(WellnessNova.com) - From medications to biofeedback, treatment options abound for people who suffer from asthma, a common lung disease that causes swelling of the airways. But many asthma treatments come with hassles, high costs, or uncomfortable side effects. What if you could alleviate asthma symptoms by doing something harmless and fun instead, like eating?
Actually, you can! Certain foods have shown promise in relieving and averting asthma symptoms, and they have the added bonus of boosting overall health. Plus, everyone can benefit from a dietary treatment that’s safe, effective, and tasty. Try these eight tips, and enjoy a lifetime of healthier eating—and easier breathing.
1. Pick Plant-Based Proteins
When it comes to protein, many people choose chicken, red meats, and other animal fats as their primary source. But animal-based proteins are high in salts and unhealthy omega-6 fatty acids, which have been associated with increased rates of asthma.
Fortunately, there are healthy protein alternatives for asthma sufferers. Among them: beans, lentils, tofu, and seeds. A Swedish study found that plant-based, vegan diets led to a decrease in asthma attacks and the need for medications. Plant proteins also contain immunity-boosting phytonutrients, like flavonoids and isoflavones, that protect against disease.
2. Spice It Up
Turmeric, the yellow-orange spice found in many curry dishes, has been used for centuries to treat common health problems, including lung conditions. In Ayurvedic medicine, developed in India thousands of years ago, turmeric was a popular treatment for relief from allergies, bronchial hyperactivity, and asthma. Its anti-inflammatory properties have been known to clear mucus and soothe inflammation of the lungs.
Ginger also contains anti-inflammatory compounds—gingerols—that help open constricted airways and fend off asthma attacks. Rosemary, peppermint, and oregano offer benefits, too, thanks to their rosmarinic acid, an antioxidant that blocks pro-inflammatory chemicals and aids in better breathing.
For the most potent form of theses anti-inflammatories and the best flavor, choose fresh spices. Sprinkle them on other asthma-friendly foods for an extra dose of lung-healthy nutrition.
3. Fill Up on Fish
Research has shown that people, especially children, who eat fish regularly are less likely to develop asthma, and those who already have it are less likely to develop symptoms. A recent study conducted by the University of Southampton even found that pregnant women who ate salmon twice a week reduced the risk of asthma developing in their offspring.
The reason? Fish is one of the best sources of omega-3s, essential fatty acids that have strong healing and anti-inflammatory properties. Many types of fish also have vitamin D, thought to help reduce inflammation of the airways caused by asthma.
Besides salmon, other fish that contain omega-3s and vitamin D include:
Steam, bake, grill, or poach fish for the healthiest preparation.
4. Pass the Olive Oil
Replacing certain cooking oils with olive oil can reduce asthma symptoms because olive oil contains fats that have stronger anti-inflammatory properties than those found in other common vegetable oils.
Canola, corn, and soybean oil are also rich in gamma-tocopherol, a type of vitamin E tied to a higher incidence of lung inflammation, according to a recent study by Northwestern University.
Olive oil contains alpha-tocopherol, the form of vitamin E associated with better lung function.
But how you use olive oil can make a difference in its effectiveness for asthma relief. Heating it at high temperatures can damage the good fats. Instead, use olive oil in salad dressings, drizzled over fresh vegetables, or as a tasty dipping sauce with bread.
5. Don’t Skimp on Vitamin C
Vitamin C is more than just an essential vitamin; it’s a powerful antioxidant that helps fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals can contribute to muscle contraction and airway constriction in asthma patients.
Vitamin C-deficient people are at risk for having bad reactions to air pollutants—another reason for asthmatics to up their vitamin C intake.
Dark green leafy vegetables, like broccoli, kale, and collard greens, boast superior amounts of vitamin C along with other immunity-boosting nutrients, including vitamin K, carotenoids, and fiber.
Other tasty sources of vitamin C are:
- Sweet potatoes
6. Swap Wheat With Pseudograins
Pseudograins are grains that come from broadleaf plants rather than from cereal grasses, like wheat and corn. They’re also a lot healthier to eat, especially for asthma sufferers. Pseudograins are hypoallergenic foods, meaning they’re unlikely to cause allergic reactions that can obstruct breathing.
Two top pseudograins, quinoa and buckwheat, can be used like wheat in bread products and cereals. They contain high-quality protein, loads of fiber, and no gluten. A close relative of quinoa and buckwheat is flaxseed, another grain good for lung health. Bursting with nutty flavor, flaxseed has antioxidant properties along with magnesium, which aids in relaxing the muscles surrounding the airways.
7. Go Organic
Because artificial food additives and preservatives found in packaged and processed foods contain chemicals that can trigger asthma symptoms, buying organic is the way to go for asthma sufferers. By eating organic foods, you have a better chance of avoiding negative reactions from food. Many argue that organic food is tastier, too.
Of course, you may not be able to afford an entire grocery list of organic food, but there are certain items you won’t want to skip—including strawberries, apples, spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers, which appear on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of foods with high concentrations of pesticides.
8. Dump the Dairy
WHFoods reports that roughly 66 percent of asthma patients have worse symptoms when they eat certain foods. Dairy products and eggs, especially milk, rank high in foods that can cause asthma attacks, although this mainly pertains to lactose-intolerant asthmatics or asthmatics who are allergic to milk proteins. Take the dairy out of their diets, and the symptoms improve dramatically.
But while dairy can cause problems for some asthma sufferers, research has shown that it can be protective for others—which is why it’s a good idea to always test for allergies. Because dairy products provide calcium necessary for bone health, be sure to find other sources of this important nutrient if you eliminate dairy from your diet.
If you suffer from asthma, you have many treatment options at your disposal. But one of the most healthful and simple ways to alleviate symptoms is by eating the right foods. So go ahead and indulge. With no side effects to worry about, why not eat to breathe better?