Breathlessness

What is it?

Dyspnea, or breathlessness, is any perceived difficulty breathing or pain you feel when breathing. It can be a symptom of many disorders, especially:

  • Cardiac disease (coronary obstruction, CHF, valve disease, other)
  • Pulmonary disease (asthma, emphysema, other)
  • Kidney and/or Liver disease with edema (swelling)
  • Anemia (iron deficiency, B-12 deficiency, other)
  • Hypothyroidism

What causes it?

Breathlessness may be caused by medical conditions or simply by excessive weight. Breathlessness may be a symptom of underlying cardiac disease. Physician evaluation is recommended, including a cardiac stress test and cardiac ultrasound exam. A chest x-ray is also indicated, especially in smokers.

If breathlessness resolves during Food Phase 1 or 2, cardiac causes are still possible. One would not expect breathlessness from excess weight to improve within 4 weeks of treatment, as only a minimal amount of weight would be lost relative to total needed to lose.

What role might cytokines play?

Cytokines are intimately involved with the function of small blood vessels and inflammation. While dyspnea is a symptom, it is related to cardiopulmonary function. Relaxing of the pulmonary (lung) small blood vessels and the small blood vessels downstream from the heart improve circulation, improve oxygen exchange, and therefore improve dyspnea or breathlessness.

What results could I expect with MNT?

In our experience, dyspnea improves very rapidly, in most cases, regardless of the primary cause (with the exception of emphysema). Most symptoms are measurably better in the first week. It’s very reinforcing to track your ability to breathe better after each Plan phase. At the very least, improvement should be noted within four weeks. Breathlessness beyond this point is usually not improved by MNT.

Occasionally, a specific food may precipitate fluid retention, blood vessel spasm, or bronchial spasm leading to relapse of breathlessness. If breathlessness recurs when adding any specific food group, restart Food Phase 1 (with physician notification and supervision) and continue until symptoms resolve. Add the subsequent Food Phases slowly (every one to two weeks) and cautiously.

How can I measure symptom change on the plan?

First, visit your physician to determine the cause of your breathlessness. Next, take a baseline measurement of the degree of discomfort you feel. Most importantly, you (and your doctor) need a way to measure progress over time. Talk with your doctor at each regular visit about your symptoms and how they might change using the Plan.

As with any medical condition, treatment may mean that you are taking medications to reduce your dyspnea symptoms. With this Plan you may find that as your symptoms lessen, you will need to take less medication OR perhaps discontinue your medications entirely. If you are taking prescription medicines, talk to your doctor about when and how to cut down on what you take BEFORE you make any changes.

Let Us Help You

If weight loss is or improving symptoms or health conditions is your goal, follow one of our 3, 7, or 14 day Food Phase Strategies.