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Experiences at altitude: part 1

These initial posts will serve as observations and note my experiences, speculation and explanatory ideas will come later. I will write what I can when I can as I’m without regular Internet access still.

Earlier this year I went to Santa Fe, New Mexico for a little over 3 months. Santa Fe is close to 7000 feet above sea level and the climate is dry. The evenings can be cool when there is no cloud cover and the days during the summer time can be miserably hot; it is quite easy to sunburn.

As someone who is hyperaware enough to feel my own cells turnover I was interested in the effects that might occur as I settled in my new environment.

When I was a child I suffered with severe asthma, one of things I learned to do when I had trouble breathing was to pull the covers over my head and breathe the warm air. That always seemed to help. Sometimes I would wake up in the morning completely under the covers as if I had been under there all night. I don’t know if I was under there all night, but obviously I was pulling them over my head in my sleep as well. I was a brother of the naked mole rat. (Except that butter has a profoundly powerful effect at relaxing the lungs, lowers lipid peroxidation of the PUFA sort and eosinophil counts… better then living underground.)

I have not had asthma symptoms for a long time, not being able to breathe especially as a child puts an interesting perspective on the rest of your life and you realize very quickly what gases are important.

Prior to my arrival in Santa Fe the only times I’ve had trouble with breathing since childhood was during the period I was experimenting with Aspirin and when I transitioned from a carbohydrate restricted diet to a unrestricted one. That transition had me in the hospital hooked up to a breathing machine with only the best steroids.

When I arrived at altitude I was not sure what to expect nor had expectations but when I got off the plane the air was clear and crisp and I didn’t find it difficult to breathe or anything of that nature. For the first couple weeks if I was doing something harder than walking I would pant but when I would squat for singles or doubles I would not have the panting. Mostly because singles and doubles avoid the glycolytic metabolic pathways. I did not have regular gym access for a while so initially I was sedentary.

I had an irregular sleep schedule from the time change (Germany). I’ve never had what you’d consider a normal sleep schedule. I’ve always been somewhat of a night owl, o.k. more than just a night owl, more like a burning the midnight oil till morning person and sleep when I’m tired.

I’ve never been a person to believe in theoretical nutrition and I view sleep much the same way. I sleep when I’m tired and am awake when I’m not. I never really viewed a certain sleep time as healthful or unhealthful—just that poor sleep quality is a marker for poor health—in other words when tired if you sleep and wake up rested that is good, and if you are tired and can’t sleep and don’t feel rested then that is not good. The sleeping patterns of traditionals were quite irregular and they were seemingly healthy so I never gave that theory, the theory of some sleep at some specific time of the day any credibility.

Anyhow the latter is what happened at altitude. The bad sleep. I could not sleep normally, and additionally I would have trouble breathing when I would try to sleep. That went on the entire time I was there. There wasn’t a single thing I tried that worked for more than a day or two. And when I would try something that seemed to work it would its effectiveness like clockwork about 2 days later.

After about 2 or 3 weeks I begin to have joint pain, my knees especially started to sound like there was sand inside of them every time I would bend at the knees. This continued on till I left and the only thing that seemed to help was dairy, butter seemed to be the most effective. Indeed most high altitude cultures are dairy based.

O.k. a page or so for now, will continue on later.

Oh, almost forgot my typing tests declined as well.

This post will be updated with references as soon as I have regular access to databases again.

5 comments… add one
  • James 02/12/2013, 1:47 pm

    Shouldn’t the lower air pressure at higher altitude help with CO2 for the same reason as breathing under the blanket – or does the lower pressure trigger a stress response similar to in apnea?

  • Filip 22/06/2014, 4:38 pm

    @Edward How was your experience with aspirin? Do you think it’s a good idea to take it on a daily basis for general health?

  • Edward 23/06/2014, 4:38 am
  • Zach 03/06/2015, 2:39 pm

    I’d like to see a part 2!

  • Matt 19/01/2016, 12:33 am

    I recently started eating more carbs after having not eaten them for a while, and experienced some serious asthma issues. The only other things that have given me noticeable trouble breathing in the past have been lots of caffeine, taking adderall, and other times when I’ve been carb restricted for a while and then eaten a slice of bread or something. Sometimes the carb reintroduction causes just breathing problems, other times I have broken out in full body inflammatory reactions that have required steroids. Carb advocates say the inflammatory reaction is an unmasking of underlying inflammation caused by high fat diet. What do you think is the cause?

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