What is asthma? • Asthma is a common chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs that can make it difficult to breathe due to inflammation and narrowing of the airways (see below). • Asthma currently affects 26 million Americans and 7 million children.
Asthma is characterized by: o Inflammation of the bronchial tubes, reversible airflow obstruction and bronchospasm. • Asthma can present with cough, wheezing, shortness of breath or chest tightness.
Is there a relationship between asthma and diet?
• After receiving many questions about the validity of the “asthma diet” from various parents I decided to embark on an evidence based medicine search for answers.
• Asthma is a heterogeneous clinical condition (meaning there are different types of asthma).
• Asthma is affected by many genetic and environmental factors (including diet and environmental tobacco smoke).
• Since we know obesity and asthma are associated (meaning obesity is correlated with more severe asthma) it would make sense to incorporate dietary modification into individualized treatment regimens.
• I became increasingly fervent to share this information with the worried parents out there after reviewing an article which associated fast food consumption in pregnancy and subsequent asthma symptoms in young children. This was only one study so again is inconclusive yet still alarming.
• It appears that there is some evidence (although all observational studies so evidence is inconclusive) that high fiber, Mediterranean diets (rich in Vitamin A, D and E) can have a protective effect against the development of asthma. Conversely, the conventional Western diet (high in refined sugars, salt and saturated fats) has been associated with increased systemic inflammation, a dietary inflammatory index, reduced lung function, and increased Il-6 plasma levels.
• There is a meta-analysis of observational studies that revealed a high intake of both fruits and vegetables were associated in up to 36% reduction in the risk of asthma. Please remember these are not randomized controlled studies this is not confirmatory so there is no real asthma diet. • However, healthy eating is important and does have clinical implications.
Take Home Points:
1. Make sure to wash your family member’s hands in addition to your own
2. Get the flu vaccine although note this will not protect against all strains
3. Please eat plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, remember to boil your veggies or eat them raw (not fried) to increase antioxidant content. Boiling tomatoes can increase lycopene content but remember that cooking vegetables by any method will decrease the vitamin C content. Cook with olive oil as it has known anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. In general, cook and prepare your fruits and veggies whatever way will be most appealing to your children!
4. Eat foods with Omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon tuna and sardines in addition to flaxseed. Minimize trans fats and omega 6 fatty acids which are found in some processed foods and margarines.
5. Routine supplemental use of vitamin, A, C, E and polyunsaturated fatty acids is not recommended for the prevention or treatment of asthma or allergies 6. Maintain a health weight by eating a balanced diet
7. Avoid sulfites (used as a preservative). It can be found in wine, dried fruits, pickles, fresh and frozen shrimp
8. Avoid allergy triggering foods if you or your child has food allergies Thanks for reading! Stay tuned to can you outgrow Asthma and please ask questions. I am here to help. We can also discuss food sources of each of the major and important nutrients that will help boost your child’s immune system as we approach the winter months. Leila Yoonessi, MD. MPH.