More Evidence That Eating Healthy Can Equal Better Asthma Control

  • You probably already know that eating healthy can have many benefits, from keeping weight in a healthy range to a healthier heart to more energy. But did you know that eating healthy may also benefit your breathing? More and more studies are providing strong evidence that making healthy eating choices can help prevent asthma symptoms.


    It seems that when you ingest certain healthy foods, it can boost your immune system and/or improve your airway health enough to reduce the amount of medicine you need to take, or at least reduce your reliance on a quick-relief/rescue inhaler.


    Defining Healthy Eating

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    Making healthy choices 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.


    I go into more detail here on past research on healthy eating and asthma.


    But let's take a look at some of the newest research on diet and asthma...


    Folic Acid & Asthma


    A new study suggests that folic acid may prevent allergy and asthma symptoms. Researchers looked at medical records for 8,083 people from the ages of 2 years to 85 years, probing for the link between their blood levels of folate, which is the naturally occurring form of folic acid, and levels of IgE antibodies. IgE levels are known to rise in response to being exposed to your allergens.


    The results of the study showed that participants with higher folate levels had fewer IgE antibodies -- as well as fewer allergy symptoms, less wheezing, and lower risk for asthma. The researchers think that folic acid may help decrease allergy and asthma symptoms by regulating inflammation.


    Folic acid is found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, Great Northern beans, fortified cereals, green peas, wheat germ, and avocado. Folic acid has also been found in lower levels in people who have depression. Adults need 400 micrograms of folic acid per day, with pregnant women needing to increase their intake to 600 mcg.


    If you can't increase your folic acid intake by eating the foods listed above, then a multivitamin supplement is another good way to boost your levels.


    Vitamin D & Asthma


    Vitamin D is an essential health component. One of the best ways to get it is by getting regular doses of sunlight. Another way is in dairy products or vitamin D-fortified orange juice. According to a recent study of 616 Costa Rican children, low levels of vitamin D were linked to higher rates of asthma-related hospitalizations, inhaled steroid use, and airway hyperreactivity in children.


    This latest study was in line with one done in 2006 that showed that low vitamin D levels in pregnant women were linked to wheezing episodes in their babies after birth.


    Asthma rates in the Costa Rican schools used for the study were relatively high and 28% of the children studied had vitamin D deficiency. Researchers were somewhat surprised at the results, since Costa Rica is a sunny climate and children there would not be expected to have a vitamin D deficiency.


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    Although experts are not really sure which came first -- do severely ill asthmatic children stay indoors more so that they don't get the vitamin D they need from sun exposure? Or are they more severely ill because their vitamin D levels are low? -- they do feel that a clinical trial of using vitamin D supplements in asthmatic children to see if they reduce asthma severity and exacerbations would be beneficial.


    Past studies have also shown that apple juice may be beneficial in reducing asthma risk and/or symptoms.


    It's obvious to me that eating healthy makes sense from an overall health perspective. And if it also helps my asthma, all the better!

Published On: June 03, 2009