|Does Food Play a Role in Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects approximately 7.6
million adults and 4.8 million children in this country. Asthma sufferers
experience breathing difficulties, coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness as
their lungs react to certain substances in their environment or to health
conditions such as the common cold. Although most asthma can be controlled with
medicine, it remains a serious public health concern: as 5,000 people in the
United States die from asthma each year. As asthma becomes more prevalent and
the death toll increases, some research dollars have been spent examining the
relationship between food and asthma.
It is well known that asthma can be triggered by cold air, tobacco smoke,
perfume, dust, and mold. But food? Yes; allergies to food such as milk, eggs,
soy, wheat products, nuts, shellfish, and fish can cause asthma, especially in
children. Children are especially susceptible to milk, eggs, and peanuts.
A key part of controlling asthma is determining asthma triggers and
eliminating or avoiding them if possible. If you or your child suffer from
asthma, visit a doctor for a complete diagnosis. Your doctor may suggest a food
allergy test or an elimination diet. An elimination diet involves consuming food
free from all suspected allergens for two weeks, then re-introducing one
food every three days. You will be asked to note any reactions such as
gastrointestinal upset, mood changes, headaches, or worsening asthma. Your
doctor may also recommend eliminating milk and milk products, which increase
mucus in the respiratory passages.
While it is wise to avoid your specific food-related asthma triggers, some
research (although not too much has been done in this area) has shown that
outside of a specific allergy, avoiding certain nutrients or increasing intake
of others is not an effective treatment for asthma. Of the several nutrients
that have been studied recently, vitamin C holds the most promise, because it
seems to improve lung function. Some evidence indicates that increased salt
intake may make asthma worse; however, the evidence is not strong enough to
recommend a low-salt diet for people with asthma. Magnesium may have some
short-term benefits for acute attacks but not for long-term control of
Although research is lacking, some alternative diets, such as vegetarianism,
macrobiotics, or eliminating sugar, may help prevent asthma. Whatever you
try, asthma is a serious condition and you should be sure to work closely with
your doctor in controlling it.
Acute: refers to an illness that starts suddenly with intense symptoms
and that does not last long
Allergens: substances that bring about an allergic reaction
Chronic: refers to an illness or disease that develops slowly and is
persistent (often lifelong)
Macrobiotics: an extremely restrictive diet, based in Oriental
philosophy, consisting mostly of whole grain foods
Magnesium: an important mineral in the body, especially for heart,
muscle, and kidney function
Dr. Tom Plaut's Asthma Guide for People of All Ages by , M.D. with
Teresa B. Jones, M.A. (Pedipress 1998)
One Minute Asthma: What You Need to Know by , M.D. (Pedipress
Natural Relief for Your Child's Asthma: A Guide to Controlling Symptoms
and Reducing Your Child's Dependency on Drugs by Steven J. Bock, Kenneth
Bock, Nancy Pauline Bruning (Harper Collins 1999)
The American Lung Association Family Guide to Asthma and Allergies by
the American Lung Association Advisory Group (Little Brown & Co.
American Lung Association Web site archive.
"Study Indicates Food Allegies May Be a Factor In Some Children's Asthma,"
February 15, 1996. Available at www.lungusa.org.
American Lung Association Web site, general information on asthma. Available
American Medical Association Web site. The Asthma Information Center:
"Primer on Allergic and Immunologic Diseases—Fourth
Edition." Available at www.ama-assn.org.
Monteleone CA, Sherman AR. Nutrition and asthma. Arch Intern Med.
|Review Date: December 1999|
|Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial|
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