Food Factors In Asthma

Patient Expert

Think what you eat has nothing to do with your battle with Asthma? Think Again. Nutrition Expert Heather Reese explains.

Most experts agree that there is very little evidence supporting a direct link between food and asthma. However, there is a lot of evidence showing that a well-balanced diet contributes to overall good health as well maintaining body weight. As the prevalence of obesity continues to rise, so to does the incidence of asthma. In fact, research shows a strong link between the two. It has been suggested that carrying extra weight can put added pressure on the lungs, which leads to an asthma-like response. However, some experts challenge the obesity/asthma link, asserting that obese people do not actually develop asthma; rather they are just short of breath from carrying extra weight. They do agree that losing weight can alleviate asthma symptoms in known asthmatics.

Asthma and Food Allergens

Many people who suffer from asthma report that common food allergens trigger their asthma attacks. However, experts predict that this is true in only about five percent of asthmatics. If you are one of the few people whose asthma is triggered by food allergens, avoidance measures are most affective. You can speak to your doctor or dietitian about how best to avoid these asthma triggers.

Asthma and Sulfites

One dietary trigger that is well documented in relation to asthma attacks is sulfites. While sulfite sensitivity is generally limited to asthmatics who are steroid dependant, this food additive can trigger attacks in 20 percent of people with asthma. Sulfites occur in foods as a result of fermentation and are found in processed foods, such as:

  • Artificial lemon or lime juice

  • Beer, wine, hard cider, juice and tea

  • Dried fruits or vegetables (maraschino cherries and guacamole)

  • Pickled foods (pickles, peppers and relishes)

  • Packaged potatoes (hash browns and fries)

  • Shrimp

Sulfites also occur nationally in foods like asparagus, chives, corn starch, eggs, garlic, leeks, lettuce, maple syrup, salmon, soy products and tomatoes.

Asthma and Antioxidants

Recent research has linked a high consumption of antioxidants from fruits and vegetables with a decreased prevalence of adult asthma. Several studies have found that asthma in adults was associated with a low dietary intake of fruit. And another study found that asthma was less frequent in those with a higher intake of leafy green vegetables, tomatoes and carrots.

A similar study at Cornell University linked antioxidants and asthma in children. This study found that children with higher levels of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and selenium were at least 10 percent less likely to have asthma than those with low levels of these antioxidants. This relationship is even more conclusive in children exposed to second hand smoke, who were 50 percent less likely to have asthma when consuming antioxidant-rich foods.

To increase your intake of these immune enhancing antioxidants, load up on red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables along with leafy green vegetables. Nuts, tuna and other kinds of fish are also great sources of antioxidants.