Tailoring Your Diet for Asthma
If you suffer from asthma, you’ve probably tried a multitude of medications to treat it, from daily inhalers to rescue inhalers and oral medications. You may have even had emergency muscular injections and IV medications for asthma exacerbations. If your asthma is exacerbated by allergies, you may have gone through immunotherapy as well.
For some medical conditions, there are specific diets that can greatly reduce, or even eliminate symptoms. Unfortunately, there is no specific diet that can do this for symptoms and signs of asthma.
However, there are some tips and tricks that may help. You may find that some of these ideas will help, while others do not. Incorporate what does work: this can possibly reduce your asthma symptoms along with the medication therapies your doctor has prescribed.
Foods That Trigger Asthma Symptoms
While this may seem like obvious advice, if your asthma is caused by an allergen, avoid it. This is especially true if your symptoms are caused by a food allergen.
You may have to do some trial and error to find out what specific allergies trigger your asthma. Keep a food diary and bring it to any appointments with your doctor. They will help determine what your allergies are, so you know what to avoid eating.
1. Avoid Sulfites
Sulfites are used as a preservative. For some people with moderate to severe asthma, this preservative can cause an asthma exacerbation, so it may be best to avoid it.
Sulfites are found in wine, shrimp, pickles, and dried fruit.
2. Make Sure You Get Enough Vitamin D
People low in vitamin D may be more susceptible to asthma attacks. Making sure you get enough vitamin D may prevent them from occurring.
Vitamin D is hard to find in foods but can be found in fish and eggs. It can also be found in foods that are fortified with vitamin D, like certain types of orange juice (check on the label). Being in the sun for a short period of time without sunscreen is also a way to get vitamin D.
3. Take in Plenty of Antioxidants
A diet rich in certain antioxidants (vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene) may help control inflammation caused by free radicals.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants—eating a diet with lots of fruit and vegetables will allow you to get an abundance of antioxidants.
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4. Increase Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The link between omega-3 fatty acids and lung health isn’t clear, but there seems to be some benefit. Foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids include fish (salmon, tuna, and sardines) and flaxseed.
5. Avoid Trans Fats
Trans fats may worsen lung health, and is bad for your health in general. Trans fats can be found in processed foods, such as margarine, deli meats, and many types of snack foods such as potato chips.
6. Stick to a Healthy Weight
Not only is losing weight good for your lung health, it’s good for your body in general. Carrying excess weight puts you at a higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and more. It also is hard on your joints.
In regards to asthma, research shows that people with asthma who are also overweight tend to have more severe asthma symptoms and also require more medications to control their symptoms.
If you are overweight, losing the excess pounds is recommended. Consulting a dietitian may be helpful, especially if you have struggled with weight loss in the past.
Specific Foods That May Help With Asthma Symptoms
- Apples: Apples contain flavonoids — a specific flavonoid called khellin may actually dilate airways.
- Coffee: Coffee contains caffeine, which actually has bronchodilation, although using coffee for asthma should not be done in place of your rescue inhaler. It may, however, improve airflow.
- Garlic: Garlic has anti-inflammatory capabilities and contains allicin, which is a very powerful antioxidant.
- Red wine: Research shows that for people with a sulfite intolerance, wine can increase asthma symptoms. However, for people without a sulfite intolerance, a glass a day may correlate to less severe asthma.
The bottom line is there is no “one size fits all” approach to nutrition and asthma, but if you experiment with these options, you may find some relief from your symptoms.