People with asthma are often looking for more natural solutions to feeling better. Because, let's face it -- it's no fun taking medicine once or twice every day, just to keep your symptoms in check, is it?
I know I would love it if I could find a way to help my lungs and airways become healthier that didn't involve pumping some kind of chemical into my body. But how feasible is that?
Well, at this point in time, most asthmatics won't be able to totally abandon their inhalers any time soon. But we may be able to boost our immune systems and/or improve our airway health enough to reduce the amount of medicine we need, or at least reduce our reliance on a quick-relief/rescue inhaler. And that would be pretty great, wouldn't it? (And cheaper too, which in my book, is always a plus.)
So, I thought for this post, I'd do a bit of research to learn more about how diet might help you achieve those goals. There have been a few studies in the past couple years on dietary connections with asthma, so this seemed a great place to start.
The Case for Healthy Eating
First off, let me just emphasize that adopting overall healthy eating habits is always the first step to achieving optimal health in all areas. That means eating lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, a small amount of meat each day and limiting dairy items, sugars and fats. The key is balance and small portions. Choose fresh over processed food. And eat only enough to satisfy you, never enough to make you feel stuffed.
Making healthy food choices like those listed above, along with getting regular exercise, will help you keep your weight in a healthy range and control your cholesterol. And that reduces your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It also helps with asthma control, as obesity is a big risk factor for asthma control problems.
So, any changes you make towards eating healthier overall will benefit you in terms of your asthma. But are there other, more specific things you can do that help your airways work better? Perhaps.
A Mediterranean Diet
Some studies have shown that eating a Mediterranean diet seems to help reduce asthma symptoms. What does that mean? Well, the following are all typical of how people in the areas surrounding the Mediterranea Sea eat:
- Fruity vegetables, such as zucchini, eggplants, cucumber, and green beans
- Plant-based meals, with small amounts of chicken, meat or fish and seafood
- Olive oil as the main fat
- Wholesome, fresh ingredients
- Flavorful meals
- Dining leisurely with others
Fresh fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants and fish/seafood are high in omega-3 fats, both of which have been connected with respiratory health.
Antioxidants & Asthma
Several studies have shown that foods rich in antioxidants seem to reduce asthma symptoms in kids and lessen the risk of adult asthma too. One study even showed that having an antioxidant-rich diet protected kids from asthma risk, even when they were regularly exposed to secondhand smoke!
Foods rich in antioxidants include fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy green vegetables, tomatoes and carrots. A good rule of thumb is that brightly-colored vegetables, specifically those that are red, purple, dark green, dark yellow or orange, are richest in antioxidants.
Although many people believe that green vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, iceberg lettuce and green pepper are great choices, the truth is there are many other vegetables that are richer in vitamins and antioxidants than those options.
Antioxidants are believed to boost the immune system. Since the immune system is invoved in asthma, it is believed that this is the explanation for the connection between high antioxidant intake and reduction in asthma risk.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Another "health food" for asthmatics may be things rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty fish like salmon, walnuts and flax seeds all contain high levels of these fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are reported to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Since asthma is connected with inflammation of the airways, it is believed that lessening the inflammation will make you feel and breathe better.
Supplements, Herbs and Vitamins
You may read many claims that taking this or that "natural" supplement, vitamin or herb will help with asthma. That may or may not be true; most of those claims are unproven, from a scientific viewpoint.
What we do know, though, is that getting vitamins, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids as a natural part of your diet is almost always going to be the most healthy way to go about things. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, and chances are your asthma will remain under control.
Published On: December 02, 2008