A Surprising Connection: Food and Asthma
by Amanda Box, N.D.
Nearly everyone has been in this situation. You’re crunched for time and your kids are starving, so you pull into the nearest drive-thru. As you hand those “Happy Meals” to your kids, you sigh in relief as they slurp their sodas and stuff French fries into their mouth. You know it isn’t the healthiest meal, but at least they’re fed. Right?
Would you still do it? Most people equate unhealthy fast food with obesity. However, the toxin-filled processed ingredients found in fast food cause far more than just weight gain. A recent study showed that just three fast food meals a week increased the risk of asthma in teens by 39% and younger children by 27%!
Even though adults weren’t tested in the study, I would assume that fast food also increases asthma risk in adults. Fast food is full of chemicals, artificial ingredients, and allergy-inducing substances that compromise the immune system. What you breathe into your lungs may seem to be the obvious contributor to asthma and its dreaded attacks. However, the food you put into your mouth can truly be your ally or your enemy. The choice is up to you.
Immunity and Asthma
Healthy immunity is essential in the prevention of all diseases, including asthma. One of the easiest and most efficient ways to maintain a strong immune system is through healthy eating. Research demonstrates that the link between food and asthma couldn’t be clearer.
Eating a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits is extremely important. The antioxidants and vitamins contained in fruits and veggies help to lower inflammation, boost the immune system, and rejuvenate lung tissue. Studies have even shown that children who eat fruits and vegetables regularly have a decreased risk of asthma!
Increasing the amounts of fruits and vegetables will help protect against asthma. But there are certain foods that contain “anti-asthma” properties. They are well-suited for preventing and alleviating symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness in asthma sufferers. Enjoy these common foods with wonderful asthma healing properties.
Avocados contain high levels of the powerful antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione is often referred to as the “master antioxidant”. Its distinguishing quality is that it is the only antioxidant that resides inside the human cell. Glutathione’s job is to act as a security guard and protect each cell. It also roams the body neutralizing free radicals to lower inflammation. Reducing inflammation is crucial for preventing and reducing asthma symptoms.
I prefer to eat my avocados with a little salt, a sprinkle of herbs, and a dash of balsamic vinegar. However, avocados can be made into everything from guacamole to chocolate pudding!
This pungent spice is packed full of medicinal attributes. Garlic is:
- And antibacterial
It also contains mucus-thinning properties, which alleviate congestion from the lungs. But, that’s not all! Garlic is also anti-inflammatory, helping to extinguish swelling in the bronchial airways. Garlic truly has a trifecta effect against asthma! Garlic can be added to nearly every dish, from veggies to main course meats!
Spinach is high in magnesium, a mineral that has a profound effect on asthma. Magnesium is essential for the relaxation of lung tissue. Its relaxation properties help prevent the severity and frequency of asthma attacks by minimizing the constriction of airways.
Researchers think that magnesium works by calming asthma’s characteristic spasms in the smooth muscles of the upper respiratory tract and it also appears to have a mild antihistamine effect.
Magnesium has become so favorable in the treatment of asthma that it is often prescribed in the form of a pill, intravenous therapy, or nebulized for immediate contact with the lungs.
Improve your asthma symptoms with spinach! Also, spinach is high in B vitamins and may help reduce stress-related asthma attacks. Spinach is great in salads and soups and can also be added to smoothies.
Pumpkin contains high levels of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, which is an essential vitamin for the respiratory system. Vitamin A lowers inflammation in the lung tissue and prevents respiratory infections.
Pumpkins are one of the foods least likely to cause allergic reactions, which is great news if your asthma is linked to allergies. Try pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, or the recipe below for ginger pumpkin cookies for your fall pumpkin fix and beta-carotene boost! Also, indulge in some pumpkin seeds for another magnesium rich food!
Ginger is a very powerful spice in combating asthma symptoms. It contains all-natural, anti-inflammatory properties that mimic NSAIDS in the body. Ginger also enhances bronchodilation, or opening restricted airways. Furthermore, ginger heightens the effects of bronchodilator medications in certain studies.
Its ability to inhibit airway constriction and reduce airway inflammation makes it a perfect remedy for asthma sufferers. Ginger is a great addition to curries and baked goods. Try the recipe below for gingersnap pumpkin cookies!
Controlling mucus levels is a crucial part of preventing asthma attacks. People with asthma should avoid milk and other dairy products because they promote mucus production in the lungs, which trigger asthma attacks.
