What is Asthma?
Asthma is a condition that affects millions of adults and children worldwide. It effects the way a person is able to breath. Asthma is a narrowing of the airways and causes difficulty with getting air into and out of the lungs. This decreases the body’s ability to get in oxygen (necessary for life) and let out carbon dioxide (waste product and needs to be expelled). The narrowing of the airways has 3 distinct stages; 1. The muscles around the windpipe constrict, 2. The inner lining gets inflamed and 3. There is an Increase in mucus production-all of these add up to making the space air goes in and out of the lungs much smaller.
How do I know if I have asthma?
Some common signs and symptoms are:
- Difficulty breathing
- Wheezing (a whistling noise when you are breathing)
- Dark Circles and swelling under the eyes (possibility of an allergen contributing to the asthma)
Only a Doctor can diagnose you, but If you are experience several of these symptoms over several months and they are getting worse or not going away a visit to your primary care physician for testing is an important first step. Asthma can be life threatening if not managed appropriately.
What causes asthma?
There are two types of Asthma
- Intrinsic-this type is not mediated by the immune system. It can be caused by an infection of the respiratory tract, exposure to cold air, exposure to chemicals or even stress
- Extrinsic-usually caused by an external stimulus that creates an immune response-here are some examples:
- Environmental allergens
- Dust mites, cockroach mites
- Animal dander
- Food substances like MSG, GMO foods, or foods one is allergic to
How can diet help with asthma?
Nutrition can play an important role in symptom management. Recent research suggests that certain foods can help to decrease the inflammation associated with asthma. There are also foods that can cause exacerbations of asthma symptoms, so it is important to pay attention to your body and how you feel after eating. A diary can help you find some of your common triggers.
Foods and nutrients that can improve your symptoms:
- Increasing the servings of fruits and vegetables can have a positive effect on asthma symptoms as they are good sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants combat free radicals and other chemicals in the body that can lead to inflammation.1
- Eat foods that are high in vitamin C-citrus fruits, red and yellow peppers and dark leafy greens are good sources. Vitamin C is helpful in decreasing inflammation, boosting the immune system and also minimizing the histamine reaction of the immune system that in some cases causes the airway to narrow.1
- Decreased sodium levels-increased salt intake has been linked with an increase in asthma symptoms1
- Supplementation of B6-many asthma medications interfere with vitamin B6 absorption. This vitamin is important for energy production, nerve function and proper immune function.1
What should I avoid eating?
Certain foods and food additives can trigger an immune response or asthma attack. Food allergies are also common and can cause both immediate and/or delayed asthma symptoms.
Common Food Allergies and Triggers:
If you are not sure it is best to have a talk with your health care provider and have some diagnostic testing done to ensure you are avoiding the foods that cause flare ups.
What else can I do to help manage symptoms?
- Gentle exercise like walking or biking can help improve the strength of your lungs and heart, also improves your body’s ability to get oxygen in and carbon dioxide out
- Breathing exercises called pranayama are helpful and teach you how to breath more efficiently-especially when you are having an attack
- Stress Reduction activities like meditation, yoga or time in nature can decrease your body ‘flight or fight’ response and quiet your nervous system
Some helpful websites:
1Gupta, K., & Verma, M. (2007). Nutrition and Asthma. Lung India, 105-114. Retrieved September 20, 2016, from: http://www. medind.nic.in.
2Weil, A. (2015). Condition Care Guide. Asthma. Retrieved from: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00306/asthma.html (Links to an external site.)