Nutrients For Asthma: Part-2


Words: Dr Richard FIRSHEIN

Selenium and N-acetylcysteine [NAC] help the body produce glutathione, one of the most powerful free-radical fighters produced by the body.

Glutathione is crucial in protecting the body from destructive by-products of many chronic illnesses, including asthma. It is found throughout the body but in higher levels in the lungs and the liver. Studies have confirmed that individuals with chronic medical conditions such as asthma have lower levels of glutathione. Food and Chemical Toxicology   reported that glutathione may act as an antioxidant for the lungs.

Glutathione is a wonderful compound, but glutathione supplements rapidly disintegrate once they are absorbed into the body. Supplements that can increase the body’s natural production of glutathione are essential.

One of these is NAC, which may help stimulate the body’s natural production of glutathione. NAC has also been shown to thin and reduce mucous. It has been found useful in viral infections, including COVID-19.

Another nutrient that helps to stimulate glutathione production is selenium, one of the ten essential trace minerals. Selenium also helps vitamin E quench free radicals.

Asthmatics tend to have low levels of selenium. Thorax published a study that found a nearly six-fold increase in the risk of asthma in New Zealand patients with low levels of selenium.

Another study showed that patients with more selenium in their bloodstream had less pulmonary inflammation. Low levels of selenium have also been linked to a higher risk for cancer.

My suggested daily dose of NAC for asthmatic children:

  • Kids from two to four years old — 100mg
  • Kids from five to ten — up to 250mg
  • Kids from ten to fifteen — up to 500mg.

My suggested daily dose of selenium for asthmatic children:

  • Kids from two to four years old — up to 50mg
  • Kids from five to ten — 50 to 100mg
  • Kids from ten to fifteen — 100 to 200mg.


Studies suggest that patients with asthma have less zinc in their blood than healthy people. Zinc has been a popular supplement ever since a study at the Cleveland Clinic indicated that it prevented the common cold.

Further studies have failed to replicate this finding, but many of my patients report that taking zinc when they feel a cold coming on is helpful.

Cold viruses can stimulate a number of responses, including constriction of airways and increased mucous production, and can ultimately provoke an asthma attack. If zinc prevents colds, or increases resistance, then this can be a great benefit for an asthmatic.

One patient comes to mind that had great success with zinc. Four-year-old Caitlin regularly caught colds from her preschool germ exchange, which would then lead to constant flare-ups of her asthma.

The next school season, when Caitlin was five, I put her on a low dose of zinc, as well as echinacea and goldenseal, two popular herbal cold remedies.

The occurrence of colds and respiratory problems was significantly reduced, which calmed down Caitlin’s asthma. One note for parents is that herbal products should not be taken for longer than six weeks unless recommended by your physician.

I recommend that asthmatic children take zinc only during cold and flu season, or when you detect a cold coming on. My suggested daily dose during these times is:

  • Kids from two to four years old — 5mg
  • Kids from five to ten — up to 10mg
  • Kids from ten to 15 — up to 20mg.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Another star in the nutritional arsenal, omega-3 fatty acids are essential anti-inflammatory compounds that may help prevent asthma.

Fish oils contain two essential fatty acids, docosahexanoic acid [DHA] and eicosapentenoic acid [EPA]. Similar to leukotriene-inhibiting medications, fish oils slow down inflammation and promote the production of helpful prostaglandins that regulate the body’s inflammatory processes. The current uncertainty about fish oil is whether it’s useful when taken only for a short period of time.

Omega-3s are considered essential fatty acids because the body cannot manufacture these acids itself. Yet there are limited numbers of foods that provide these acids: These include fish, or flaxseed oil.

The essential fatty acids found in fish oil are in a more usable form than those in flaxseed oil, which need several enzymes in the body to make them effective. Ideally, you’ll serve your kids more fish, and you can even combine flaxseed oil with other healthy oils, such as olive oil in your salad dressing.

But, it may be necessary to add fish oil capsules to their diet. These oils offer a gentle treatment that slowly, over time, may help the body repair tissue damage.

In the event that it is necessary to add more fish oil to your child’s diet, supplements are available, though be forewarned that fish oil supplements do have a fishy taste. Check the date on the bottle to ensure that the supplements are as fresh as possible, since oils can become rancid over time, reducing their effectiveness.

My suggested daily dose of fish oil or flaxseed oil capsules for asthmatic children:

  • Kids from two to four years old — up to 100mg
  • Kids from five to ten — 250 to 500mg
  • Kids from ten to fifteen — 500 to 1,000mg

Quercetin & Stinging Nettle

With so many asthmatic children suffering from allergies, I regularly turn to two allergy-fighting nutrients: quercetin and stinging nettles. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that is primarily known for the blue and red colour it gives to plants.

Quercetin appears to be an anti-inflammatory as well as an antihistamine. Quercetin stops allergic reactions by preventing mast cell degranulation, which prevents histamines and a host of other inflammatory compounds from being released into the bloodstream.

Stinging nettle, a common annoyance in nearly every garden, can also help to dampen allergies. Despite the fact that they burn your skin when you brush up against them in your yard, nettle leaves have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties.

They prevent the body from making inflammatory prostaglandins, and work like a natural antihistamine. Nettles contain more than 24 different chemical components, from vitamins and proteins to flavonoids. One study found that of sixty-nine people with hay fever, 57 per cent had a major improvement in their symptoms after taking nettles.

I usually recommend that children take these supplements only when they are at risk for allergies, such as during pollen season. Generally, patients only take them for a few weeks at a time.

My suggested daily dose of quercetin for asthmatic children:

  • Kids from two to four years old — 200mg
  • Kids from five to ten — 400mg
  • Kids from ten to fifteen — 600mg.

My suggested daily dose of stinging nettles for asthmatic children:

  • Kids from two to four years old — 200mg
  • Kids from five to ten — 400mg
  • Kids from ten to fifteen — 800mg.


Asthmatics have a higher risk of osteoporosis for several reasons. They tend to exercise less than they should, and they take steroids, which can contribute to bone loss. Even inhaled steroids may increase the risk for osteoporosis. Further, children who are lactose-intolerant, or allergic, to milk are at an even bigger disadvantage because they don’t consume enough bone-building calcium. For these reasons, I generally recommend that asthmatic children take calcium supplements.

My suggested daily dose of calcium for asthmatic children:

  • Kids from two to four years old — 100mg
  • Kids from five to ten — 250mg
  • Kids from ten to fifteen — 500mg.

[This is the concluding Part-2 of the article. Part-1 was published in ThinkWellness360, February 13, 2022]

Dr RICHARD FIRSHEINDO, is the Founder-Director of The Firshein Center for Comprehensive Medicine in New York City. He is a leading innovator and authority in the field of preventative and nutritional medicine, integrating Western and Eastern medical practices. He is Board Certified in Family Medicine and has served as professor of family medicine. An internationally recognised leader in the field of integrative medicine and healthy aging, a cancer researcher, prolific author and writer, Dr Firshein has written several ground-breaking books, including the bestselling Reversing AsthmaYour Asthma-Free ChildThe Nutraceutical Revolution and The Vitamin Prescription [For Life]. This article is ©Dr Richard Firshein.

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