Asthma is a serious chronic lung disease characterized by continual inflammation of the airways punctuated by episodes or attacks of increased inflammation (American Lung Association, 2010). Asthma occurs in approximately 3% of the population of all ages but is most common in children under 10 and is rapidly rising. There is a 2:1 male/female ratio in children that equalizes by age 30.(Pizzorno, 2008)
Being exposed to allergens, poor dietary habits and other environmental triggers such as pollen or smoke can cause the lungs’ smallest airways to be constantly inflamed and swollen. Proper dietary protocol has been shown to help manage the symptoms of asthma by removing known food allergens and adding specific foods that are anti-asthmatic and nourish the body.
Common Signs and Symptoms
- Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or wheezing
- Chest tightness or constriction
- Mucosal edema
- Excessive mucous excretion
All dairy, grains, legumes, eggs, nuts and seeds, citrus
Soy, corn, Food colorings and additives, i.e. MSG,
gluten, common food additives,
Modified foods, i.e. gmo, pesticides.
Nutrient deficiencies and poor dietary habits
(Standard American Diet (SAD))
It is a sad fact (pun intended) that an industrial diet high in processed foods, sugar, poor quality fats, caffeine, alcohol, fluoride and GMO foods causes so many problems and conditions throughout the body. Overeating, under eating and eating foods that cause allergies and hormonal imbalance are all contributors. The body needs the raw materials to carry out its many complex processes. Poor dietary habits reduce or eliminate the raw materials and sabotage the systems. This contributes to and or promotes asthma and allergies.
Damaged or malfunctioning digestive system
The Digestive System supports the immune system by acting as the gatekeeper to the bloodstream. An unhealthy digestive system allows toxins to enter the bloodstream and possibly triggering allergic reactions. Hypochlorhydria or poor gastric acid secretion is common in asthmatics. A healthy digestive system can help to ward off irritants and provide support to the immune system.
Obesity and underdeveloped immune systems, deficiency in glutathione S-transferase M1 and corticosteroid resistance. Asthmatics have normal TH1 gene expression but upregulated TH2 genes.(Pizzorno, 2008)
Trauma and stress
Past events such as physical and emotional abuse, chronic stress and war can trigger asthma in those that are genetically susceptible. (Sansone & Sansone, 2008)
Actually referred to as the “Hygiene Hypothesis”. The premise is that by removing all forms of bacteria by using antibacterial products such as soaps and cleaners and over cleanliness leads to under exposure to environmental microbes that would normally stimulate the immune system. This leads to disrupted or under-developed immune systems that can trigger allergic reactions.
Chemical, dust, mold, pollen, cockroach waste, aerosols, perfumes, tobacco, gas stoves, paint, fresh newsprint, cleaning products, carpet, etc.
Specific Nutritional Approaches to manage asthma
A Sustainable dietary protocol such as the “Eating for Health” model that is nutrient-dense and anti-inflammatory is key when managing asthma. The most beneficial diet for asthma appears to be from foods in their whole forms, (especially fruits and vegetables) in order to benefit from their combined interaction rather than any single nutrient or supplement. (McKeever & Britton, 2004). Known food allergens and pro- inflammatory foods should be removed from the diet using an elimination trial.
The most common food allergens are: Dairy, soy, citrus, gluten grains, eggs, corn, food colorings and additives.
Whole foods that are antioxidant rich can help to lower the hyper-immune response and settle the already stressed immune system.
Avoid packaged and processed foods, excess omega 6 fats, damaged fats, excess sodium (mcKeever & Briton, 2004).
Below are the condition specific suggested macros and micros that can assist in managing the effects of asthma.
Follow a mostly anti-inflammatory diet protocol by eating:
- High quality Protein and bone nutrients mostly from cold water fatty fish and undenatured whey protein concentrate. Whey protein concentrates contain glutamine which is an immunomodulating agent.
- Colorful vegetables and fruits.
- Quercetin-rich vegetables such as: onions, garlic, apples, berries and Brassica vegetables have an anti-asthmatic and immunomodulating properties.
- High quality fats-grass fed butter, fish oil, full fat cream from pastured animals, coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, walnuts, almonds, flax, hemp and pumpkin seeds.
