The chances are you probably know someone who suffers from asthma. In fact the prevalence of asthma in the UK is one of the highest in Europe, with 5.4 million people receiving treatment, for what can only be described as a serious and sometimes fatal condition. When it comes specifically to children with asthma, it may come as a shock to know that the UK has the highest incidence rates of childhood asthma symptoms globally.
For those suffering with this condition, there can be many different triggers including changes in weather, exercise, air pollutants, allergies and even stress, but one thing that can sometimes have an impact on asthma symptoms is diet and nutrition. So take a deep breath and read on to find out how we can all start to breathe a little more easily.
One of the more recent connections that science has made with regards to nutrition and asthma is that research seems to suggest that the more vitamin D we have, the less incidence of asthma there is. This would certainly go some way to explain why the incidence of asthma in the UK is so high, with its lack of sunshine and thus low rates of vitamin D seen in 1 of 6 of the UK adult population.
So this does seem to suggest that if you have asthma and move to sunnier climates, your symptoms are most likely to improve, but unfortunately not many of us can just pack a bag and jump on a plane. Although you cannot get all your vitamin D needs through food alone, there are foods which do contain this vitamin so try increasing oily fish, mushrooms, dairy products (including all goat dairy) and cereals that are fortified with this vitamin, as these all contain Vitamin D.
You may have heard of Flavonoids before and if not, these are a type of phytonutrient found abundantly in a whole range of foods.
Fruits and vegetables are particularly a rich source of Flavonoids
There are actually thousands of different flavonoids, around 6000 to be precise, with the majority of them found mainly in plant based produce with only a small amount found in animal based foods. These super nutrients have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-allergic as well as immune enhancing effects, all of which are properties beneficial to the asthma sufferer. Research has shown that flavonoids can be helpful for asthmatics and certainly should be part of the daily diet. Fruits and vegetables are particularly a rich source of Flavonoids and is one good reason why we should definitely be eating our five a day! Berries, nuts, beans, onions, cocoa beans (dark chocolate) and even red wine are all great sources of flavonoids too. The key here is to have a variety of all fruit and vegetables and make sure you eat a range of all colours too and that way you can make sure you are maximising the variety of flavonoids in your diet.
Anyone suffering with asthma, is really better off avoiding any foods or drinks containing sulphites. Sulphites are preservatives that are commonly used in a range of food and drink products to prolong shelf life and prevent discoloration of food. They can also occur naturally in some foods including dried fruit, pickles and wines. Sulphites are sulphur based chemicals and will be shown on the food product label if a food contains them. Sulphites can also be represented on food labels as E-numbers and (E220-228). Many people can have a sensitivity or intolerance to sulphites and in some asthma sufferers they can really irritate the lungs due to the fact that sulphites give off the gas sulphur dioxide, which is a lung and airway irritant, which can constrict the airways. It is therefore definitely best avoided in anyone suffering with respiratory problems.
Probably one of the best known vitamins, Vitamin C can be helpful in reducing symptoms of asthma, including the wheezing that is often associated with it. This vitamin has had a lot of research done on it, which shows its effectiveness for helping and improving lung function. People with higher dietary intake of Vitamin C have generally been found to have healthier lungs and maintain better lung function as they age.
Vitamin C is also a natural antihistamine, meaning it helps reduce the amount of histamine in the blood. The less histamine in the bloodstream, the less allergic based symptoms there are, so Vitamin C can be especially beneficial in those suffering from allergies including allergic asthma. A large research study also found that ingesting fruits high in Vitamin C helped to reduce asthma symptoms in children, so making sure the whole family’s Vitamin C intake is naturally high will certainly be helpful. One of the highest food sources of Vitamin C is peppers, which are higher than oranges in Vitamin C. Fresh chillies, kiwi fruit, kale, berries, citrus fruits, broccoli and honey are also good sources of Vitamin C.
Caffeine is a drug that many people consume daily in one form or another and is actually stated as been the world’s most widely used drug. It is considered a drug due to its stimulating effects on the central nervous system and has a whole range of pharmacological actions, some of which are beneficial for the asthma sufferer. Caffeine is actually chemically related to the drug called Theophylline, which is a drug widely used to treat asthma and other respiratory conditions. What makes it potentially beneficial to asthma sufferers is that caffeine has found to be a weak bronchodilator, which means it increases the size of the small airways found in the lungs. The increased size of the airways therefore allows more air and oxygen to pass through them more easily and helps improve breathing and lung function.
Caffeine is found mostly in coffee, tea, many carbonated drinks and chocolate. Don’t forget to add some Delamere Dairy goat’s milk to your tea and coffee too, as not only will it taste delicious, but goats’ milk has been shown to have fantastic anti-inflammatory properties. Although no specific research has been done on the benefits of asthma sufferers consuming goats’ dairy products, there is research that shows its effectiveness in individuals suffering with inflammatory and allergic conditions, so could well have some benefit to asthma sufferers. There are also many stories of people with asthma benefiting from consuming goats’ milk, so you have nothing to lose and possibly a lot to gain by trying Delamere Dairy goats’ dairy products.
Acid Reflux and Asthma
A little known connection with asthma is that those suffering from it are twice as likely to suffer with acid reflux. In fact, 70% of all people with asthma also have acid reflux / heartburn symptoms, although the relationship between the two conditions is not yet fully understood. It is known that asthma and some asthma medications can irritate or cause reflux symptoms, but reflux symptoms can also aggravate asthma
symptoms. It has been shown that treatment for reflux symptoms, in some people, can actually minimise and relieve asthma symptoms, so if you suffer with both conditions it may be worth exploring this further with your GP. You can also help reduce acid reflux symptoms by avoiding very spicy foods and fizzy drinks, increasing your intake of fresh ginger, which has for centuries been used to help gastrointestinal problems. Eating fennel may also help as it is both an anti-flatulent and also helps improve stomach function, so can help improve severity of reflux in some people. Remember to reduce acidic based foods in the diet too, which include things like citrus fruits, tomatoes, sugar and processed foods as these are likely to increase reflux symptoms.
With there being many different causes of asthma and with people suffering with it in different severities, it is not always an easy condition to manage. As with most health conditions, it is not usually a case of one thing helps all, but implementing some small dietary changes could have an impact on symptoms overtime so are certainly worth a try.