The Anti-Asthma Diet Plan: 10 Diet Tips for Asthmatics (Asthma Sufferers)
Are you looking for a healthy nutrition and diet plan for asthmatics? This section of HealWithFood.org's Nutrition Guide to Fighting Asthma presents diet tips that can bring relief to asthma sufferers by preventing and alleviating asthma symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing. More specifically, the paragraphs below explain how nutrients like ascorbic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin E, quercetin, rosmarinic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and a number of other nutrients can help prevent symptoms in asthmatic people.
This section also explains why asthma patients might want to avoid consuming certain substances such as sodium (salt), food additives, preservatives, dairy and eggs. Important notice: The information below and elsewhere on this website is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical or health advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.
#1: Be Sure to Get Enough Vitamin B6
Foods rich in vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) should be a vital component of any anti-asthma diet. Several studies have found pyridoxine to dramatically reduce the intensity and frequency of asthma attacks. Pyridoxine plays a critical role in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and cyclic adenosine monophosphate (CAMP), molecules that have been shown to help relax bronchial smooth muscle tissue. Pyridoxine is found in a wide range of foods, bananas being a particularly rich source of this important asthma-fighting vitamin.
#2: Load on Foods That Contain Vitamin C and E
Another good diet tip for asthma patients is to eat plenty of foods that are rich in vitamin C. With strong antioxidant properties, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is highly effective at neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause contraction of airway smooth muscles. Studies have also shown high levels of vitamin C to be able to reduce histamine release in the body and make histamine break down faster. Histamine, a chemical produced by the body, can increase inflammation in asthmatics and cause constriction of smooth muscles. Vitamin E is another antioxidant that can help alleviate asthma symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing. Vitamin C and vitamin E protect each other and are more effective when consumed together.
#3: Eat Plenty of Foods That Contain Quercetin
Quercetin, a bioflavonoid with strong antioxidant, anti-histamine, and anti-inflammatory properties, has been shown relieve asthma symptoms and allergic symptoms in some asthma sufferers. Good dietary sources of quercetin include apples, yellow and red onions, capers, broccoli, lovage, red grapes, cherries, citrus fruits, red wine, tea, and many berries including lingonberries, raspberries, and cranberries.
#4: Consume Herbs Rich in Rosmarinic Acid
Rosmarinic acid has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, which is why it may help alleviate asthma symptoms. The antioxidant activity of rosmarinic acid is believed to be superior to that of vitamin E. In addition, rosmarinic acid encourages cells to create prostacyclins, which help keep the air passages of the lungs open and thus promote easy breathing. Rosmarinic acid is found in many culinary herbs such as rosemary, sage, marjoram, peppermint, oregano, lemon balm, and thyme.
#5: Limit Omega-6 Fats, Increase Intake of Omega-3 Fats
Omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids (EFAs) which means that a certain amount is crucial to the proper functioning of a healthy body. However, excessive amounts of these fats can be harmful to people with asthma. Excess omega-6 fatty acids can increase inflammation in the body by producing inflammatory prostaglandins (type 2 prostaglandins).
Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, have anti-inflammatory effects. Many experts believe that our ancestors consumed omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in roughly equal amounts. However, most modern diets in Western countries — where asthma is most prevalent — include extremely high amounts of the potentially inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and not enough anti-inflammatory omega-3 acids.
An easy way to balance the fats in your diet is to reduce the consumption of refined vegetable oils which are high in omega-6 fatty acids and to eat more omega-3 containing foods such as walnuts, soybeans, flaxseeds, and cold water fish like salmon, cod, and halibut.
#6: Watch Out for Dairy Products and Eggs
Food allergies and intolerances are often linked to asthma. Asthma sufferers often report that the foods that cause adverse reactions in them also make their asthma symptoms worse. Although food allergies and intolerances vary depending on the individual, allergies to dairy products and eggs seem to be particularly common among asthmatic people.
#7: Consume Foods High in Carotenoids
The carotenoid beta-carotene is a fat-soluble antioxidant that combats free radicals which cause contraction of airway smooth muscles. Also vitamin A, which can be made from beta-carotene by the body, is a potent antioxidant. Good food sources of beta-carotene include yellow/orange and green vegetables and fruit such as spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, mango, melon and apricots.
And here's a bonus diet tip for all the sporty ones among you: step up your lycopene intake! Lycopene, another carotenoid with high antioxidant activity, has been shown to be particularly effective at controlling exercise-induced asthma. Dietary sources of lycopene include tomatoes, apricots, pink grapefruit, watermelon, and pink guavas.
#8: Eat Foods Rich in Magnesium and Potassium
Studies have shown that magnesium intake may be associated with a decreased risk of asthma. A high dietary intake of magnesium has also been linked to better lung function and reduced wheezing in people with asthma. Intravenous magnesium (magnesium injected directly to veins) is sometimes used for treating acute asthma attacks in hospitals. The beneficial effects of magnesium on asthma patients are due to the ability of magnesium to help smooth muscle cells stay relaxed. Furthermore, magnesium is needed to maintain adequate levels of potassium, another mineral that has been associated with improved lung function and a reduced incidence of asthma. Potassium is found in a variety of foods, root vegetables and beans being particularly good sources of this anti-asthma mineral.
#9: Cut Back on Salt
Studies suggest that high intakes of salt (sodium) can make asthma symptoms worse by making airways more reactive to allergens. Regions where salt consumption is high also tend to have higher rates of asthma. Moreover, excessive intake of salt can strip the body of potassium, a mineral that has been associated with improved lung function and reduced incidence of asthma in children. If you feel the food is lacking flavor, try using spices and herbs instead of excessive amounts of salt. Be also aware of the "hidden" salt that is present in many packaged and processed foods, such as commercial cereals, canned vegetables, and frozen meals.
#10: Avoid Food Additives and Preservatives
Some food additives and preservatives have shown to be strong asthma triggers in some people. Substances that may worsen asthma symptoms include benzoates, tartrazine, monosodium glutamate, and sulfites. Benzoates are antimicrobial preservatives that used in various products, particularly soft drinks. Tartrazine is an artificial food coloring used in many processed foods such as many canned vegetables, confectionery, soft drinks, sauces, chips, candy, cereals, instant soups, rices, pastas, butter, cheeses and pickled products. Monosodium glutamate or MSG is a flavor enhancer commonly used in Chinese restaurants and in many processed foods. Sulfites are used as preservatives in many packages foods and alcoholic beverages. The best way to avoid artificial substances in food is to eat unprocessed, organic foods.