You Have Alpha-1, Now What? Diet and Exercise (Part 3 of 3)

Editor's note: This is part 3 of a 3-part series. Be sure to check out part 1 and part 2!

When I was first diagnosed with Alpha-1, I was still working but barely making it through the day. I worked almost a full year after diagnosis before I stepped down. On March 1, 2011, I started the process of disability. It sure was a hard thing to do because I loved working and loved my job but I knew it was time.

Doing less and less

My caring husband

After I left work I noticed that I started to do less and less. My husband was so caring and helpful but in a way, some of that hindered me without us knowing it. I remember just not feeling good all the time and being so short of breath that I stopped doing some things or just didn’t feel like doing them.

Doing chores

My husband jumped and said "please don’t worry if you don’t feel like doing anything, I will do it when I get home from work" and that’s exactly what he did. I would do the dishes every day but he was cooking, doing laundry, vacuuming, and dusting on the days that I just didn’t feel like it or have the energy to do.

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I would start to exercise or walk on the treadmill but I would get so discouraged after only being able to do something for a few minutes at a time so I would give up.

Woman on the treadmill at pulmonary rehab with an oxygen tank and nasal cannula at her side.

Me on the treadmill at pulmonary rehab.


Years had passed and I had gained a lot of weight and my breathlessness got worse. I also had a few setbacks along the way, being diagnosed with RA and then having surgery down the road which led to even more weight gain.

Changing my diet

So much pain

I got to the point with my RA that I couldn’t get out of bed by myself, wash my hair, or even do the slightest tasks. I was in so much pain for months and couldn’t handle it anymore so I started to do some research to see what could help me with the pain. I discovered that changing my diet could help so I tried it.

I was moving

I went low carb and cut out sugar and flour. It sounds hard but it wasn’t. There are some great sugar and flour substitutes out there that are very helpful. I had also started using all-natural essential oils. Within a month I was pain-free. Within 5 months, I had lost 48 pounds and my breathing was better than it had been in 10+ years. My fatty liver was gone and I was moving!

My doctors were impressed

I had also been on anxiety meds as well and didn’t need them anymore. I was able to exercise and walk further than ever. I started doing pulmonary rehab at home. You can do this at rehab clinics also but it was just easier for me to do it from home because of watching my grandkids. My doctors were all impressed with my progress and they all agreed for me to keep doing what I was doing because it was working.

Biking and tai chi

This past year with covid, I also took up bike riding. I can’t go too far at a time but I do what I can, stop and take a break, and then do some more. I have an exercise bike that I can ride when the weather is bad and I ride 10 miles every time I use it. I also do tai chi. This has helped build muscles that I had lost over the years.

Use it or lose it

Looking back now, I don’t know why I did not do this from the beginning. I sure wish I would have. No telling how much better those earlier years could have been. Who knew that getting RA would lead to better health for me? Just remember to keep moving, that's the main thing. Remember that saying, if you don’t use it, you'll lose it? That sure was true for me.

I want to add that I am no doctor and am not here to give out medical advice, this is just what has helped me. You should always check with your doctors before changing your diet and ask what type of exercise is good for you.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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