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 these steps may help:

  • 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.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. They're a good source of antioxidants such as beta carotene and vitamins C and E, which may help reduce lung swelling and irritation (inflammation) caused by cell-damaging chemicals known as free radicals.
  • Avoid allergy-triggering foods. Having asthma puts you at increased risk of having a food allergy. And allergic food reactions can cause asthma symptoms. In some people, exercising after eating an allergy-causing food leads to asthma symptoms.
  • Take in vitamin D. People with more severe asthma may have low vitamin D levels. Milk, eggs and fish such as salmon all contain vitamin D. Even spending a few minutes outdoors in the sun can increase vitamin D levels.
  • Avoid sulfites. Sulfites can trigger asthma symptoms in some people. Used as a preservative, sulfites can be found in wine, dried fruits, pickles, fresh and frozen shrimp, and some other foods.

It's also possible that eating less salt (sodium) or eating foods rich in oils found in cold-water fish and some nuts and seeds (omega-3 fatty acids) may reduce asthma symptoms. But more research is needed to verify this.

Making informed choices about what foods to eat and what foods to avoid won't cure asthma. But eating a balanced diet and avoiding known trigger foods may improve your symptoms and your overall health.

June 02, 2017