Dairy alternatives are more popular than ever before. There are many fabulous milk alternatives on the market today. Coconut milk, almond milk, and hemp milk are just a few of the hundreds of dairy-free alternatives. I have personally tasted dairy-free cheeses, whipped cream, coffee creamer, and yogurt and have found them all to be delicious and comparable to the dairy-based originals. These products are easily found at your local natural grocery or health food store.
Drinking enough water is also essential in thinning mucus secretions. One theory is the lack of water causes the airways to constrict. Another researcher believes dehydration causes mucus to thicken, which can lead to asthma attacks.
Interestingly enough, folk remedies for asthma and allergies bear out the water theory as well. Home cures include drinking hot water and inhaling steam from a bowl or kettle to get quick relief.
Drinking around eight cups of water a day should provide enough hydration to keep mucus secretions thin and lubricated.
Asthma Prevention Recipes
I love it when the weather allows me to incorporate warm and nourishing soups back into our meal plans. Cream-based soups are some of my favorite, but with the cream comes dairy…and therefore mucus! Luckily, adding coconut milk can add the same creaminess without the mucus-producing dairy! This recipe for creamy ham and sweet potato soup is a great dairy-free cream soup alternative!
Creamy Ham and Sweet Potato Soup
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/3 cup chopped celery
- 2 cups chopped, cooked ham
- 1 giant sweet potato or 2-3 medium sweet potatoes (4-5 cups chopped into 1/2″ cubes)
- 2 1/2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 can coconut milk
- Combine onion, celery, ham, sweet potatoes, chicken stock, water, salt & pepper in a large pot.
- Bring to a boil and turn down heat to low or medium/low to keep soup at a low simmer. Cook until the sweet potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.
- Add the coconut milk to the soup (after the sweet potatoes are tender) and stir until well incorporated.
This recipe for gingerbread snaps with pumpkin butter incorporates the asthma reducing power of both pumpkin and ginger. Not to mention that these cookies are absolutely delicious! An added bonus is that these cookies are also gluten and dairy-free!
Gingerbread Snap Pumpkin Butter CookiesCookie ingredients:
- 2½ cups almond flour, plus more for the work surface
- ¼ cup coconut flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
- 4 tablespoons coconut sugar or sucanat
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, whisked
Pumpkin butter ingredients:
- 2 cups raw pecans
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips (for the topping)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- Combine the almond flour, coconut flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together to evenly distribute the ingredients. Add the coconut oil, sugar, vanilla, and eggs and beat or mix until dough has formed.
- Dust work surface with almond flour and lay the dough out, pressing it down until it is about ½ inch thick.
- Using a cookie cutter or lid from a spice jar or small Mason jar, cut the dough into circles. This should create around 40 small cookies.
- Place about 20 of the cookies on the prepared baking sheet, about ½ inch apart and bake for 5 minutes. Immediately remove the cookies and place on a rack to cool. Repeat with another batch of 20 cookies.
- While the cookies cool, make the pumpkin butter. Place the pecans in a food processor and puree until smooth. Then add pumpkin puree and maple syrup and puree until well combined.
- Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium-low heat.
- Assemble the sandwiches: Spread about 1 tablespoon of the pumpkin butter onto a cookie and top it off with another cookie. Then use a spoon to drizzle a bit of chocolate over each cookie sandwich. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. These will keep for about 3 to 4 days.
Making a conscious effort to eat a healthy and nourishing diet greatly reduces your asthma symptoms. Incorporating asthma reducing foods, avoiding dairy products, and staying hydrated are lifestyle choices that can change your asthma for the better. Make a commitment to yourself and to your kids to no longer hit up the drive-thru for fast food. What you eat can make all difference in the severity and frequency of your asthma symptoms.
If you suffer from asthma, then you can feel better in just one week by cutting out dairy. What else has saved your life from asthma?
If you liked this article, then you’ll love these:
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- God’s Clean Eating Tips
Amanda Box is a Traditional Naturopath and a graduate of Clayton College of Natural Health. She’s been in the health and wellness industry for over 12 years and currently practices naturopathic consulting in the Kansas City, Missouri area. Her passion is helping others achieve wellness of the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. If you don’t have a good local naturopathic practitioner to turn to for your personal needs, Amanda does phone consultations! She can help you with weight loss, detox/cleansing, acute and chronic illnesses, skin and body care, grocery shopping, pantry overhauls, and more! Visit her blog “My Life in a Healthnut Shell” at http://amandabox.blogspot.com/ for contact info.