Asthma and Probiotics

In a long comment on an earlier post, JohnG tells how he failed and succeeded to get rid of disabling exercise-induced asthma. Lots of things didn’t work:

I tried Vitamin D; it didn’t work, but it did help my nasal allergies somewhat. I tried low carb dieting, and just like Dr. Lutz of “Life Without Bread” said, it made asthma worse while it practically cured my nasal allergies. I also tried the Dr. Sears approach of taking as much as 7.5g of EPA/DHA a day; no change at all in the exercise induced asthma.

The idea that asthma is due to lack of microbes made sense to him and he started trying fermented foods and probiotics. At first, nothing:

I re-reviewed the probiotic slant and found the Helminth story and all the trials that were going on in PubMed for them. With that logic in hand, I set about to find a probiotic that worked. I tried yogurt, kefir, fermented cabbage, and buttermilk to no avail. I then tried store bought probiotics one by one. I tried The Maker’s Diet probiotic and it didn’t help; but I do think it helped make a 20 year long wart go away. I also tried all forms of probiotics on the market; even LGG. Nothing.

Finally, success:

I bought this super high dose probiotic and took it along with a L. Sporogenes/bacillus coagulans. Voila, three days later I could really feel the difference during exercise. I continued that for 10 days. By the 10th day, I didn’t have to hit my inhaler at all during exercise. Wow!

First, I had to decide which probiotic did the trick. I didn’t want to spend a ton on that high dose probiotic, so I stuck with the Bacillus Coagulans and it continued working normally. So, I found my probiotic. Now, I needed to verify it wasn’t placebo. A close cousin to exercise induced asthma is the phenomenon of waking up sneezing and then promptly getting an asthma attack/or closure after that.

I went off my bacillus coagulans that I had been on for 14 days. By the second day, I noticed a little difference. By the third day, I had to hit my inhaler during the workout. By the 10th day (bacillus coagulans supposedly lives in your intestines 7 days), I was full-blown back to having to use 4 inhaler puffs and it wasn’t doing the trick. This was test phase one.

I then went back on the bacillus coagulans for 10 days. The same process repeated itself. The nightly asthma attacks abated after about 4 days and the same no-puff needed during exercise continued as well.

I then went back off the bacillus coagulans for 10 days. I got the asthma back at day 3.

I’ve now been back on 5 billion CFU’s of bacillus coagulans (duraflora) for 18 days. I don’t have to use my inhaler for exercise. I can feel the asthma come on very slightly and then go away.

Very impressive. Shows what can happen if (a) you think for yourself, (b) persist, and (c) have access to a lot of helpful information. I think he needed all three.

15 Replies to “Asthma and Probiotics”

  1. This is probably the wrong forum for this, but I wonder why he had to keep supplementing with the bacteria. Don’t they continue to feed and multiply once implanted?

    If I were him, I would start to look at factors of my diet and lifestyle that were killing this helpful bacteria in my gut.

  2. Good point Aaron. I’ve considered the same thing. I’m hoping that, over time, on a paleo-like diet while taking the bacillus coagulans my body will heal itself, but I’m just not sure that’s how it works.

    Here’s two points that oppose that thought which I’ve considered thus far.

    One, because of my diet, other environmental exposures, or just something genetically fouled up in my system, I may never get better and need a probiotic of some kind for the rest of my life; ala prescription medicines.

    Two, perhaps we were meant to have some level of exposure (load) to these agents (soil organisms, etc), and maybe some people require more because of genetics.

    I’m currently leaning to believe it is some combination of the two.

    As a side note, I also had mild colitis for about 15 years which has not returned since I’ve begun the treatment.

  3. Well, it appears from the probiotics books that I have read that you will need supplementation in the long term if you want a particular, commercial probiotic as non-native bacteria don’t permanently colonize the gut. You get the mix early in life from family and early environmental exposure.

    Another point is that in a more bacteria-rich environment, you wouldn’t need to seek out commercial bacteria to ingest–they would be present in larger numbers in your food.

  4. My wife had various gastrointestinal problems that all went away (or at least improved a lot) after she started drinking kombucha. However, she has to drink it about three times a day to maintain the beneficial effect. She’s been doing this for about three or four months, I think, with no cumulative effect. If she misses a dose, the symptoms return.

  5. The detailed ecology of the gastrointestinal tract is poorly known, to say the least. Maybe 1% of the intestinal organisms have even been identified. Seeing results where a single probiotic addition improves a symptom in an obvious way may give the false idea the system is simpler than it actually it. It should not be surprising that the positive effect does not last without continuing intake because of the unlimited complexity of the internal ecology and unknown players involved.

