Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease characterised by bronchial obstruction and bronchospasm. The air passage of the asthmatic patients become narrow and swell and produce extra mucus which eventually leads to breathing problems and generates a sequence of coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

If you have asthma, you must be cautious regarding your diet as many food items can act as allergens and trigger asthma attack. On the other hand, many foods can help reduce inflammation and relive the symptoms of asthma.

What should you eat?

  • Getting enough vitamin D help reduce the number of asthma attacks. Spending few minutes every day under natural sunlight allows for adequate vitamin D synthesis in the body. Diet sources for vitamin D are milk, dairy products, eggs, and fish.
  • Intake of magnesium-rich foods, such as spinach, methi, dark chocolate and pumpkin seeds have been found to decrease asthma attacks as magnesium improves lung function and reduce wheezing. Intravenous magnesium is also sometimes used for treating acute asthma attacks.
  • Dr. Vinny Joglekar, Dietician, Apollo clinic Indiranagar, Bengaluru strongly recommends fruits rich in beta-carotene for asthma patients as beta-carotenes relaxes airway smooth muscles and thus allows for smooth air passage. Sources include yellow/orange and green vegetables and fruit such as spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, mango, melon, cantaloupe, broccoli and apricots. A study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reported a better quality of life in women with asthma who consumed higher levels of beta carotene.
  • Fruits with a high content of Vitamin C and E just like kiwi, oranges, Amla and lemons reduce the lung swelling and inflammation.
  • Intake of foods rich in quercetin and rosmarinic acid has shown a reduction in asthma symptoms and flare-ups. Rich dietary sources include apples, yellow and red onions, cabbage, broccoli, red grapes, cherries, citrus fruits, tea, and many berries including raspberries, and cranberries. Culinary herbs such as rosemary, sage, marjoram, peppermint, oregano, lemon balm, and thyme are also good sources.
  • Limit omega-6 fats as 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. Canola oil contains an ideal ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s.

What should you avoid?

  • High intake of salt is known to increase asthma attacks in children. So as far as possible, children should be discouraged to eat packed salty snacks and processed foods due to the excessive presence of salt in them.
  • Foods containing artificial ingredients or sulphites as preservatives, such as wine, dried foods, pickles, bottled lemon and lime juice and frozen fish should be strictly avoided. They are known to aggravate asthma.
  • Chemicals that may worsen asthma symptoms include benzoates, tartrazine and monosodium glutamate. Benzoates are antimicrobial preservatives that are used in various products, particularly soft drinks. Tartrazine is an artificial food colouring used in many processed foods such as canned vegetables, confectionery, soft drinks, sauces, chips, candy, cereals, instant soups, pasta, butter, cheeses and pickled products. Try to avoid these products.
  • Other foods that may trigger asthma symptoms are foods that are difficult to digest and cause gas creating pressure on your diaphragm which can trigger an asthma attack. An example of such food items are beans, fermented foods, carbonated drinks, onions, garlic, and fried foods.

What foods are allergens for asthma patients?

Food allergies and intolerances are often known to worsen asthma symptoms. However, all asthma patients may not have allergy with these foods. A small population of asthma patients is allergic to milk and dairy foods. Eating dairy products may cause wheezing in such patients, necessitating replacement of dairy foods with other calcium sources. Another food item that can be associated with asthma symptoms is wheat, causing immediate wheat allergy. This causes instant symptoms, which may include rashes, wheezing, conjunctivitis, diarrhoea and a worsening of eczema. Allergy from nuts, including peanut and seeds like, sesame, sunflower and poppy, is one of the most common allergies in adults and children causing mild to severe conditions, including anaphylactic shock, which can be life-threatening. Other food allergens include egg, fish and shellfish and soy which is found in lots of processed foods.

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