Nutrients For Asthma

Words: Dr Richard FIRSHEIN

When was the last time you heard the words nutrition and asthma in the same sentence? Probably never.

Many physicians still think diet has no effect on asthma. Nothing could be further from the truth. A study from Saudi Arabia made headlines, because researchers discovered that junk-food-eating city kids had a higher risk of asthma than children from rural areas, where the diet still consists of rice, lamb, and fresh produce. Those children who had the lowest intakes of vegetables, milk, vitamin E and certain minerals, the study found, were at significantly greater risk of asthma, even after adjusting for other factors. The authors concluded, “This study suggests that dietary factors during childhood are an important influence in determining the expression of wheezy illness.”

While more research is needed, there are now an increasing number of physicians who believe nutrition can have a significant impact on the health and longevity of asthmatics.

Yet bad nutrition is rarely mentioned as a contributing factor for asthma. One reason may be that asthma is poorly understood. It’s reasonably easy to grasp the idea that calcium builds bones, that fat clogs arteries, and that certain vitamins — including E and C — may prevent cancer. Unlike a clogged artery, however, asthma is not a simple mechanical problem. The link between diet and asthma is now becoming clearer as more and research comes to light.

Personal Experience 

After my nearly fatal asthma attack, I eliminated every single food I thought was harming me. I knew my body needed as much help as possible, and I tried to flood my system with healthy nutrients. I took extreme care to avoid food I was allergic to. I stopped eating processed and junk-foods. I ate mostly fish, fresh produce, whole grains, and free-range chicken. Now, years later, I can look back at my asthmatic crisis and see that it was a blessing in disguise, one that forced me to see the importance of nutrition.

I’ve spent much of my professional life studying nutritional medicine, so that I could learn about the power of different foods and share this knowledge with my patients. I’m fascinated by the fact how specific nutrients have the capacity to act like medicines. In many ways, they are natural pharmaceuticals. What’s more, recent scientific advances have unlocked the mysteries of healing foods and nutrients, giving us the tools to making full use of nature’s medicine chest. Researchers now study and isolate the chemical composition of fruits, berries, vegetables, herbs, fish, and poultry.

The Power Of Good Nutrition 

It is reported that eating vitamin-rich fruits like oranges “may reduce wheezing symptoms in childhood, especially among already susceptible individuals.” A study found that the risk of bronchial irritation was increased seven-fold among those with the lowest intake of vitamin C in their diets. People in the study who ate the least saturated fats, on the other hand, had a much lower chance of suffering from asthma. There is conflicting data on other foods, such as fish oil, but from my experience it is clear that patients who eat well get better.

The sorry truth is that most children eat too much junk-food. According to a study from Texas, US, children between four and twelve spend US$4 billion on junk-food — more than the US$2 billion they spend on toys and games. In fact, for many kids, the only source of vitamins is breakfast cereals that have been fortified with vitamins.

Junk-food is especially bad for asthmatic children. You probably already know that junk and many processed foods contain refined sugar and fats such as transaturated fats and saturated fats. Junk-food, as you know, can make your child listless, or hyperactive, and contribute to a host of other health problems. But, evidence suggests that the fats listed above may promote the formation of harmful prostaglandins, which cause inflammation.

Junk-food can also lead to excess weight, which has been found to contribute to asthma. One study found that weight loss in obese patients reduced airway obstruction in individuals with asthma.

Dr RICHARD FIRSHEIN, DO, 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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