Mayo Clinic Health Library

Question

Asthma diet: Does what you eat make a difference?

Can foods I eat affect my asthma symptoms?

Updated: 05-26-2011

Answer

There's no asthma diet that will eliminate your symptoms. But these steps may help:

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. They're a good source of antioxidants such as beta carotene and vitamins C and E, which may help reduce lung swelling and irritation (inflammation) caused by cell-damaging chemicals known as free radicals.
  • Take in vitamin D. People with more severe asthma may have low vitamin D levels. Milk, eggs and fish such as salmon, all contain vitamin D. Even spending a few minutes outdoors in the sun can increase vitamin D levels.
  • Avoid sulfites. Sulfites can trigger asthma symptoms in some people. Used as a preservative, sulfites can be found in wine, dried fruits, pickles, fresh and frozen shrimp and some other foods.
  • Avoid allergy-triggering foods. Having asthma puts you at increased risk for having a food allergy. And allergic food reactions can cause asthma symptoms. In some people, exercising after eating an allergy-causing food leads to asthma symptoms.
  • Eat to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can worsen asthma. Even losing a little weight can improve your symptoms. Learn how to eat right to maintain a healthy weight over the long term.

It's also possible that eating less salt (sodium) or eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (oils found in cold water fish and some nuts and seeds) may reduce asthma symptoms. But more research is needed to verify this.

Making informed choices about what foods to eat and what foods to avoid won't cure asthma. But it may improve your symptoms and your overall health.

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