Chemist Direct explores the nutritional considerations that can shape the immunological environment in the lungs which cause asthma

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The latest study published in the journal Nature Medicine (1) found dietary changes such as increased consumption of fruit, vegetables and whole-grains to be beneficial in the treatment of asthma.


Increased consumption of fruit, vegetables and whole-grains may be beneficial to Asthmatics

Asthmatics can determine if a food triggers asthma by eliminating the common foods that potentially cause allergenic reactions and then reintroducing them to their diet one at a time.

Several studies over the last decade implicated a relationship between a lower dietary intake of certain foods and asthma patients’ blood levels of antioxidants. The airways in people with asthma are more sensitive to irritation and more likely to become inflamed. Higher levels of oxidants derived from food leads to a narrowing of the airways that make it harder to breathe. Foods that increased the risk factor for asthma or triggered laboured breathing included milk, eggs, turkey, wheat, legumes, beans, and peanuts, tree nuts, and soy products.

The research into higher food induced risk for current asthma in both the young and old has uncovered various, and at times conflicting results, of allergic reactions to food inducing asthma and other bronchospams. Studies found that supplemental antioxidants in the form of beta-carotene, lycopene, and other carotenoids, or combinations of vitamin C and vitamin E significantly improved exercise-induced asthma.

Controlled clinical trials have not yet established if a reduction of certain foods, such as the intake of fat from margarine, (2) as a source for aggravating asthma development, makes any significant difference. Also, a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid intake was originally thought to lower risk for childhood asthma but it is now believed to be the cause for an increase in the risk for asthma in the pediatric population. (3) The presence of both sulfating agents and histamine in wine may aggravate asthma, and several studies have found that asthma may be induced by green tea.

A team at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland are also investigating the role of diet in long-term lung inflammation such as COPD, which is set to become the world's third biggest killer. Their research showed that the high and low fibre diets found in fruit and vegetable consumption altered the types of bacteria living in the guts of mice. The cells of the human body are vastly outnumbered by the trillions of microbes that live in and on it. There is growing evidence that these bacteria have a significant impact on health. This bacterium munches on the soluble fibre available in a person’s daily high-fibre diet and in turn produces a short-chain fatty acid which is then absorbed into the blood.

One of the researchers, Dr Benjamin Marsland, said, "In recent decades, there has been a well-documented increase in the incidence of allergic asthma in developed countries and coincident with this increase have been changes in diet, including reduced consumption of fibre." Some of the differences caused by high-fibre diets have already been observed in people by comparing diets in Europe and Burkina Faso. (4)

Chemist Direct’s Pharmaceutical Superintendent, Omar El-Gohary, added this recommendation:

Although more work needs to be done to identify which foods should be avoided by asthmatics we know that some foods including dairy products, seafood, foods high in yeast, nuts and some colourings and preservatives can trigger asthma in some people. Careful attention should be paid to which foods are eaten and any change in symptoms or frequency of attacks should be noted. Asthmatics can determine if a food triggers asthma by eliminating the common foods that potentially cause allergenic reactions and then reintroducing them to their diet one at a time.



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Samantha Smith
Chemist Direct
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