Dr. Katie Hawn lived asthma-free for 23 years. Then, a cat at a friend’s house triggered a quick decline in her respiratory health, until she was at the point where she was hospitalized and diagnosed with asthma. Dr. Hawn, afraid of going down the path of lifelong asthmatic drug dependency, sought out her own treatment to not only suppress her asthma symptoms, but to heal them. Today, Dr. Hawn lives virtually asthma-free.
Here is a bit of her story.
You lived until you were 23 without asthma and then a cat triggered it?
That’s right. When I was little I played with cats on my uncle’s dairy farm every summer with no problems, but one deep breath of this particular little kitten overwhelmed my system.
Were you doing anything to treat your asthma symptoms after this, or were you just trying to stay away from cats?
At first, I just avoided cats, and that seemed to be enough. When I was exposed to cats, I might start sneezing and my nose would run, and this was frequently accompanied by asthma. Sometimes I reacted pretty badly, but not bad enough to go get an inhaler.
Years later, a good friend of mine had a cat she was caring for that I fell in love with. I knew I was allergic, but someone had told me you could get used to the dander if you had little bits of exposure. So I tried it.
But at the end of one week, I knew I was in trouble. I sequestered the cat, cleaned the house and tried all the holistic remedies I could find. I got homeopathic medicines, Chinese medicines and went to my craniosacral therapist. Although each treatment helped a little, my system was just becoming overwhelmed. Eventually, I was so tired of trying to breathe that I knew if I did not do something, I was going to die.
I went to the emergency room. The doctors took x-rays, and then gave me one round of inhaled medication. I lay there, thinking, “Oh great, my lungs are ruined now because of all this junk they just pumped into them.” After five hours of treatment, I finally went home to recover. After that, I got asthma with everything: exertion, cold air and with cats, of course.
How did you treat your asthma after you were hospitalized?
The first thing I did was find a therapist that was certified in a technique called NAET, or Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique. Using a non-invasive diagnosis method commonly called “muscle testing,” she ran me through a testing and treatment protocol, first addressing basic allergies, then soon treating me for cat dander, cat hair, and the air in the house I was living in. After five treatment sessions, I tested clear for all known cat allergies. NAET helped decrease the severity of my reaction, but didn’t cure the asthma completely.
A few years later, despite my best preparation, I was exposed again to cat dander in a way I couldn’t quite control. I found a top-rated pulmonologist and made an appointment. He gave me a daily inhaler for morning and night, and then the other inhaler for more severe reactions. I used the inhalers as little as possible — I knew I had to have them in order to stay alive and functional, but at the same time, I actively sought out other treatments.
Why didn’t you want to use the asthma drugs?
I was extremely wary of creating any kind of drug dependency. Not only are they expensive, but, in my view as a holistic health practitioner, most have negative side effects that can lead to a long, slow, ugly decline into medical disability, then death. Drugs seem almost universally toxic. They are hard on your liver and kidneys. They lead to other imbalances and other drug dependencies. I really didn’t want to go down that path with my body. I was too well-trained, educated and experienced, and had too many natural and holistic therapies available to me to think that the pulmonologist was even a small part of the real answer. I went back to my natural healers. I went back to NAET and I booked myself a few sessions of craniosacral therapy. In one of these craniosacral therapy sessions, the therapist told me to visualize my lungs and tell my cells they really did not have to panic. Within a day or two of that session, all of the phlegm or, as I call it, “gunk” that customarily sat in the bottom of my lungs was gone. I was amazed. Then I knew. Just as I told all my clients and had experienced from a therapist’s point of view, my own body could be truly responsive to the right support. The soft tissue has the ability to heal in ways the medical community would not even consider; ways that would be called, to them, miraculous.
I also did yoga for lung health. I worked with homeopathic remedies, nutritional support and herbs. Though each treatment was not a cure by itself, they all contributed to a path toward healthy lung function. By the time of my next visit with the pulmonologist three months later, I felt much better. The first thing they had me do was a pulmonary function test. I had passed this test with flying colors. The pulmonologist looked at me with detached disbelief. He told me he thought he was going to put me on the next stage of asthma treatment medication and it was not necessary now. He did ask me what I did to heal my lungs. I briefly told him but he dismissed it, and reluctantly told me to come back if I needed him.
Have you done anything since then to maintain your health in this regard?
Since then, it has been a matter of cat avoidance, getting booster treatments of NAET and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I have used my inhaler twice in the last year, usually before or after I go to someone’s house that has a cat. If I know beforehand, I will also take an antihistamine. I think that at some time I might try acupuncture as well, but haven’t found the right practitioner yet.
What do you mean by typical Western medicine being the “long decline?”
I am going to get on my holistic high horse here; you will have to forgive me. I understand that the emergency room and some drugs save our lives and are necessary and many doctors do their best within a restrictive medical protocol. But as a consumer I have to think, “Why are they prescribing this drug? What is it really treating? What are the side effects, both short term and long term? What road am I going down with this treatment?” And, most important, “What are the best options for me to find a sensible, cost-effective, healthy, holistic and optimal cure?”
Another thing to keep in mind is the motivation of the doctors, therapists and the treatments. Most medical treatments involve drugs in one form or another. The drug companies have large, well-funded and effective marketing departments. They are more motivated by profit margins than successful treatment results. So then I ask myself, “What will make the drug companies the most money?” The common sense answer is: people who are chronically ill, dependent on multiple medications and, preferably, irreversibly addicted. There is no profit in fast and complete cures. There is profit in treating symptoms without curing them, and if the treatment results in other imbalances, which require further medication, all the better. The pill boxes get bigger and bigger, and the patient’s livers, kidneys and bank accounts are increasingly burdened. I certainly agree that there are a good number of great life-saving medications, lots of scientists that truly want to create real solutions to our health struggles, and hopefully a good number of doctors that truly care about their patients.
