Asthma, a disorder of the respiratory system, is caused by inflammation in the body’s airways. This condition is mostly caused due to external factors; however, asthma can also be a hereditary condition. When the airways get inflamed, the path narrows down, which makes breathing difficult. The muscles around the airways start to spasm and the mucous membrane that lines the airway begins to swell. Sometimes, due to the accumulation of mucus in the airway, one could experience shortness of breath. As a result, the body begins to wheeze or cough to spit out the mucus. This attack can be mild or severe and can affect young and old people alike.
Triggers of asthma
Allergens like pollen and continuous exposure to polluted environments and hazardous chemicals are all common triggers of asthma. It is highly likely that most people with asthma are also allergic to dust particles like dust mites or cockroach droppings. Mold, grass, strong fragrances, and animal dander can also trigger asthma. There is no conclusive proof that certain food habits increase the risk of asthma, but studies indicate certain food certainly trigger the condition.
Many studies have proved that diets which include more processed meats, refined grains, sweets, and rich dairy products can all increase the risks of inflammation in the body. Since this is a part of most people’s diets in the country, many people suffer from inflammatory conditions like arthritis and asthma. Moreover, corticosteroids inhalers show limited positive results in curing or reducing the symptoms of asthma. Since asthma is chronic, long time use of such inhalers show side effects such as osteoporosis, hypertension, diabetes, weight gain, and eye disorders.
Food allergies and asthma
There is no conclusive proof that certain foods cause asthma. However, those who have asthma and food allergies need to be wary of the foods that trigger the condition; this number is a small percentage. Most people with asthma do not have to watch what they eat. They can live a care-free life with basic medication and lifestyle changes. However, if they are not careful, they can have severe attacks that could lead to life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Food can trigger asthma only if a person is allergic or sensitive to it. When they consume or are exposed to something that their body refuses to accept, they are likely to start wheezing or coughing immediately. They have to avoid such foods and also carry their asthma-relieving and preventive inhalers at all times. More importantly, they should carry an auto-injector that they can use in case they face severe anaphylactic symptoms. This should be used in an emergency situation. It could be life-threatening if not used immediately.
Common foods that can trigger asthma
It is important for people to understand that foods only trigger the condition, not cause it. This only occurs when people are sensitive or allergic to certain kinds of foods. People with allergies should consult a doctor and do a skin test to determine what foods or allergens they need to avoid.
The most common allergens are:
- Cow’s milk
- Certain fresh fruits
- Shrimp or shellfish
Food sensitivity and asthma
Food sensitivity is also a trigger for asthma. Chemicals commonly found in processed or packaged food can trigger asthma.
A group of preservatives containing sulfite additives like sodium and potassium bisulfite and sodium and potassium metabisulfite can trigger the symptoms of asthma. Those who have asthma and food sensitivities should go through the list of ingredients before consuming something. These additives are commonly found in dried foods, pickles, and frozen shrimp. Alcoholic beverages like wine and beer have sulfites too.
When a person is allergic, the immune system produces an antibody called immunoglobulin to fight the allergen. Histamine is one such immunoglobulin. It triggers allergic reactions that can affect the lungs and airways. Histamines are also found naturally in some foods like cheese, yogurt, and smoked meats and wine. When people with food sensitivities consume such items, it triggers asthma-like symptoms.
If a person has acid reflux and consumes food that produces gas, it can lead to asthma-like symptoms too. People with asthma may also be sensitive to salicylates found in coffee, tea, and few herbs. This too can be avoided.
How to prevent the consumption of foods that trigger asthma?
A person with food allergies and asthma should undergo an allergy test. They have to be aware of what can trigger an asthma attack and which food is safe for them. Based on the tests, they should avoid foods/ingredients that act as allergens.
Watch what you eat
Food manufacturers are required to list potential allergens that are a part of a particular food item. About 11 ingredients are in the mandatory list now. People who have asthma should go through the list before purchasing any packaged foods. Many marketers also have a “free-from” list which states products that are free from allergens. You can choose products easily and save yourself from an asthma attack.
Cook fresh food
Fresh food eliminates many of the triggers that can cause asthma as the person can see what goes into the meal.