How I Manage My Asthma with Nutrition

Asthma is a very common condition that affects a growing number of people, of all ages, annually. The prevalence of this condition has risen because of one reason: the continual and disturbing decreasing levels of air quality. What makes it worse is the propensity of people to reside in urban centers. Pollution, in my opinion, is the leading cause of asthma in people who otherwise would not suffer from this affliction.

Asthma begins with several different trigger mechanisms leading to inflammation of the lung passages with increasing mucus secretion and spasm of the bronchiole tube muscles.

There seem to be two groups of asthma sufferers. One group suffers from asthma as a typical allergy response, such as can be experienced from hay fever. The triggers can be plants, animals, and even certain foods.

The second group experiences asthma symptoms from cold air, noxious chemicals, pollution, cigarette smoke, intense exercise, and emotional stress. I personally suffer from both causes of asthma and have since I was five years old!

Now, as typically the case, my symptoms of allergic asthma have improved with age to the point that they are hardly noticeable today. However, my asthma caused by poor air quality has actually progressively worsened! Here are the steps I take to manage my asthma:

Managing Asthma with Dietary Changes

Firstly, I try to reduce and at times eliminate refined carbohydrates like white flour, sugar, baked goods, white rice, pasta, syrups, and concentrated fruit juices. These types of carbohydrates can trigger the secretion of inflammatory chemicals in the blood, which can influence the degree of inflammation within the lungs. There is an old fallacy regarding the direct link between increased intake of dairy products and mucus secretion in the upper respiratory tract. This is caused by the milk sugar, not dairy protein!

I also try to avoid saturated fat from fatty meats, cream, ice cream, and butter. In its place, I consume oily fish, extra virgin olive oil, avocadoes, nuts, and seeds. Including saturated fats in my diet also encourages the release of inflammatory chemicals. Eating foods with higher levels of good fats can dampen the increased levels of inflammation associated with asthma.

I also like to eat more berries, green tea, and brightly colored vegetables, because these foods have levels of chemicals that can decrease the free-radical production in my lungs following exposure to environmental chemicals or from prolonged inflammation.

Garlic is an edible herb that I find really helps me when the humid summer is upon us. The consumption of garlic decreases the production of several key enzymes that produce inflammatory chemicals. These enzymes can be controlled by nutritional means and garlic is an excellent food to accomplish this task.

Managing Asthma with Dietary Supplements

I like to take increasing dosages of antioxidants during the high pollution season, because these nutrients help to protect my lung passages against the damage from free radical generation. I take:

• Vitamin C, 500 mg, twice per day

•Vitamin E, 400 IU, taken daily

• Selenium, the trace mineral, which I take daily at a dose of 400 mcg per day

• N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is an important lung antioxidant that has very direct and beneficial effects on lung inflammation and free radical levels; I take 200 mg of NAC three times per day during the high pollution days, especially when I am going to be exposed to any type of vehicle exhaust

• One to two grams of omega-3 per day with food during periods of time when pollution levels can be quite high; these essential fats can have a very important, positive effect upon my lung function, including less mucus production, chest tightness, and wheezing

Managing Asthma with Air Quality

It doesn’t matter if you change your diet and take supplements, if you exercise during the day when it’s hot, in extremely polluted air, and you are asthmatic, you are looking for trouble! My advice is to stay out of this environment completely and exercise indoors where the environment is controlled.

If you don’t have asthma, but feel you need to exercise outside, go early in the morning if you can and practice prevention. Normal functioning lungs can also be badly damaged from environmental pollutants, so take the nutritional measures I have provided to you for some protection.

These are the techniques I use to manage my asthma—I hope they work for you too.

Li, Y.J., et al., “Role of oxidative stresses induced by diesel exhaust particles in airway inflammation, allergy and asthma: their potential as a target of chemoprevention,” Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets September 2010; 9(4): 300-5.
Crinnion, W.J., “Do environmental toxicants contribute to allergy and asthma?” Altern Med Rev. March 2012; 17(1): 6-18.