Sunday 21 December 2014

It's not all about inhalers - food can ease asthma too

Apples provide a natural antihistamine, while fish oil supplements can help relieve symptoms

Rozanne Stevens' superslaw. Photo: Ronan Lang/Feature File
Rozanne Stevens gives helpful tips. Photo: Martin Maher

I DEVELOPED asthma after a severe chest infection. My doctor prescribed two types of inhalers -- a preventive inhaler and another inhaler in case of an attack. And that was about it.

My management of my asthma since then has been haphazard to say the least, and I have been a very bad patient. After a particularly bad asthma attack last year, I decided to pull myself together, become compliant in taking the correct medication and also look at other strategies to manage the condition.

Interestingly, there has been substantial research done in the last decade on the links between diet and asthma. Several studies have emerged ranging from the health benefits of apples to eating oily fish.

Dr Anthony Seaton, professor of environmental medicine at Aberdeen University Medical School in Scotland, says: "Our research suggests that it's a combination of dietary factors, rather than a single nutrient or food, that protects people from asthma. And the bonus is that the same nutrition suggestions also protect you against obesity, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes."

Fruits and vegetables repair lungs

We have all heard the 'five-a-day' mantra, but did you know that it benefits lung health too? It's long been recognised that the antioxidants in fresh fruits and vegetables are good for your health.

Researchers studied a group of people following the Mediterranean diet (an eating plan that emphasises fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and healthy fat) and found that these participants had better asthma control than their counterparts.

Research by Dr Lawrence S Greene, PhD, director of the Biology of Human Populations Programme at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, shows that the antioxidants in fresh fruits and vegetables have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce swelling and inflammation in the lungs.

This helps prevent asthma attacks and symptoms. In addition, fruits and vegetables are low-calorie foods that are filling, and they help you maintain a healthy weight, which can help gain better control of asthma.

Eat an apple to keep your asthma at bay. You know that apples are good for your health, but did you also know that they can reduce your risk of experiencing an asthma attack?

The benefit comes from the powerful antioxidants that are contained in the fruit's peel (especially in red apples) and provide a natural antihistamine and inflammatory effect that can help allergies and asthma.

A study in the 'American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine' found that participants who ate apples twice a week had as much as a one-third lower risk of developing asthma.

Recent lab tests also suggest that the fibre in fruits and vegetables may be beneficial in soothing asthma. They promote the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria, which helps us digest food better and absorb essential nutrients like fatty acids.

In general, people eat enough fruit, though they fall short on vegetables. Between 1977 and 1996, vegetable consumption dropped 26pc to a measly 100g a day. This dramatic decline in vegetable consumption mirrors the sharp incline of asthma sufferers.

Fish, canola oil and walnuts supply the most omega-3s. When in balance, these two fats help your immune system fight off disease. The best ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s is 2.5 to one.

Research by Dr Robert Grimble, professor of nutrition at the University of Southampton, shows that the typical diet has about 10 teaspoons of omega-6 for every one teaspoon of omega-3, which is more than four times the optimum level.

The result: too much omega-6 prompts the immune system to overproduce chemicals called cytokines that inflame airways and make lung tissue very sensitive to irritants like dust, dander and pollution.

Irish Independent

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