• By Clancy Harrison
  • In 2017
  • May 24, 2017

Could Your Diet Contribute to Your Asthma Symptoms?

by Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN

I’ve had asthma since toddler-age and don’t remember a time in my life without it. I have spent nights in the hospital due to my attacks and for years had to use my nebulizer every four hours every day. While for many people asthma symptoms can decline with age, I saw my decline directly associated with dietary changes and I now see flare-ups when my diet (as well as environmental factors) is altered.

As a child, while I did eat some veggies, loved fruit and ate mostly balanced meals, I also loved my mac and cheese, pasta and bagels. This is when my asthma was the worst, too. When my mom had drastic dietary changes due to illness, I became motivated to eat much healthier. What I always remembered was an improvement in my energy levels and athletic performance. What I didn’t notice until looking back recently was a moderate decline in severe asthma attacks, and a directly correlation with when I noticed my lactose intolerance and stopped drinking milk.

Years later in graduate school, it clicked for me that food allergies were not only anaphylaxis. Growing up with a brother that had very severe nut allergies, that was my perception of allergic reactions. I decided to do a dairy test. For lent I gave up all forms of dairy (I was still eating yogurt and cheese daily even though I had given up milk and ice cream). I noticed improvements, but pretended it was a fluke. I reintroduced it and was in denial that my asthma attacks were worse due to it. My dairy consumption had declined drastically though and after awhile I noticed to sharp of a connection that I decided I had to eliminate it all together. This is the food-allergy that relates to my asthma, but it does not mean it is an issue for you. The purpose of my story is to encourage those with allergy symptoms – whether they be breathing problems, a stuffy nose, rashes, itchy scalp, or digestive problems – to try to identify if a food in their daily diet may be a culprit.

Working with a registered dietitian, conduct an elimination diet beginning with the 8 major allergens:

  • Peanuts
  • Nuts
  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs

If you reintroduce all and don’t notice any issues, then great! If you do notice a problem, test a second time to be sure before removing one of these nutrient dense foods from your diet.

Other Dietary Factors That May Impact Inflammation and Asthma

  • Vitamin D
    • Has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory roles
    • Have your Vitamin D levels checked
    • Consume adequate amounts via eggs, salmon, fortified dairy or non-dairy beverages
  • Vitamin C and E
    • Work together in antioxidant systems to support lung cells
    • Vitamin C
      • Consume adequate fruits and vegetables especially citrus, peppers, potatoes, kiwi, strawberries, leafy greens
    • Vitamin E
      • Consume adequate plant fats and fish as well as leafy greens, mango, tomato
  • Omega 3
    • Studies show a relationship with lung health, especially in athletes
  • Sulfites
    • Asthmatics are more prone to react to sulfites found especially in dried fruits and wine

I’m still allergic to dogs and cats. I still can’t go on a long intense run without my albuterol beforehand. Still, identifying my food allergy and eating adequate fruits, vegetables and healthy fats directly correlate with the severity of my symptoms. This knowledge has helped athlete clients of mine and I hope it can help some of you, too!

Resources: Mayo Clinic, Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals by Christine Rosenbloom

To learn more about Kelly, visit her at www.KellyJonesNutrition.com