Asthma & Diet
Asthma results when triggers cause swelling of the tissues in
the air passages of the lung, making it difficult to breathe. Typical
of asthma include wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing. Food triggered
asthma is unusual. Although food allergies may trigger asthma in a small number
of people. Check out how diet can affect asthma in different ways.
First, some foods can provoke asthma attacks by causing an allergic reaction.
Foods that trigger attacks (according to your susceptibility), can be:
Foods containing the additives benzoates(E210-19), sulphites (E220-8) or
Cider, wine and beer
Foods containing yeast or mould, such as bread and blue cheeses
Foods, drinks and snacks containing colorings E102, E104 and E110
Cow's milk, cereals (wheat), eggs, fish, soy, and nuts (especially peanuts)
At the same time Food can also help to control the severity of an attack. One of
the best-known foods for doing this is coffee, due to the caffeine.
Some Foods can actually dilate air passageways, by thinning the mucus and
opening them up for freer breathing. The foods in this category include the
spicy, pungent foods like chili, hot mustard, garlic and onions. These hot foods
work by stimulating nerves, resulting in the release of watery fluid in the
mouth, throat and lungs.
Thirdly, some foods can control inflammation of the airways because of their
anti-inflammatory components. Foods that help to do this include onions (these
are particularly good), fatty fish (fish oil is a proven anti-inflammatory high
omega 3 fatty acids) and
vitamin C-packed foods.
EAT PLENTY OF
Foods rich in the
B vitamins such as green leafy vegetables and pulses
Good sources of
such as sunflower seeds and dried figs
Broccoli may help protect against respiratory inflammation
that causes conditions like asthma, allergic rhinitis and
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
According to a latest
low levels of vitamin D are associated with higher rates of asthma-related
hospitalization, inhaled corticosteroid use, and airway hyper-reactivity in
Vitamin D levels were also associated with more direct markers of asthma
severity, expressed as odds ratios for each log-10 unit increase in serum
Asthma hospitalization, OR 0.05 (95% CI 0.004 to 0.71)
Use of anti-inflammatory medication, OR 0.21 (95% CI 0.06 to 0.75)
Use of inhaled steroids, OR 0.14 (95% CI 0.02 to 0.96)
Increased airway responsiveness, OR 0.15 (95% CI 0.02 to 0.96)
Lack of adequate sun exposure was the most likely reason for low vitamin D
levels in the study, the researchers said.
Because an allergy is highly individual condition, it is not possible to give a
definitive list of 'good' and 'bad' foods. Those who suspect that foods are
triggering their asthmatic attacks should keep a food diary and seek expert
Common foods that may trigger asthma in susceptible individuals, however,
include cow's milk, wheat and other cereals, yeast and foods containing mould,
such as blue cheeses. Nuts (especially peanuts), fish and eggs can produce the
most immediate and dangerous reactions.
Certain food additives may also be potential triggers in some people. The
presence of sulphites must, by law, be indicated on the
label of packaged foods,
but it is not obvious when such foods are served in delicatessens or
restaurants, where of course they do not have any labels. Sulphites are used in
cider, beers and wines. These products may pose a risk for susceptible
asthmatics when, for instance, they inhale the bouquet of a wine. Perhaps as a
result of bacterial activity during production, some wines also contain levels
of histamine that may occasionally prompt asthmatic reactions in susceptible
Benzoate preservatives, which are present in a range of products from soft
drinks and reduced-calorie jams to chewing gum and fish roe, may bring on
asthmatic attacks. Other potential triggers include the less common antioxidant
additives - the gallates(E310-12 ), butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA or E320), and
also butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT or E321) - which are used in certain fats and
oils, as well as in some breakfast cereals.
In susceptible people, the food colourings E 102 (tartrazine, yellow), #104 (quinoline
yellow) and E110 (sunset yellow) may also trigger asthma. Under EU legislation
the presence of all these additives must be indicated on food labels.
Foods containing the B vitamins, for example leafy green vegetables and pulses,
may help asthmatics whose attacks are provoked by stress. There is also some
evidence that asthmatics may have a tendency to be deficient in
vitamins B6 and C.
Antioxidants - which include
vitamin A from foods such as liver; betacarotene
from brightly-coloured fruit and vegetables such as apricots, carrots and red or
yellow peppers, and dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach; vitamin C from
citrus fruits; and
vitamin E from olive oil-may strengthen the lungs
mopping up Free radicals. These potentially harmful substances are generated as
part of an asthmatic's inflammatory response to air pollution or allergens.
Magnesium, found in fish, green vegetables, sunflower seeds and dried figs, may
help by relaxing the airways. A British study carried out at the University of
Nottingham in 1994 suggested that people with low levels of magnesium were more
susceptible to asthma attacks. Current research also suggests that fatty fish
such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and cod may help to
asthma. They are a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to
have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Asthmatics sometimes take coffee to reduce the effects of attacks. Caffeine is
chemically similar to theophylline, used in some medications to dilate the
bronchial tubes and assist breathing. In emergencies, two cups of strong coffee
should bring relief within 2 hours, with the effects lasting for up to 6 hours.
However, coffee, tea and caffeine-containing cola drinks should be avoided by
those taking theophylline as the combined effect can be toxic. A high intake of
caffeine is also inadvisable if your attacks are triggered by anxiety.
Preventing Asthma Triggered by Foods:
The best way to avoid food-induced or aggravated asthma is by avoiding or
eliminating the food or food ingredient from your diet or the environment.
Remember that these substances can be both released into the air or consumed
when eating or drinking.
Read ingredient labels on food packages and know where food triggers are found
Work with your physician on a care plan and proper use of medications, you will
be prepared to act in case of an asthma attack.
Dated 18 May 2011