Longtime reader, Kathy, shared some great info about asthma prevention with me over email (my oldest, Benjamin, has asthma) and she agreed to write a guest post about it. Hope it helps some other asthma sufferers out there! – Haley
Disclaimer: Although I hope you find it helpful, the guest poster is not a medical professional. Information in this post is not a substitute for your own doctor’s medical care or advice.
About a year ago, I caught a cold that my son brought home from preschool. A week later, just as I was starting to feel better, he gave me another cold. Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe, and my Ventolin inhaler was useless, so I made an appointment with my primary care physician.
“Bronchitis and asthma,” she announced. “Use your son’s nebulizer breathing machine for albuterol rescue treatments, and also start taking this steroid that only targets the lungs.”
I’d always had hay fever; allergies had been part of my life since I was young. I grew out of childhood asthma around age four, but it returned in college, during peak allergy season, and I had a Ventolin puff inhaler that I only used once every couple of months.
Now I was taking “rescue” treatments of albuterol with the nebulizer four times a day, plus twice-daily nebulized treatments of the steroid budesonide. I was also taking Benadryl to mitigate some symptoms, since allergies are a strong contributing factor to my particular “brand” of asthma. Because I’m hypersensitive to side effects, I couldn’t take Claritin, Allegra, or Zyrtec. And every time I caught a cold, it turned into bronchitis. So what’s a girl to do?
After 18 years as a technical writer, editor, and medical writer, I had extensive research skills and the ability to understand papers published in peer-reviewed medical journals, so I put those skills to work.
I discovered that the typical American diet of processed food, preservatives, and artificial colors and flavors were contributing to asthma, creating record numbers of asthma in children and adults. And I discovered that kiwi had been found to improve asthma symptoms up to 40% in children who ate a single kiwi five to seven times a week.
Then I stumbled across multiple blogs online, most by mothers who had eliminated or reduced their children’s asthma, and I , had the most extensive, exhaustive list, and those items are included in the detailed list below.
I began compiling a working list of foods that could relieve or exacerbate asthma symptoms, and started incorporating the “good foods” into my diet. Within 18 hours of eating the first kiwi, I cut out a breathing treatment. That day, I had three “rescue” treatments with albuterol, instead of four. Clearly, there was a practical application of the research findings and the other moms’ advice.
I’m still working on getting rid of many of the offending items from the “avoid” list, but I just can’t give up the occasional Oreo or bacon. I do find that my symptoms are lessened when I avoid the wrong foods and add in the right foods, but the asthma hasn’t disappeared, by any means.
Of course, the list below is not comprehensive, and allergies or food sensitivities may preclude you from incorporating some of the items. But it’s a start. Try some of the items below, and you just may find that you can take control over asthma instead of letting it control you.
Foods to Eat
Tomatoes (yes, these should really be in the “fruit” category)
Note: It’s hard to find broccoli sprouts in Phoenix, so I only have them at Sweet Tomatoes/Souplantation’s salad bar.
Herbs and Spices
Nuts, Seeds and Oils
Canola oil or olive oil
Note: Look for oils that contain the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega 3, which is 2.5:1. Too much omega-6 without the appropriate ratio of omega-3 can exacerbate asthma symptoms.
Fresh fish, especially fatty fish with high quantities of omega-3 — salmon, tuna, cod, herring and anchovies
Note: For fish oils, my physician recommends that the gel capsules be stored in the freezer. Just take the appropriate quantity daily while the pill is still frozen. This reduces the chance that you’ll be burping up a disgusting fish flavor all day.
Note: This is added to the list because it is typically non-allergenic, and many people with multiple food allergies can still eat buckwheat. If you can’t, then take it off the list.
Foods to Avoid
Any food to which you are allergic
Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
High-fructose corn syrup
Processed meats such as bacon
Refined grains (white flour, all-purpose flour, white rice, white pasta)
- Some people have found that eggs and dairy can contribute to symptoms. Others have issues with peanut butter, chocolate, corn, or wheat. I tried going without dairy (for at least a week) and it had no effect on me. Clearly, that is not one of my triggers, but this may differ for others.
You may find that even if a food doesn’t contain the problem ingredients above, it can still exacerbate asthma symptoms. For example, I notice an immediate shortness of breath if I eat spicy buffalo-wing-style pretzels, even though they don’t contain artificial food colorings or other red-flag ingredients. I love them, but if I eat them, I pay for it.
What to Feed Kids with Asthma: Jessica Smartt, Contributing Writer to Keeper of the Home
How We Reversed Asthma Symptoms in Our Family: Daniele of Domestic Serenity
Anti-Asthma Diet: Parents magazine
Anti-Inflammatory Diet: How to Balance Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids: The Conscious Life
Top 10 Inflammatory Foods to Avoid Like the Plague: The Conscious Life
Best Foods for Preventing and Alleviating Asthma Symptoms: HealWithFood.org
Kathy Dix Biallas is a native of southern Illinois (Collinsville, the horseradish capital of the world) who packed a suitcase and moved to Arizona in 1996 after receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. She enjoys cake decorating, jewelry-making, singing, and reading as many books as possible. She is a business analyst and technical writer for a software company. She is married and has a four-year old son, who loves Matchbox cars and has no interest whatsoever in what Mommy does all day.
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