Can foods I eat affect my asthma symptoms?

Answers from James T C Li, M.D., Ph.D.

There's no asthma diet that will eliminate your symptoms. But your food choices may make your asthma worse or increase your risk of developing asthma. Here's what you can do.

  • Take in vitamin D. People with more severe asthma may have low vitamin D levels and replenishing vitamin D may improve asthma. Fish such as salmon, milk and eggs all contain vitamin D. Even spending a few minutes outdoors in the sun can increase vitamin D levels.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. They're a good source of antioxidants such as beta carotene and vitamins C and E that may help control lung swelling and irritation (inflammation) caused by cell-damaging chemicals known as free radicals.
  • Avoid sulfites. Sulfites can trigger asthma symptoms in some people with moderate to severe asthma. Used as a preservative, sulfites can be found in wine, dried fruits, pickles, fresh and frozen shrimp, and some other foods.
  • Avoid allergy-triggering foods. Children with food allergies are likely to have asthma as well. In children with both conditions, the asthma tends to be more severe. In general, allergic food reactions rarely trigger asthma attacks. But a few studies suggest that wheezing accompanies other signs of such reactions more often than previously thought.
  • Eat to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can worsen asthma. Even losing a little weight can improve your symptoms. Learn how to eat right to maintain a healthy weight over the long term.
March 19, 2015 See more Expert Answers