While there are no clear dietary guidelines for people with asthma, research has shown that certain foods help lung function, strengthen the body’s immune system, and reduce asthma symptoms. However, some foods can exacerbate asthma symptoms or increase the risk of it developing.
Asthma is a chronic disease that is common. Just under 25 million people in the United States have asthma, with children making up about a fifth of that figure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC).
An article in Nutrition Reviews notes that in African Americans and individuals of lower socioeconomic status, asthma is more common.
This article looks at what foods people with asthma may wish to avoid, what foods may enhance or even prevent asthma symptoms from developing, and lifestyle factors that may help a person control this chronic condition.
Foods to avoid
Key foods and drinks that people with asthma may wish to avoid because they may exacerbate symptoms of asthma have been identified by the American Lung Association (ALA).
Foods that contain sulfites
Sulfites, such as alcohol, pickled foods, bottled lemon and lime juice, and dried fruits, are a form of preservative frequently found in preserved foods and beverages.
The symptoms of asthma can worsen in people with asthma who have high levels of sulphites in their diet. The ALA warns that sulphite-containing foods, particularly wine, may even cause an asthma attack. A 2018 study confirms that in people with asthma, white wine can contribute to intolerance responses.
Salicylates are compounds found in herbs-flavoured teas, coffees, spicy foods or foods. Though uncommon, these compounds are often susceptible to people with asthma and may be more likely to experience a flare-up of symptoms.
A 2013 study investigating fast food intake in children and adolescents found that those who consumed fast food three or more days a week were more likely to develop extreme asthma, as well as other health conditions.
Foods that may help
For people with asthma, the following foods can have some advantages.
Vitamin D foods or supplements
Report suggests that low vitamin D levels are related to an increased risk of childhood and adult asthma attacks. It also suggests that taking a vitamin D supplement every day will dramatically reduce the risk of a serious asthma attack from hospital admission.
Vitamin D can also promote the function of the lungs and decrease upper respiratory infections, such as colds.
In just a few foods, vitamin D exists naturally, so most people in the United States get their nutritious vitamin D from fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals, yogurt, and orange juice.
Good food sources of vitamin D include:
- fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
- egg yolks
Fresh fruit and vegetables
The risk of developing asthma can be decreased by a healthy , balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables.
The 2020 article notes that many studies have shown that high fruit and vegetable intake decreases the risk of asthma in adults and children.
A 2017 study of over 80 studies found connections between high fruit and vegetable consumption and decreased symptoms of asthma, such as wheezing.
Rich sources of antioxidants, such as vitamin C , vitamin E, and beta carotene, are fresh vegetables that help the body combat toxins that can damage tissues.
In turn, this can help improve the function of the lungs and control the symptoms of asthma.
Rich sources of vitamin C include:
- citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruit
- kiwi fruit
- red and green peppers
- baked potatoes
Good sources of vitamin E include:
- nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts
- sunflower seeds
- fortified foods such as breakfast cereal, fruit juice, margarine, and spreads
Orange and red fruit and vegetables contain beta carotene.
- sweet potatoes
- red and yellow peppers
- dark leafy greens, such as kale and spinach
Flavonoids and selenium
Antioxidants called flavonoids and selenium, which have anti-inflammatory benefits, are also present in fruit and vegetables.
A wide variety of fruits contain flavonoids, including:
- black and green teas
Foods that contain selenium include:
- dairy products
Whole grain foods
Whole grain foods can also play a role in decreasing asthma symptoms.
A 2017 study showed that there were less asthma symptoms and greater regulation of their condition in individuals who enjoyed a balanced diet, including whole-grain food.
Whole grain foods include whole oats, wholewheat pasta, buckwheat, and bulgur wheat.
Other triggers to avoid
People with asthma need to recognise causes that can make symptoms worse or cause another asthma attack and prevent them. The ALA provides guidance and specifics on common causes, including:
- over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, such as aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- common food allergies, such as peanuts and shellfish
- smoke, such as cigarette smoke, campfires, or wood-burning fireplaces
- adverse weather, such as stormy, windy, cold, or humid weather
- air pollution, smog, vehicle exhaust fumes, or chemical fumes
- dander and saliva from animals with fur or feathers
- environmental exposure to dust mites, mold, or spores
The ALA recommend managing asthma proactively. Working with a healthcare provider will help individuals with asthma create an action plan to successfully and at the right time prevent triggers and use their prescription medication.
Keeping an eye on and recording symptoms can assist individuals with asthma to determine what precautions they should take to avoid foods, behaviors, or environments that can induce an asthma attack.
A 2019 study suggests that asthma symptoms can also be caused by viral infections. It can help to minimize the risk by taking easy measures to prevent infection, such as washing hands and having flu shots.
Although there is no clear diet to decrease or avoid asthma, there are many foods that can affect the symptoms of asthma positively or negatively.
A diet that is high in fruit and vegetables and low in fast, fatty, or fried foods can help regulate the symptoms of asthma.
It can allow people with asthma to manage their condition more effectively by keeping track of causes and symptoms, and collaborating with a healthcare provider.