  6. There’s a lot of great information on the ‘cooling information’ blog.

    He recommends eating apples and onions (for pectin & inulin, I believe?) a form of fiber that supports intestinal bacterial growth.

    He also recommends eating a broad array of vegetables that have not been cleaned too well.

  7. I’ve tried the apples, jicama root, fos, etc to no success. I do juice carrots twice a week and don’t wash them. We have a garden and don’t wash the vegetables well either for the same reason.

    I agree with David’s complexity idea. The bacillus coagulans is clearly a band aid of sorts; performing a needed function somehow missing in me currently.

    What really throws a wrench in the works is the fact that my Dad and one of my sons both have the same problem; and my other son has atopic dermatitis. So, clearly, there’s a genetic component. Now, is that a genetic component that manifests itself via an incorrect diet or just a different environment than we were adapted for. Or, what if the genetic problem is just that; a malfunction which persists with the aid of antibiotics to keep us alive long enough each generation to pass it along.

    Lots of variables to bewilder the mind. That’s why I really get excited when something works like this.

  8. JohnG, it’s a genetic problem that only becomes visible in a bad environment. Like Aaron Blaisdell’s sun sensitivity. We were designed to live in an environment where we ate lots of bacteria-laden food. Lack of such food makes us sick. Some of us get more sick than others, partly for genetic reasons.

  9. Seth, I stumbled upon your blog earlier this year. It held my interest, I’ve always been attracted to alternatives. This is the first post where I’d like to try out your suggestion, but I could not find “bacillus coagulans” at Whole Foods. Any suggestions on where can I order it from?

  10. Aleksandar, I’m currently using Source Naturals Dura Flora. Thorne Research’s Lacto bacillus Sporogenes (the old name for this probiotic which is now called Bacillus Coagulans) also has it. And, there are a few others which have Bacillus Coagulans/Lactobacillus Sporogenes as well.

    Seth, yeah, that’s what I figured. I’m excited that this probiotic has done so much for me, but I’ll be even more excited if my body can heal to the point where I don’t need as much of it.

    I’m currently taking 10 Billion CFU’s of the Bacillus Coagulans because the Autumn is my worst time of year. So far, I only have to hit the rescue inhaler about one out of every three workouts (and only one time). I’m still on my nightly steroid inhaler which I used to take twice a day.I did go off the steroid inhaler for one of my three 14 day tests, and I did notice some difference being completely off of it. I’ll see how I progress this Fall. I might go off it before the Fall ends depending on how this treatment progresses.

  11. >There’s a lot of great information on the ‘cooling information’ blog.

    That’s cooling inflammation, not information

    And yes it is a great resource

  12. A relevant but strangely ignored or not generally known fact about asthma and breathing troubles is that the change between weak (asthmatic) and strong (healthy) breathing is dependent on abdominal muscle tension. Slackening the muscles here causes abysmally weak and asthmatic breathing. Training the muscles, for example by “abdominal hollowing” (see Web articles) produces an antiasthmatic effect. Abdominal muscle tension plays a prominent part in Asian martial arts.

    I tend to breathe asthmatically after an evening meal or in pollen-laden air.
    So it is fair to assume that there is a natural breathing spectrum with an asthmatic tendency at one end and Ku Fu or Karate breathing at the other end. For a few words on the Japanese version of Asian breathing see
    Breathing powerfully into my lower abdomen with tensed muscles provides an effective cure for me. But then I’ve always been sceptical about medical wisdom on asthma: such a paradoxical and doctor-baffling increase in the last 40 years with modern, merely symptomatic inhalers. Respectfully, Richard Friedel

  13. Richard,

    That’s interesting, but definitely does not apply to me. I have some allergic asthma along with exercise induced asthma. I can crank out 50 sit ups or 15 toe to bars without breaking a sweat. My abdominal muscles are strong yet I still have asthma.

    I do have some success damping down asthma if I try to keep my lungs empty until I have to breath. At that point, I breath in from the bottom of my lungs up (i.e. using the abdomen to pull the air in). This helps when sitting idle, but is of no help during Crossfit-type strenuous activity.


  14. Great information. It`always good to know that there is some new alternative remedy for asthma. Is there any web site where we can purchase “bacillus coagulans”. I would also suggest you to try Buteyko Breathing Technique. The approach takes its name from the past Ukrainian doctor Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko. Many of the studies showed patients who used the Buteyko method experienced a reduction in the symptoms of their asthma and many of the patients also were able to reduce their use of inhalers by two uses a day after using the method for six months.

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