Asthma and diet: What’s the connection?
If you have asthma, you may be curious about whether certain foods and diet choices could help you manage your condition. There’s no conclusive evidence that a specific diet has an effect on the frequency or severity of asthma attacks.
At the same time, eating fresh, nutritious foods may improve your overall health as well as your asthma symptoms.
According to research in some research, a shift from eating fresh foods, such as fruits and vegetables, to processed foods may be linked to an increase in asthma cases in recent decades. Although more study is needed, early evidence suggests that there’s no single food or nutrient that improves asthma symptoms on its own. Instead, people with asthma may benefit from eating a well-rounded diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables.
Food also comes into play as it relates to allergies. Food allergies and food intolerances occur when your immune system overreacts to specific proteins in foods. In some cases, this can result in asthma symptoms.
An American Thoracic Society (ATS) report notes that obesity is a major risk factor for developing asthma. In addition, asthma in people who are obese may be more severe and more difficult to treat. Eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight may make it easier to manage your condition.
There’s no specific diet recommended for asthma, but there are some foods and nutrients that may help support lung function:
If you know you have allergies to milk or eggs, you may want to avoid them as a source of vitamin D. Allergic symptoms from a food source can manifest as asthma.
A survey published in the European Respiratory Journal found that bananas might decrease wheezing in children with asthma. This may be due to the fruit’s antioxidant and potassium content, which may improve lung function.
A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that children ages 11 to 19 who had low magnesium levels also had low lung flow and volume. Kids can improve their magnesium levels by eating magnesium-rich foods such as:
Inhaling magnesium (through a nebulizer) is another good way to treat asthma attacks.
Some foods may trigger asthma symptoms and should be avoided. However, it’s best to consult your doctor before you start eliminating certain foods from your diet.
Sulfites are a type of preservative that may worsen asthma. They’re found in:
Foods that cause gas
- carbonated drinks
- fried foods
Although it’s rare, some people with asthma may be sensitive to salicylates found in coffee, tea, and some herbs and spices. Salicylates are naturally occurring chemical compounds, and they’re sometimes found in foods.
People with food allergies may also have asthma. The most common allergens include:
Most doctors recommend an overall healthy lifestyle to help you manage your condition. This can include eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
Diet and lifestyle changes are meant to complement your existing asthma treatment. You shouldn’t stop using prescribed asthma medications without consulting your doctor, even if you begin to feel better.
Traditional asthma treatments may include:
- inhaled corticosteroids
- long-acting beta antagonists (LABAs)
- combination inhalers, which are comprised of corticosteroids and a LABA
- oral leukotriene modifiers
- fast-acting rescue medications
- allergy medications
- allergy shots
- bronchial thermoplasty, a type of surgery used for severe asthma cases that don’t respond to medication
When it comes to controlling asthma symptoms, prevention can go a long way. Since asthma may be life-threatening, it’s critical to identify your triggers and avoid them.
Tobacco smoke is an asthma trigger for many people. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting. If someone in your household smokes, talk to them about quitting. In the meantime, make sure they smoke outdoors.
You can take more steps that may help prevent asthma attacks if you:
- Create an asthma action plan with your doctor and follow it.
- Get a pneumonia and flu shot each year to avoid illnesses that could trigger asthma attacks.
- Take your asthma medications as prescribed.
- Track your asthma and monitor your breathing to identify early warning signs that your asthma is worsening.
- Use an air conditioner to reduce your exposure to dust mites and outdoor pollutants and allergens such as pollen.
- Use dust covers on your bed and pillows to reduce dust exposure.
- Reduce pet dander by regularly grooming and bathing your pets.
- Cover your nose and mouth when spending time outside in the cold
- Use a humidifier or dehumidifier to keep humidity in your home at optimal levels.
- Clean your house regularly to eliminate mold spores and other indoor allergens.
Eating a healthier diet may improve your asthma symptoms, but it depends on many factors.
For example, the overall impact may depend on your general health, how consistent you are in making changes, and the severity of your symptoms. At the very least, most people who start following a healthier diet usually notice improved energy levels.
Having a healthier diet may also lead to benefits such as: