Although we are still learning about COVID-19, reports are showing that people with moderate to severe asthma (as well as those who are overweight, diabetic and/or hypertensive) may be more susceptible to coronavirus and are at a greater risk of developing more severe symptoms if they contract it.
This means that it’s more important than ever before for people with asthma to be proactive about managing their condition and avoiding triggers that may lead to an asthma attack. Among these measures are continuing to take prescribed medications, getting regular exercise and eating health-promoting food.
Diet and asthma: What’s the connection?
The incidence of asthma has increased exponentially in the United States during the past few decades, and many researchers believe that our changing diets may be connected. As we eat fewer fruits and vegetables and more processed foods, it could be possible that we are also increasing our risk of developing asthma. At least, this is what some studies have suggested; more research needs to be done to understand the definitive link between asthma and diet.
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So while there’s no conclusive evidence that specific foods have an effect on the frequency or severity of asthma attacks, making changes in your diet can improve your overall health and may help reduce or control your asthma symptoms.
Tips for eating to manage asthma
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can worsen asthma and make it more severe and difficult to treat. Even losing a little weight can improve your symptoms. Eating a balanced diet to maintain a healthy weight may make it easier to manage your condition over the long term.
Eat a good variety of fruits and vegetables – and lots of them! Fruits and vegetables are a good source of antioxidants such as beta carotene and vitamins C and E, which may help reduce lung swelling and inflammation caused by cell-damaging chemicals known as free radicals.
Get your vitamin A. Recent studies have reported that children with asthma generally had lower levels of vitamin A in their blood than those without asthma. In asthmatic children, higher levels of vitamin A also corresponded to better lung function. Carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes (try this Eat Fit recipe), broccoli and leafy greens such as kale and spinach are all excellent sources of vitamin A.
Avoid sulfites. For some people, sulfites can trigger asthma symptoms. Used as a preservative, sulfites are found in wine, dried fruits, pickles and fresh and frozen shrimp. Avoid consuming these foods.
Avoid eating processed foods or foods containing artificial ingredients such as chemical preservatives and flavorings, as some research has shown these types of foods may be linked to an increase in asthma cases.
Avoid allergy-triggering foods. Allergic food reactions can initiate asthma symptoms. In some, exercising after eating an allergy-causing food leads to asthma symptoms.
Reduce sodium intake. It's also possible that eating less salt (aka sodium) may reduce asthma symptoms. Learn how to cut back on your sodium intake here.