Inflammation and Discomfort with Asthma

By Peg Labiuk | 09/05/13
Inflammation and Discomfort with Asthma
The following tip is answered by Peg Labiuk (nee Peggy Maass), a colleague of Marilyn Trout, and a certified NCCP level 3 coach with a career in international road and track racing. She is a World Championship medalist, World Record holder, U.S. Olympic Team member, former British national team coach and Kreb's Cycle co-founder (British Columbia, Canada).

I’m writing you to ask for some advice as regards ashtma.

My name is María Bonzano, I’m 63. I live in Patagonia, Argentina. There are plenty of mountains and  mountain trails in this area, as well as beautiful forests. I’ve always been a little weak as regards my lungs and bronchii, but two years ago I developed asthma. I love walking in the woods and trekking the mountain trails, but right now i cannot do any of it, because I start choking and coughing, and even if I use my inhaler (salbutral - salbutamol is the name of the drug it contains) I still feel pretty uncomfortable. I want to add that my inhaler is OK, it relieves me, but not in the specific situations I will explain to you.

I have tried to increase my aerobic capacity walking short distances on hills as frequently as possible, but I feel awful, specially downhill when I come back. I try to avoid using the inhaler as much as possible, but downhill I have to use it inevitably because I cannot walk any more. I feel like hell if I continue. I have always taken good care of my diet (no dairy, nor sugar or wheat), I try to stay calm – no problem with that either. This region in cold, but cold does not affect me at all. I am used to slow my exhale; when I feel I’m going to have an asthma attack I slow down, but it does not get any better.

I’m at a lost. I don’t know how I can build up my lung strength. I practise ashtanga yoga twice a week, each session is about an hour and a half long. I can do it perfectly. But as soon as I start walking, my ashtma starts as well, even if it is not a hill, on flat surfaces it is not so bad, but it is bad anyway.

If there is any advice you could give me I will be really, really grateful.

Hope you are great with your asthma!!

Thanks so much. Greatings from Argentina.


I understand your desire to get relief from your asthma symptoms; it sure is unpleasant to have your lungs balk when you are enjoying the outdoors.  There are two things I can suggest to get you lasting relief.

First, you are using Salbutimol, which is an emergency type of inhaler.  It does not prevent the bronchiospasms and inflammation.  It is very important to reduce the inflammation, as it can damage your lungs.  It will take time to find the right medication - it takes time for it to work and it is largely by trial and error that you find the right one for you.  For example, the one I use, Alvesco, took about a month to have some effect.  It was several more months before it was acting preventatively.  Now, after several years, I rarely use Salbutimol.  Ask your prescribing doctor about preventative asthma medication.

Next, I think there must be something that has triggered this asthma.  It is good that you pay attention to your diet, as that is a likely source.  Be diligent.  There are many processed foods with hidden sources of wheat or dairy.  For example, powdered/confectioners sugar has added wheat starch and maltodextrine, the filler added to many sports drinks, is derrived from wheat.  I also find some grains to be too similar to wheat, like spelt, barley, and buckwheat.  You could do a cleansing and introduce one food at a time to isolate the foods and monitor your body’s response. 

Another likely source would be airborne.  What has changed?  Let me list a few to consider:

  • new carpet or furniture - they off-gas formaldehyde (in home, car, workplace?)
  • pets - have a new love in your life?
  • atmospheric - different crops, new industry, changes in industry practices, and deterioration of the ozone has been noted in your area

It might not take much to push you over into the reactive state.  You can work on supporting your immune system and reducing inflammation while you figure out what is triggering this change.

Between reducing inflammation with medication and identifying and then managing your triggers, you should feel relief within 4-6 months.  You will need to be your own advocate.  I have been a “student” of asthma since being diagnosed in 1986.  I attempt to keep up to date with the latest advances in research and medication options.  Several times I have read enlightening information once - and no where else.  I have found these tidbits of knowledge invaluable.  One major breakthrough was a newspaper article by a local doctor who listed asthma triggers.  Coffee was one of them.  Coffee?  And there I was, working part-time at a coffee shop.  The dust from the coffee grinding was indeed making my asthma worse.   I took two weeks off the job and cleared up.  So good-bye barista.  The next breakthrough was very recent.  I read that Ibiprofen can aggravate asthma.  What?  As an athlete, I often took the anti-inflammatory and it had been recommended by a Sports Medicine Doctor.  I asked my doctor and he said, yes, the mechanism is there.  I couldn’t believe that in all these years, all the doctors, an adult asthma clinic, and lots of reading and sharing, I had never heard this before - or since.  So, I encourage you to also become a student of asthma and analyze your symtoms, triggers, and aids constantly.  I wish you good breathing!

Coach Peg

We’ve teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler Newsletter List members’ training questions. You can view her coach profile at Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store at To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at, and type “Voler Training Question” in the subject line of the e-mail.

Photo: net_efekt "Inhaler" via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

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