Asthma and Diet
What Should I Eat to Prevent Asthma?
Given the murky evidence for a link between asthma and nutrition, there is no particular asthma diet. But it's a good idea to adhere to a healthy diet, anyway.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. We still don’t know which fruits and vegetables might have an effect on asthma, so the best advice is to increase your intake of a wide variety of them.
- Eat foods with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids -- found in fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines and some plant sources, like flaxseed -- are believed to have a number of health benefits. Although the evidence that they help with asthma is not clear, it’s still a good idea to include them in your diet.
- Avoid trans fats and omega-6 fatty acids. There’s some evidence that eating omega-6 fats and trans fats, found in some margarines and processed foods, may worsen asthma, and other serious health conditions such as heart disease.
What Else Affects Asthma Symptoms?
Nutrition -- good or bad -- isn’t the only way that asthma might be affected by diet. Here are some examples:
- Diets High in Calories. If you eat more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight. That’s bad not only for your general health, but for your asthma specifically. People who are obese are more likely to have more severe asthma symptoms, take more medication, and miss more work than people who maintain a normal weight.
- Food Allergies. Many people have food intolerances such as lactose intolerance, but these are not true allergies and rarely worsen asthma. Only about 2% of adults with asthma have true food allergies to milk, eggs, shellfish, peanuts, or other foods. When exposed to even small amounts of the foods to which they have become allergic, these people can have life-threatening anaphylactic attacks, including bronchospasm, which requires immediate asthma medication.
- Preservative Sensitivities. Sulfites, which are used to keep food fresh and stop the growth of mold, can trigger temporary asthma symptoms in a few people with asthma. Sulfites can give off sulfur dioxide that can irritate the lungs. Sulfites are no longer added to fresh fruits and vegetables in the U.S. But they are still used in many processed foods, and may also be in condiments, dried fruits, canned vegetables, wine, and other foods.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD). Up to 70% of all people with asthma also have GERD (reflux of stomach acid), which can make asthma more difficult to control. Sometimes, GERD doesn’t cause typical heartburn symptoms. If you have GERD, you may need to take medicine. Weight loss is often all that is necessary to eliminate GERD. You should also try eating smaller meals and cutting down on alcohol, caffeine, and any foods that you notice trigger GERD symptoms. Avoid eating just before bedtime.