And the sauna and steam room apparently are great for it…. I try to belly breathe in the steam room but not toooo deep of breathes and in the sauna I stretch my muscles and relax

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@ecassidymitchell, I love the spa and steam rooms too but have been advised by my doctors and other medical specialists to steer clear of them as they are hot spots for germs which can cause respiratory and lung issues. I have MAC though which may be different from your ailments.

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@merpreb

@ecassidymitchell– It's difficult to believe what some of us have to go through to not even get a helpful diagnosis.
Actually one of the best ways to get more air into your lungs is through pursed lip breathing. It does entail "belly" breathing because in order to fill your lungs up as much as possible you have to relax your diaphragm and get air deep deep into your lower lobes.
Here is a great video about this. It is hard to learn it but it works. Be patient with it and try it in all different exercise you do.
Humidity is a big culprit for me when it comes to daily activities and exercise. Anything over 55% humidity and I begin to feel the heaviness in my lungs. My muscles begin to ache because I am getting enough air, and of course I am short of breath. Have you given this any thought for when you use the sauna or steam room? Why do you do ice baths? Ouch!!!
Also I found that it's better to eat 4-5 times a day and eat smaller meals. Your stomach won't fill up as much so pressure on your lungs will be much less, if at all.

Are you seeing a pulmonologist at all?

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would u please send me the video on breathing w/belly. thank you so much wayne

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@alm2019

@ecassidymitchell, I love the spa and steam rooms too but have been advised by my doctors and other medical specialists to steer clear of them as they are hot spots for germs which can cause respiratory and lung issues. I have MAC though which may be different from your ailments.

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Whts MAC and Emmy Doc’s advised as long as they are hot enough it’s safe … but there is a thin line

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@ecassidymitchell

Whts MAC and Emmy Doc’s advised as long as they are hot enough it’s safe … but there is a thin line

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My doc* lol

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@joangma

would u please send me the video on breathing w/belly. thank you so much wayne

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I only have audio

But there’s a lot on YouTube, just be careful in choosing an instructor … if u want the audio u can text me 8 five zero 8 six 0 3four20

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In reply to @ecassidymitchell "My doc* lol" + (show)
@ecassidymitchell

My doc* lol

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Haha, I was just about to google Emmy thinking it’s another lung issue I’ve not heard of!

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@alm2019

Haha, I was just about to google Emmy thinking it’s another lung issue I’ve not heard of!

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Hahaha Nope , just my nickname lolol

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@joangma

would u please send me the video on breathing w/belly. thank you so much wayne

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Woops- I forgot to copy the url for the breathing video. There are others too on you youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kpJ0QlRss4

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I am looking into something quite new–ZEPHTR VALVES–available in aurora bay care medical center green bay wi contact –Breanna tlachac r. n. 920-294-1401 your welcome

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@gabrielm

Hopefully they help get some answers @tonyagregg. I don't have answers yet, and been trying to find some since 2012. It's manageable and more stable, but I'd still like to get to the bottom of it so it doesn't get worse again. Let us know if you find out anything.

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I have been experiencing the same exact struggle for oxygen for about 6 months now. It’s driving me crazy and I can’t deal with it for much longer. I ended up in the ER last week because I felt like I was ready to pass out. The pulmonologist ran tests and everything was normal. Ekg is normal. I even had a chest X-ray and nothing abnormal. Blood tests just reveal high cholesterol so now I’m thinking it’s my heart but why would that cause such shortness of breath? I’m yawning all the time to try and satisfy this hunger for air because normal breaths aren’t working. I wish I had the cure. I’ll start taking iron supplements and fish oil. I will even take B12. I’m so desperate for answers because this feels so debilitating

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@devitakatelyn

I have been experiencing the same exact struggle for oxygen for about 6 months now. It’s driving me crazy and I can’t deal with it for much longer. I ended up in the ER last week because I felt like I was ready to pass out. The pulmonologist ran tests and everything was normal. Ekg is normal. I even had a chest X-ray and nothing abnormal. Blood tests just reveal high cholesterol so now I’m thinking it’s my heart but why would that cause such shortness of breath? I’m yawning all the time to try and satisfy this hunger for air because normal breaths aren’t working. I wish I had the cure. I’ll start taking iron supplements and fish oil. I will even take B12. I’m so desperate for answers because this feels so debilitating

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I'm sorry that this happened to you. I'm finally free…well…I had a mild episode of less than a minute a few days ago. I was able to 'cure' mine by going the nutrition route. I have lots of posts on this thread if you are interested. My SOB was related to acidity, electrolytes, dehydration etc. I am following a plant based diet, drinking lots of water with bicarbonates (Evian-pricey). I panicked when it happened a few days ago. It had been a while since it happened and I thought…here we go…and then it was gone. I hadn't had my 64 ounces of water for several days in a row so I'm sure there was a connection and I had been busy and gotten a little lax with my diet and routine.

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Just wanted to share my experience with a similar problem. I recently ended up with a pretty bad case of breathing issues that sound a lot like what many are describing. Inability to take a full, satisfying breath which leads to obsessive need to get a full breath – causing constant (every minute, all day long) sighing and yawning. I would be pace around the room in the evening in complete desperation to take these breaths and it was a very debilitating experience. I noticed that it seemed to happen shortly after a particularly nasty business meeting. Never woke up at night and also seems to go away when in a sleepy state (laying in bed awake in the early morning or late night). As soon as I was fully conscious – it started and lasted all day. I would wake up and as soon as I remember about the breathing issue, I would attempt to keep breathing normal and calm as I would be breathing naturally – and this would work until my mind would take over and start to go into the vicious cycle of trying to "take that deep breath". Would not get worse or better with activity. This went on for several weeks. Nothing could distract me from it or take my attention away.

From researching online and from the patterns, I was pretty sure that there was no issue related to lungs or heart. Based on when it seemed to have started, I was pretty sure it was stress related. Decided to avoid going to the doctor as I felt the tests attempting to find a likely non existing issue would just add to the problem and likely help develop a deeper habit that would be even harder to break.

What helped me: I started to work on assuring myself that the problem is phycological and I would not actually suffocate. I would try to "extend" those moments when just waking up (when the problem was not noticeable) by continuing slow and controlled breathing as I was laying awake in bed and use that as "proof" that there is no issue. Problem would still persist as soon as I would get up and stop the breathing 'exercises' but it was important to assure myself of the nature of the problem. Attempted to take some Bendadryl to increase sleepiness in the evening and relax. If it did make me sleepy (which in most cases it did not) – it helped. Little by little, the problem would start to get better. Not much and not for long, but it would give enough reassurance. Used those moments to further "teach myself" that this is just a cycle that needs to be broken. I very much believe that "some reassurance" helped a little, which would improve the issue briefly or a little and then I would pay very close attention to these patterns and use those positive moments to further reassure myself and it would build up and build up and improve. Negative thoughts on the other hand (feeling of desperation often times) would make the issue a lot worse. Ended up going to a wedding and realized that the issue did not come up at all as long as I did not remember about it at the wedding. Still came up a bit in the eve but I was now 100% sure and this reassurance helped remove the problem completely within the next few days. The key I believe was that I was already in a "positive and assured state" that the problem is resolvable by the time of the wedding. I believed it 100% due to the things described above. Until that day or so, nothing could have distracted me from the breathing issues.

I wanted to share this in case anyone is experiencing something similar. Obviously causes of the same issues can be varied so please do not skip out on medical attention if you feel you need it.

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