A plant-based diet can help prevent asthma, suggests study
05/18/2022 / By Rose Lidell / Comments
A plant-based diet can help prevent asthma, suggests study

Following a balanced diet is important for your overall wellness. According to a study, eating a plant-based diet can also help prevent or manage asthma.

Asthma is a chronic condition characterized by inflamed airways, which can cause breathing difficulty, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

According to Dr. Hana Kahleova, study author and director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), asthma affects over 25 million Americans. She and her team hope that their study could be used to develop diet strategies that can benefit people with asthma.

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Asthma and dietary choices

For the study, the researchers examined data related to diet and asthma. They found that fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, offered health benefits for people with asthma. In contrast, dairy products and foods rich in saturated fat had a negative effect.

The researchers highlighted a study that showed a plant-based diet significantly reduced not only the use of asthma medication, but also the frequency and severity of symptoms, in asthmatic individuals.

Data from another study also showed that following a plant-based diet for a year helped improve vital capacity, a measure of the volume of air a person can expel, and other measures in asthmatic patients.

The researchers posited that a plant-based diet is beneficial because it can help reduce systemic inflammation, which exacerbates asthma. Additionally, plant-based diets include foods rich in dietary fiber, a nutrient linked to significant improvements in lung function.

The researchers also believe that the antioxidants and flavonoids in plant foods offer protective benefits for people with asthma.

Dairy consumption aggravates asthma symptoms

On the other hand, the study reported that dairy consumption can increase asthma risk and worsen asthma symptoms.

Results from a 2015 study showed that children who consumed the most dairy had higher odds of developing asthma than children who consumed the least dairy.

In a separate study, children with asthma were placed in either a control group, where they made no dietary changes, or in an experimental group where they eliminated dairy and eggs from their diet for eight weeks.

After eliminating dairy, the experimental group experienced a 22 percent improvement in peak expiratory flow rate, which measured how fast the children were able to exhale, while the control group experienced only a 0.6 percent decrease.

High fat intake, consumption of saturated fat and low fiber intake were also linked to airway inflammation and worsened lung function in those with asthma.

Based on these findings, Kahleova suggests switching to a plant-based diet and avoiding dairy products to prevent of manage asthma.

 

Diet recommendations for people with asthma

According to an American Thoracic Society (ATS) report, obesity is a major risk factor for developing asthma. Additionally, asthma in people who are obese may be more severe and more difficult to treat.

This is why following a nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy weight is key to managing your condition and preventing symptoms.

Here are some foods and nutrients that can support lung function if you have asthma:

Apples

According to a study, eating apples can help lower your risk of asthma and improve lung function.

Bananas

In an article published in the European Respiratory Journal, researchers found that bananas help decrease wheezing in children with asthma. Experts believe that this is because bananas contain antioxidants and potassium, both of which help improve lung function.

Magnesium

According to a study, children aged 11 to 19 with low magnesium levels also have lower than normal lung flow and volume. Thankfully, children can improve their magnesium levels by consuming these superfoods:

Inhaling magnesium through a nebulizer can also help treat asthma attacks.

Vitamin D

The Vitamin D Council suggests that getting enough vitamin D may reduce asthma attacks in children aged six to 15. Natural sources of vitamin D include eggs, milk and fortified milk, fortified orange juice and salmon.

Vitamin A

Results of a 2018 study show that children with asthma often have lower levels of vitamin A in their blood than those without asthma. Increasing the former’s vitamin A levels helps improve lung function.

These superfoods are rich in vitamin A:

  • Broccoli
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Leafy greens like kale, romaine lettuce and spinach
  • Sweet potatoes

What to avoid

Aside from dairy and fatty foods, here are other foods to avoid if you have asthma:

Artificial sweeteners

The calorie-free sweetener aspartame, which is often found in diet sodas, is one of many food additives known to cause allergic reactions, reports that Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). Allergic reactions can trigger asthma attacks.

Beer and wine

Sulfites, which are often used as a preservative in wine and beers, may worsen asthma.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, between one in 40 and one in 100 people with asthma have a sulfite sensitivity. Aside from beer and wine, sulfites can be found in condiments, dried fruit, pickles and shrimp.

Fatty foods

Desserts, red meat and other fatty foods can worsen inflammation and exacerbate asthma symptoms. Worse, these foods can also make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight, which is important for people with chronic health conditions like asthma.

Weight gain is bad for you because if you’re overweight, your lungs have to work harder. This can also aggravate asthma symptoms.

But not all fatty foods are bad for you. Foods that contain “good” fats, like avocados, coconut oil, fish, nuts and olive oil offer many health benefits for those with asthma.

Salmon and other oily fish also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can help individuals with asthma fight inflammation. Replace red meat with fish for better asthma control.

Processed foods

Many processed foods like deep-fried foods, packaged foods, fast foods and frozen foods contain preservatives and artificial colorings that may aggravate lung inflammation. One study even found that consuming processed meat four or more times per week can worsen asthma symptoms.

If you have asthma, avoid processed foods to prevent your symptoms from flaring up. Instead, eat more in-season whole fruits and vegetables.

Follow a plant-based diet, avoid dairy and maintain a healthy weight to prevent asthma.

Sources:

EurekAlert.org

Healthline.com

EverydayHealth.com

My.ClevelandClinic.org

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