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Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways, and what you eat can affect the severity of the problem.

The Western diet, with its frequent use of red meat, fast food, and processed snack foods, will increase a person’s risk of developing asthma. And if you already have the disease, the Western diet can make it worse.

These same foods also promote obesity, which is also a major risk factor for asthma. Studies show that as the number and size of fat cells increase, the inflammation in the body also increases. And corticosteroid drugs, prescribed to lower inflammation, are less effective in obese people.

So what should you eat?

Asthmatics require even more antioxidant- rich foods than healthy people in order to dampen the inflammation in their lungs, so they need to include the following in their diets:

  • Omega-3. Include flaxseed, chia seeds, and soybeans in the daily menu.
  • Soluble fiber. Cook foods such as dry beans, peas, lentils, barley, oats, eggplant, and okra to ensure that at least 10 grams of this type of fiber are consumed each day. Soluble fiber is fermented in the intestine to produce short-chain fatty acids, which activate anti-inflammatory pathways beneficial for asthma.
  • Fruits and vegetables. Incorporate at least two fruits and five vegetables each day, because loading up on food antioxidants can suppress the viral and allergen triggers of asthma. Conversely, consuming a diet low in antioxidants for just ten days worsens inflammation in the lungs, decreases lung function, and increases asthma symptoms!

What to avoid. Stay away from saturated (trans) fats and refined omega-6 vegetable oils. These include fatty meats, full cream dairy, butter, takeout meals, cookies, donuts, pastries, pies, and many vegetable oils such as sunflower and soybean oil.

A single meal can make a difference

Research shows that a fast-food meal that was fed to stable asthmatics reduced the effectiveness of their bronchodilator medication within hours of eating. A healthy diet is important for both preventing and managing asthma, and it can provide immediate and long-lasting benefits.

Nutritionist Sue Radd is the award-winning author of The Breakfast Book and coauthor of Eat to Live, internationally acclaimed for showing how savvy eating can combat cancer and heart disease and improve wellbeing. See for more nutrition information.

Food Matters: The Antiasthma Diet

by Sue Radd
From the October 2014 Signs