Asthma & Your Diet: Should You Be Rethinking What You Eat?

What is the Relationship Between Asthma and Diet?

Debates about the relationship between food and asthma are still ongoing. Some medical professionals argue that diet has absolutely nothing to do with asthma. Others hold that poor dietary habits are behind the astronomic rise in asthma rates during the past few decades. Among those who believe that diet can have an impact on asthma, there is considerable disagreement on just what foods should be included and excluded from the diet of an asthmatic.

Can Proper Diet Prevent Asthma?

For the past thirty years, the worldwide prevalence of asthma has risen by about fifty percent per decade. This is a truly alarming trend. At the same time, rates of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure have also been skyrocketing. Some people think that these phenomena are all caused by the same thing: poor diet. They suggest that eating healthy may not only prevent obesity, hypertension, and diabetes, but also decrease the risk of developing asthma.

What Foods May Help Prevent or Improve Asthma?

Several different types of food have been indicated as having a positive effect on asthma:

  • Vegetables. Vegetables are high in many essential vitamins and antioxidants. These compounds reduce the damage that the immune system does to the body in asthma, keeping airways clear and reducing inflammation. Vitamin E, especially, seems to reduce the body's production of allergy antibodies.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are found in fatty fish such as salmon, walnuts, and canola oil. There is evidence that including more omega-3s may improve lung function and boost the immune system. Children who eat fatty fish at least twice a week are seventy-five percent less likely to develop asthma.
  • Soy products. Products such as tofu and tempeh have anti-inflammatory effects. This may help reduce symptoms of asthma.
  • Dairy. Dairy is one of the most contentious issues involved in the asthma and diet debate. Many people claim to have become remarkably better when they stopped eating dairy products. Others say exactly the opposite: including more calcium and magnesium rich dairy in the diet reduces the risk of developing asthma threefold, and helps make attacks less frequent in those who already have the condition. For those who are sensitive to dairy products, eating sunflower seeds and figs (which are also high in magnesium) may help.

What Foods Can Help Control Asthma Attacks?

Caffeine has been shown to be very beneficial in controlling asthma attacks. A cup of coffee improves airway function for the next four hours or so after drinking it. Some research also indicates that spicy foods such as chili or garlic can help thin mucus and dilate airways, leading to fewer and less severe asthma attacks.

Should You Be Rethinking What You Eat?

So far, the evidence is contradictory. Some people claim that diet can affect asthma, others that it has absolutely no bearing. Asthma is a multi-faceted disorder. Different people will be affected in different ways. In the end, the only way to know if changing your diet can help you with your asthma is by trying it. Experiment with including some new foods and abandoning others. Keep a diary of what you eat and when your asthma is better or worse. If you find that something works, go with it! If not, keep trying.


Photo Credit: jojomzz

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