Posted on May 09, 2018, 2 a.m.
Eating a healthy balanced diet is critical to maintaining overall health. For individuals suffering with asthma the benefits become even more pronounced as different dietary patterns can have negative and positive effects on the risks of developing asthma, lung function deterioration, and control of exacerbations and symptoms.
Characteristics of asthma include chronic inflammation of the airways.Low fiber and high saturated fat intake are associated with increased neutrophilic and eosinophilic airway inflammation, fruits and vegetables lower inflammation.
Western diets can contain high levels of red meat, refined grains, sugar, processed and fast foods, and dairy. All of which are pro-inflammatory due to lack of antioxidants, with high levels of saturated fats which stimulate the innate immune system.
Typical Mediterranean diets contain many anti-inflammatory nutrients, including unsaturated fatty acids and antioxidant from the large amounts of seafood, whole grains, fruits and vegetables the diet is made up of.
Certain forms of asthma can prolong activation of the immune system, leading to enhanced airway inflammation, increased rate of exacerbations, and worsened lung functions. Saturated foods lead to increased inflammation from increased immune activation that is promoted by fast food and dairy products. Sulfites, sodium, and preservatives found in wine, dried fruit, salt, shrimp, and pickles, among others can trigger asthma symptoms.
Bacteria in the gut ferment fiber that produces metabolites, which can modify immune responses that has downstream effects on airway sensitivity and inflammation. Fiber rich diets can modify composition of microbial species in the colon to create an environment more protective against allergic airway responses. High fat diets alter balance of gut microbiota negatively.
There is a greater risk of food allergies among those who have asthma. When the immune system detects a food allergy histamine is released causing allergic reactions that can trigger asthma like symptoms including coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and even life threatening shock, making it critical for asthma patients to avoid food they are allergic to.
As the rate of obesity climb so do the rates of asthma. Being overweight leads to increasingly poorer health and disease outcomes. Eating a healthy balanced diet may be beneficial for asthma patients by direct effects from particular foods and in helping with weight control.
Understandings of the effects of diet on the development and control of asthma and how different foods affect symptoms can help patients make better choices to help improve their health. Higher fruit and vegetable intakes have the most positive dietary impact on the control and development of asthma. The best approach includes a healthy well balanced diet and regular physical activity as the most promising strategy for prevention and disease management.
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- Guilleminault L, et al. Diet and Asthma: Is It Time to Adapt Our Message? Nutrients. 2017;9:1227.