Conquer Asthma With Diet

Very fast running manThe air is crisp, cool and clean. Seems the perfect time to get outside and exercise, doesn’t it? Or is it?

For many, exercise-induced asthma and regular asthma makes exercising outside more difficult. Fear of an asthma attack can keep many from exercising vigorously and from participating in sports or other activities.

What is asthma? It is actually airway inflammation that triggers an immune response in the body from an overreaction to certain stimuli. The inflammatory response creates bronchoconstriction that restrict the airways.  A normal asthma attack can vary with reactions from wheezing, chest tightness, to coughing or an inability to catch one’s breath. Not being able to breath is often panic-producing and the stress of an attack can actually make it worsen.

Exercise-induced asthma is very similar to chronic asthma, but symptoms are only present during extensive aerobic exercise. Often people with EIA only experience attacks when other factors are present such as temperature extremes, allergens and pollen in the air, extreme stress, or extremes of exertion.

About 80% of those with regular, chronic asthma have exercise-induced asthma, and 10% of elite athletes have exercise-induced asthma. In addition, around 10% of those people who do not normally have asthma will have exercise-induced asthma.

No one really knows what causes asthma, but asthma has “triggers” and the list can often be long and ever-changing. Some of the triggers are:

FOOD Sensitivities
Temperature extremes
Air quality
Intensity of exercise, duration of exercise
Animal dander
Respiratory infections

Causes of both exericise-induced asthma and regular asthma have to do with both genetic and environmental factors. While asthma is on the rise, but it seems to be another mysterious ailment that baffles the medical community as to why. And asthma should always be taken seriously. Asthma can actually cause death in severe cases.  Consult with a physician if you or your children have any symptoms of asthma.

Some cases of asthma may require prescription medicine and inhalers, but there are things you can do with your diet to that will lessen the severity of symptoms and the frequency of attacks, and still enjoy all of your favorite activities.

Asthma is an inflammatory disease, and like other inflammatory diseases that have increased in the past 20 years, there is evidence to link the increase in asthma with the shift in dietary intake of fatty acids. Our standard American diets contain lower levels of omega 3 fatty acids, (like those found in grass fed meats) in comparison to the higher levels of omega 6 fatty acids (like the kind found in vegetable oils, margarine and prepared foods).

Fatty acid intake has changed to become very lop-sided with omega 6 fatty acids. An imbalance and overabundance of omega 6 fatty acids not only interferes with our body’s utilization of omega 3 fatty acids, but omega 6 fats tend to increase general inflammation in the body. This can affect the heart and lungs, allergies, brain, and practically every organ system in our bodies.

The trend towards cutting back on saturated fats also creates dysfunction in our bodies. Saturated fats are a necessary building block for the bones, the brain and nervous sytem; the liver and the lungs. The airspaces in the lungs are normally coated with a thin layer of lung surfactant, which is necessary for proper functioning of the lungs. Lung surfactant is made up primarily of saturated fatty acids. When these critical fats are made up of other types of fats such as omega 6 fats, the surfactant is damaged, and can increase both the incidence and severity of asthma attacks.

A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in grass fed beef, lamb, goat and wild-caught fish can have anti-inflammatory effects on the lungs, and improve the exercise capacity for patients with inflammatory lung diseases such as asthma and COPD.  This holds true for those who are only afflicted with exercise-induced asthma as well.
In several studies, asthma and exercise-induced asthma were looked at with regard to diet and fatty acid intake. The results were significant in terms of the fatty acids in the diet and their effects.

Clinical research suggests that omega 3 fatty acids in the diet seem to decrease inflammation and improve lung function in both adults and children with asthma.

In a small, well-designed clinical study of 29 children with asthma, those who took omega 3 supplements rich in EPA and DHA for 10 months had improvement in their asthma symptoms compared to children who took a placebo pill.

Japanese researchers also found a connection: they followed 32 patients with COPD on an omega 3 fatty acid-rich diet, and 32 patients with COPD on a non-omega 3 fatty acid-rich diet.  The patients on the omega 3’s had much improved lung function in comparison with the omega 3-poor diet. Nutritional support with a high omega 3 fatty acid diet is a safe and practical method for asthma and other related lung diseases.

Other foods also can help control asthma as well. Several studies have shown that certain nutrients may also guard against asthma attacks. Antioxidants, that protect the body from free radicals, are highly effective for asthma relief. The best antioxidants in this group include vitamins A, C, and E (found in most fresh vegetables and fruits); lycopene (found in red fruits and vegetables like tomatoes); and selenium (found in Brazil nuts and grass fed meats).

Drinking raw milk if you have access to it—is an essential component of an anti-asthma diet. Recent research from the University of Nottingham in England, not only shows that the calcium in raw milk has benefits, but also the magnesium may play an important role, as well. The study showed that if magnesium intake was higher, than the subjects ended up with calmer lungs and better airflow. While there is no set amount of magnesium to supplement the diet with, the advice here is to eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods. There is a significant difference in drinking raw milk as opposed to pasteurized commercial milk that you would buy at the store. Regular pasteurized milk, absent of its enzymes and much of its nutrition, can actually become a trigger that worsens asthma attacks.

Before you rush out to the nearest health food store to load up on supplements, remember that eating healthy food full of the nutrients you need is the best way to get what your body needs. The message here is the same one you have probably heard a few million times before: eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of fresh fruits and veggies, with high quality protein like grass fed meat or free range chicken from U.S. Wellness Meats

If you do decide to modify your diet, keeping a food journal is a good way to record reactions and certain foods you have eaten. Every time you eat or drink, jot it down in your journal. When you have a reaction, track that in the journal as well. After several reactions, you can go back through your journal and try to pull out any patterns with diet and asthma attacks.

Diet can affect asthma in two ways. While some food may provoke asthma attacks by causing a reaction, other foods can help to lessen or prevent attacks. If you find that eating certain foods are closely followed by an asthma attack, then, as you probably know, those foods need to be eliminated. Some of the most common food-allergy asthma triggers are: eggs, nuts, milk, sulfites, soy, fish and chocolate.

If you have frequent exercise-induced asthma attacks despite using preventive medication, or if you have attacks when you are not exercising, you need to see your health care provider right away. You may need to use daily medication to control the underlying inflammation that is causing your frequent attacks.


American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP)
3300 Dundee Rd. 
Northbrook, IL 60062
United States

7 Reasons to Eat More Saturated Fat
Posted by: Dr. Mercola 
September 22 2009

Omega 3 fatty acids, University of Maryland Medical Center,

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