- Vitamin C (buffered and with bioflavonoids)10-30 mg/kg body weight in divided doses daily or a whole foods based product. May help reduce allergic reactions.
- Fish Oil(emphasis on EPA) 500-2,000 mg daily combined. EPA helps to suppress inflammatory symptoms of asthmatic lung tissue.
- Magnesium(chelated form:glycinate or citrate)- (200-400 mg/3x/day). Relaxes bronchioles and stabilizes mast cell production.
- Vitamin E: 200-400 IU daily. Mixed tocopherols or full spectrum. Inhibits production of lgE (immunoglobulin E).
Other Key Nutrients And Supplements
B6(Pyridoxal-5-phosphate, the most bioactive form) 50-100 mg/day.
B12: 1000-5,000 mcg/day oral or sublingual or 1,000 mcg weekly intramuscular as directed by physician.
Selenium: 200 mcg/day. Since asthmatics are commonly deficient in glutathione peroxidase, selenium is a cofactor. Combined food and supplemental intake should be calculated to avoid overdosing (>900 mcg/day).
Quercetin: 100-200 mg daily. Could be combined with Bromelain.
Proteolytic enzymes such as Bromelain (pineapple enzyme), papain (papaya enzyme), avocado, coconut water to reduce inflammation of the bronchioles and thin mucus. Probiotics and fermented foods.
Green Tea- Brewed, extract or as a supplement to provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support.
Ephedra(Ephedra sinica)- 12.5-25 mg 2-3 x day as a supplement, crude herb- 500-1,000 mg 3x per day
Licorice root-1-2 g powdered root; 1:1 fluid extract(2-4 ml);4:1 solid (dry powdered) extract (200-500 mg). Makes for a sweet tea. Contraindicated for long term use of those with high blood pressure.
Boswelia– 300 g 3x day.
Essential oils added to a bath atomizer or humidifier (4-6 drops). Elecampane, frankincense, lavender, mint, sage.
Petadolex (extract of butterbur). A well researched herbal supplement for seasonal allergies. Dosages are listed on container.
Although no specific diet direction was given in my research, a small study showed that intermittent fasting using an 80% reduction of normal intake every other day seemed to show a sustainable and rapid improvement. I chose a building diet direction for most meals of 15-35% protein, 20-40% carbohydrates, 45-60% fat. All meals in my plan follow an autoimmune Paleo template that also removes nightshades, eggs, seeds and nuts.
In my meal plan, I reduced by 80% the intake quantity every other day. Since asthma is associated with inflammation, it is best to follow an autoimmune/anti-inflammatory protocol and a basic Paleo diet template. Sanfilippo, D. (2012).
Day one of my meal plan contains well over 100% RDA of the fat soluble vitamins A,D,E,K1,K2. The plant based foods contain ample amounts of vitamin C, magnesium/calcium.
The macro breakdown is 29% protein, 20% carbohydrates, 51% fat. The main sources for vitamin C are from spinach, kale, pineapple, sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash, broccoli, strawberries, lemon, bone broth.
Fat soluble vitamins: butter(K2, omega 3), egg yolks, gouda(K2), avocado, greens(k1), sardines(D3, E, A, B12, omega 3), sauerkraut(K2).
Cal/Mag: chard, sweet potato, greens, avocado, beets, olives, garlic, apple, sardines, bone broth.
Vitamin A in the form of beta carotene and D (from grass fed meat, butter and fish) is abundant and well over RDA throughout the meal plan.
Although the the meal plan provides 100% RDA for some micronutrients, I would still stress the consistent use of a whole foods multi along with additional vitamin C, magnesium, Quercetin and Boswellia supplements. The recommended dosages for these are previously listed in this essay.
Please contact me by email if interested in individual meal plans pertaining to asthma management.
American Lung Association. (2010, Feb). Trends in Asthma Morbidity and Mortality(PDF). http://www.lung.org/assets/documents/research/asthma-trend-report.pdf
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Pizzorno, J.E. Murry, M.T., & Joiner-Bey, H. (2008). Asthma. The Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Medicine (pp.60-72). St Louis, MO: Elsevier.
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