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It’s important to pay attention to self-care when you have asthma, and that includes keeping your diet as healthy as possible.  It’s been suggested that eating certain foods may help to reduce asthma symptoms, and in some cases, asthma symptoms can be caused or made worse by a food allergy. Most people with asthma can eat a normal diet.

Can your diet cause asthma?

There is evidence that if you have a food allergy as well as asthma, you might be more likely to experience a serious asthma attack. If that’s the case for you, you’ll need to be very careful to avoid any foods you’re sensitive to. Managing your asthma properly can also help keep the chances of any serious attacks down.

It’s also thought that substances called sulphfites can trigger asthma symptoms in people with moderate to severe asthma. Sulphites are often used to preserve foods like dried fruits, wines and pickles and should be mentioned as an ingredient on food labels if you’re not sure.

An unhealthy diet that leads to being overweight or obese can also have an effect on your asthma symptoms. If you’re overweight, you might find that losing even just a small amount of weight has a positive effect.

Can you treat asthma with the right diet?

There’s no diet that will treat asthma, or reduce the airway inflammation symptoms it causes. There’s some evidence that drinks containing caffeine might help reduce symptoms temporarily, but a reliever inhaler is much more effective.

Interestingly, there’s also some evidence that people with a diet that contained high levels of vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, flavonoids, magnesium, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids may be less likely to develop asthma.

Another study looking at asthma and diet found that teenagers with a poor diet that didn’t eat enough fruit, vegetable and omega-3 fatty acids were more at risk of poor lung function. Another 2007 study showed that children who were fed a healthy Mediterranean-style diet packed with fruits, nuts and tomatoes experienced fewer asthma-like symptoms.

What is the link between Vitamin C and asthma?

It’s possible that low levels of some vitamins could affect asthma, but the link hasn’t been proved. Back in 2009, it was reported that a lack of vitamins A and C could raise the risk of asthma. Research carried out by Nottingham University looked at results from several studies and found that low levels of vitamin C increased asthma risk by 12 per cent. There was a ’significant’ link between low intake of vitamin A and astha too but this couldn’t be measured. The conclusion at the time was that more in depth research was needed.

If you have asthma, what should you eat?

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. Spending a few minutes outdoors in the sun can also 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.

If you have asthma, what shouldn’t you eat?

There are no hard and fast rules unless you know that you have a food allergy, in which case you will need to avoid that food completely.

Some of the more common triggers for food allergies include:

  • Nuts - this is the most common food allergy, and while reactions can be mild, they can also be life-threatening, with a risk of anaphylactic shock in severe allergies.
  • Milk and milk products - There may be a link between dairy foods and asthma, but dairy allergies are rare. If you’re sensitive to milk products, they may cause wheezing. Don’t cut dairy from your diet unless advised to by your doctor.
  • Fish and shellfish - Shellfish allergy affects one in 100 people, especially in places where the diet contains a lot of shellfish. Allergy to fish affects about one in 200 people.
  • Eggs - An allergy to eggs is more common in children. People often grow out of an egg allergy and sometimes they might be able to eat foods that contain them, even if they react to raw or undercooked eggs
  • Seeds - Most commonly sesame, a seed allergy can cause severe reactions in some people. This allergy is becoming more common in the UK as more products containing seeds are introduced to our diet.
  • Wheat - A true wheat allergy will cause instant symptoms, which can include wheezing, diarrhoea and more. Some people who work in bakeries have even been known to develop asthma after inhaling flour.
  • Soya - Soya is found in lots of processed foods, including foods you wouldn’t expect to find it like margarines or some soups.
  • Food additives - Sulfites, tartrazine, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame are the most common allergy-triggering additives. In some people, preservatives including benzoates, butylhydroxyanisole (BHA), butylhydroxytoluene (BHT) and nitrites can also trigger a reaction.
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