Other things I keep in mind are the constraints that the insurance companies put on the kind of care I receive. The doctors are frequently treating based on the “standards of care” and protocols that the insurance companies dictate and will pay for. So who really is deciding what kind of health care I get? Is it the insurance company? They don’t even know me. They just have a diagnosis code and a program that doesn’t take into account so many aspects of my whole clinical picture. I am not surprised that the vast majority of the successful treatments that I use for my asthma are not covered by insurance. I pay cash. And I have done quite well with my health care, even though the times I have actually had health insurance in my life have been limited and sporadic. Therefore, I have been personally very motivated, by my pocketbook and by my pride, in my holistic health-care education and experience, to find inexpensive, real, holistic and lasting cures to all my health challenges.
It is about business and profit margins. It is not about your health.
When I look at the medical industry, especially living where I do, surrounded by big pharmaceutical companies, this is what comes to my mind first: Are the doctors really trying to help me? Do they have my best interests in the forefront of their minds? Or are they hog-tied by a large, bureaucratic and profit-motivated industry that squeezes them down a very narrow lane each time they try to help someone? The pulmonologist I went to, despite the best qualifications, never said anything about a cure for my asthma. His assumption was a long and increasingly intensive course of treatment, hopefully leading to some kind of stabilization.
One thing I struggle with is where do you start in curing asthma? Is it diet, massage, NAET, craniocsacral therapy? What do you recommend asthmatics start with to cure themselves?
It depends. Does the person know what triggers the asthma? Do they know what the body is hyper-reacting to? Is it toxins or stressors in the environment? Food? There are so many things in food that people’s bodies are overreacting to. It is finding out the specific thing that triggers you and then getting an overall wellness program. NAET is a good first step because it quickly and painlessly narrows down the list of allergic triggers for asthma. Then, treating the body with an overall holistic therapy that strengthens and balances is a necessary follow-up. Upledger’s Craniosacral therapy is a wonderful technique, with some practitioners specializing in organ-function protocols. Other therapies, such as a variety of low-force chiropractic techniques or Eastern medicine — such as acupuncture or Ayurvedic medicine — would be good as well. I particularly like craniosacral therapy because, as a practitioner, I understand the power it has to balance and strengthen the whole body, as well as specific systems, in a way that’s non-invasive, relaxing and effective.
Supplements and vitamins are also good. But it’s best to find someone who is very knowledgeable about the ingredients, brands and treatment methods in order to have the best effect. If there is no one on hand, just go to a good health-food store or larger healthy market such as Whole Foods, and look at all the products and brands in the asthma and lung-health section. Which ingredients are the ones commonly used? Ask the store personnel which brands are best. Cheap vitamins and supplements can be useless. You may have to pay more money, but it’s well worth it. The real test is, when you take the supplement or vitamin, do you notice a positive result? You should. If not, then go back and find another brand, product or consultant. For example, Standard Process is a trusted brand many chiropractors use, but is not widely available. With Standard Process, it is best to get a proper evaluation and diagnosis by the chiropractor and take the product they recommend.
Another approach is more geared toward mental empowerment and stress relief. It sounds crazy, but I use the power of my brain and intention every night to help me while I sleep. I have developed a short prayer protocol to ask my body and the universe for health and healing, even specific healing for my lungs. I have done this for years, and it helps a lot to take the edge off and get me by until my next therapy appointment. I’m sure doing this has helped to save me a lot of money by side-stepping many potential medical bills. The technique is described in my book, Magic Nights.
What about diet suggestions?
Along with eating as much healthy, whole, organic, raw and locally grown foods that you can, I would recommend limiting fatty dairy foods or anything that creates an excess of mucous production. But this must not be taken to excess. Mucous is absolutely necessary for many body functions, especially to protect the airways in the winter. “Good” fat is necessary for brain function. What you remove, you must replace. For example, I supplement my diet with a quality essential fatty-acids supplement, with heavy metals removed, as well as calcium citrate with magnesium in order to make up for decreasing my dairy intake.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I think people need to be aware of how much stress their body is under from our lifestyles and our environment. Asthma is just one of the ways the body overreacts to stress. There are all kinds of toxins and stressors all around us: from the fire retardants in our furniture to the artificial scents in our home products, to the electromagnetic pollution from our appliances and computers, to the drug remnants in our water supply, to the pesticides in our food, to the increasingly poor health created by our sedentary, yet 24/7 lifestyles.
Approach your asthma, as well as all your health challenges, from a place of self-empowered thinking. Think about all the sources of stress and allergic triggers and systematically and sensibly begin to find remedies that suit your lifestyle. The remedies don’t have to be expensive — and remember how much it would cost to be chronically ill. Get educated about alternative therapies and remedies. Talk to friends for recommendations. Create for yourself a rounded and practical menu of good alternative practitioners and products that you like and trust. Focus on finding the real source of the asthma, treat the symptoms as needed in as holistic a fashion as possible, treat the source of the asthma and the whole body, and believe in the power of your body to heal itself given the proper support system. Believe in your power to work toward a true cure.
This interview and 13 others with people who cured their asthma, plus how my husband healed his asthma can all be found here: