- AVOID SULFITES: Sulfites can be found in many dried and canned foods and vegetables, in instant food mixes and in wine, in potatoes, shellfish, shrimp, in imported beers and wines, and in some salads and in some guacamole. This food preservative can trigger attacks in many of those who suffer from asthma, especially in those with food allergies.
- SHUN THE SALT: This is especially important to people who are taking oral steroids for their asthma as they need to monitor their sodium intake. Avoid processed foods which are high in salt and eat whole, unprocessed foods such as nuts, beans, and whole grains instead.
- EAT PLENTY OF FISH: The oils in fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, and swordfish have anti-inflammatory effects that are helpful to those who suffer from asthma.
- DRINK MILK: Contrary to those old wives tales you may have heard, milk does not cause mucus in the lungs and is important for building healthy bones and for overall health.
- HIGH PROTEIN/LOW CARBOHYDRATE DIET: Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole grains. Cut sugar out of your diet as much as possible. Include garlic and onion in your diet as these foods contain quercetin and mustard oils which may inhibit an enzyme that aids in releasing inflammatory chemicals into the body.
- SKIP GAS-PRODUCING FOODS: Limit your intake of beans, brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage), and large amounts of bran or take an enzyme complex to aid digestion. Gas can irritate an asthmatic condition by putting pressure on the diaphragm.
- EAT LIGHTLY: A large meal can cause shortness of breath by making the stomach put pressure on the diaphragm.
- IDENTIFY AND ELIMINATE PROBLEM FOODS: Foods which trigger asthma attacks need to be identified (use an elimination diet to see which foods aggravate an allergic condition) and eliminated from the diet.
- AIM FOR YOUR IDEAL WEIGHT: Extra weight makes it more difficult to breathe so do your best to slim down to your ideal weight.
- USE ASPIRIN AND OTHER DRUGS WITH CAUTION: Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs account for over two-thirds of drug-related asthmatic reactions. Chemotherapeutic agents and antibiotics can also induce asthma reactions so when possible limit your use and exposure to such drugs.
- LEARN HOW TO RELAX: Learn and practice stress relief methods. Stress and strong emotions like worry and fear can trigger an asthma attack.
- AVOID OR ELIMINATE PROBLEM ALLERGENS: Depending on what triggers your asthma attacks avoid furry animals, the food additives BHA and BHT and FD&C Yellow No. 5 food dye, tobacco and other types of smoke, and the amino acid tryptophan. If dust mites cause your attacks buy and powder or some other device to get rid of the bugs.
Medical Options and Precautions
There is no cure for asthma. If the specific trigger for the attacks can be identified and avoided this may help. Other treatments for asthma are listed below.
- IMMUNOTHERAPY: This treatment option consists of a course of injections of the offending allergen in the hopes of building up an immunity to the allergen. In general, immunotherapy has a limited success rate in treating asthma.
- PROPHYLACTIC DRUGS (cromolyn sodium, inhaled corticosteriod drugs): These drugs must be taken several times daily, usually through an inhaler. These drugs are meant to prevent asthma attacks and are of little or no use one an attack has started.
- BRONCHODILATOR (albuterol, etc.): These drugs, which relax and widen the airways, are administered through a hand-held inhaler. These drugs are used to treat attacks once they start. Bronchodilators lose their effectiveness after a certain date so the patient must renew their supply of the drug on a regular basis.
- ORAL THEOPHYLLINE PREPARATIONS: These drugs open the airways and reduce inflammation.
For a list of side effects of the various drugs used to treat asthma click here.