Sometimes allergic asthma can be hard to control, even with treatment. Getting a handle on your overall health may help. Focusing on the basics of wellness -- diet, exercise, sleep, and stress -- can give your body the boost it needs to better keep asthma in check. Here’s a few tips.
There’s no “asthma diet” that’ll cure your symptoms. But eating good-for-you foods can help manage them. Stick to these guidelines:
Load up on fruits and veggies. Filling your plate with these staples means more antioxidants, like beta carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Antioxidants help protect your cells from damage, which may ease swelling and inflammation in your lungs.
Get plenty of vitamin D. Studies show low levels of vitamin D are linked to more frequent asthma attacks. You can get more by adding milk, eggs, and fish -- such as salmon -- to your diet. More time outside in the sun can up your vitamin D, too.
Avoid sulfites. A sulfite is a preservative found in wine, dried fruits, pickles, and fresh and frozen shrimp. They’re an asthma trigger for some people.
Maintain a healthy weight. Carrying extra pounds can make symptoms worse. Need help losing weight? Talk to your doctor.
Move Your Body
The breathing problems triggered by asthma sometimes make exercise more difficult. But a slow and steady increase in activity over time can have a positive effect. Regular exercise can:
- Strengthen your lungs and the muscles that help you breathe
- Promote blood flow to your lungs and heart
- Boost your immune system to lower risk of respiratory infections
- Ease stress that can lead to inflammation
Talk to your doctor about ways you can work out safely. These might include:
- Warming up before and cooling down afterward to avoid sudden changes in airway temperature
- Keeping quick-relief medications handy
- Drinking water to avoid dehydration
- Avoiding triggers such as cold air or pollen while you exercise
Get Good Sleep
Research suggests that people with asthma who get a healthy amount of sleep have fewer attacks than those who don’t get enough sleep. You’re more likely to need medical care for asthma and have a worse overall quality of life if you’re not getting enough ZZZs.
You’re more likely to get good sleep if you:
Keep a schedule. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day to solidify your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
Be food- and drink-wise. Don’t go to bed too full or too hungry. Steer clear of nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol in the evening. These can make it hard to fall asleep or keep you from getting quality sleep.
Sleep in a restful space. Cool, dark, and quiet rooms are best. Be sure there aren’t allergens around that could trigger symptoms.
Limit naps. Keep any daytime sleep to 30 minutes or less. Earlier in the day is better than late.
Stress can cause quick and shallow breathing, leading to an asthma attack. Sometimes stress is unavoidable, but there are daily practices you can put in place to manage:
Make relaxation a priority. Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation can ease tension and calm your mind.
Exercise. Gentle workouts such as yoga or tai chi are good for limbering your muscles and your mood.
Ask for help when you need it. A trained counselor or therapist can help you work through situations and emotions that are causing extra stress in your life.
Examine Your Environment
Some asthma triggers are under your control, others aren’t. These include pollen and outdoor air pollution. Ask the doctor how to best protect your airways from them. Dust in your home, cigarette smoke, scented candles, or perfume tend to be easier to avoid. Do all you can to remove irritants from your daily life -- it’ll protect your lungs in the long run.
Mayo Clinic: “Asthma diet: Does what you eat make a difference?” “Sleep tips: 6 steps to better sleep.”
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: “Vitamin D for the management of asthma.”
Allergy & Asthma Network: “Asthma and Exercise.”
Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: “Associations of sleep duration with patient-reported outcomes and health care use in US adults with asthma.”
American Lung Association: “Manage Stress.”
NYU Langone Health: “Lifestyle Modifications for Asthma in Adults.”