World Asthma Day, observed annually on the first Tuesday of May, is an event organised by the Global Initiative For Asthma, a medical guidelines organisation launched in 1993. Asthma is a major non-communicable, inflammatory disease that affects both children and adults, by constricting the airways, swelling them, and producing extra mucus in them, making it difficult for the affected person to breathe. Asthmatics also cough frequently, suffer from shortness of breath, and often make a whistling sound, or wheeze, while breathing out.
How food and lifestyle are linked to asthma
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Food and lifestyle habits play a major role in causing asthma, as well as relieving symptoms in asthmatics.
Foods that should be consumed by asthmatics
According to experts, several factors can trigger asthma symptoms, including exposure to allergens, pollution, stress, and diet. It is important to make the correct food and lifestyle choices to keep the immune system healthy and ensure that symptoms in asthmatics are not aggravated.
“Poor diet and lifestyle choices can weaken the immune system and increase inflammation, making asthma symptoms worse. Asthmatics should eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help reduce inflammation in the body and improve overall health. Foods high in antioxidants, such as berries and leafy greens, can also help reduce inflammation and improve lung function,” Dr Shahid Shafi, Consultant Internal Medicine, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, told ABP Live.
Genetics also play an important role in the development of asthma. But food and lifestyle have the most significant impact on the severity of asthma symptoms. Processed foods, sugar and saturated fats can exacerbate asthma symptoms.
“Numerous studies have indicated that there is indeed a link between asthma and diet. A diet high in processed foods, sugar, and saturated fats has been found to exacerbate symptoms of asthma. On the other hand, a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has been shown to improve lung function and decrease the severity of asthma symptoms,” Dr Preet Pal Thakur, Co-Founder, Glamyo Health, told ABP Live.
Asthmatics should avoid trigger foods
Dr Shafi said that asthmatics should avoid trigger foods. These are the foods which can trigger asthma symptoms. “Common trigger foods include dairy products, wheat, soy, and nuts. It is important for asthmatic people to identify their trigger foods and avoid them as much as possible.”
It is also important to stay hydrated because water keeps the mucus membranes hydrated and reduces the risk of asthma attacks.
“Drinking enough water is essential for overall health, and it can also help keep mucus membranes hydrated and reduce the risk of asthma attacks,” Dr Shafi said.
Asthmatics should prioritise fresh and whole foods over processed and packaged options, must limit intake of added sugars and unhealthy fats, and consume a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin C. This is because these foods can improve lung function.
“For asthmatic individuals looking to improve their diet, there are several key changes that can be made. First and foremost, it is important to prioritise fresh, whole foods over processed and packaged options. This means incorporating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins into meals, while limiting intake of added sugars and unhealthy fats. Certain foods have also been found to be particularly beneficial for those with asthma. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish such as salmon and sardines, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the airways. Additionally, foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and leafy greens, can help improve lung function and reduce the severity of asthma symptoms,” Dr Thakur said.
Lifestyle habits that must be maintained by asthmatics
Asthmatics should exercise regularly, manage stress, avoid smoking and secondhand smoke, and minimise exposure to environmental irritants, according to experts.
Asthmatics should exercise regularly
It is important for asthmatics to exercise regularly because this improves lung function and reduces inflammation in the body.
“Regular exercise can help improve lung function and reduce inflammation in the body. However, it is important for asthmatic people to work with their doctor to develop a safe and effective exercise plan,” Dr Shafi said.
Exercise can help reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.
“In terms of lifestyle changes, regular physical activity can be incredibly beneficial for those with asthma. Exercise has been shown to improve lung function and increase overall fitness, both of which can help reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. However, it is important to talk to a healthcare provider before following any exercise routine,” Dr Thakur said.
Asthmatics must avoid stress
Since stress can trigger asthma symptoms, patients with the disease must use relaxation techniques to improve overall well-being.
“Stress can trigger asthma symptoms in some people. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being,” Dr Shafi said.
Avoiding exposure to environmental irritants
Asthmatics must avoid exposure to environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke and pollutants because these have been linked to an increased risk of asthma exacerbations. This not only helps reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks, but also decreases symptoms.
“Lack of physical activity and exposure to environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke and pollution have been linked to an increased risk of asthma exacerbations. Conversely, regular exercise and minimising exposure to environmental irritants can help reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. Minimising exposure to environmental irritants can also help reduce asthma symptoms. This may mean avoiding cigarette smoke, using air purifiers in the home, and minimising exposure to air pollution and other environmental toxins,” Dr Thakur said.
Dr Shafi explained that it is important not only to avoid smoking but also to prevent exposure to secondhand smoke.
“While asthma is a complex and multifactorial disease, diet and lifestyle can play a significant role in its management. By prioritising fresh, whole foods, engaging in regular physical activity, and minimising exposure to environmental irritants, those with asthma can take steps to improve their overall health and reduce the severity of their symptoms,” Dr Thakur said.
Dr Shafi concluded that overall, a healthy diet and lifestyle can help improve asthma symptoms and reduce the risk of asthma attacks. He explained that it is important for asthmatics to work with their doctor to develop a personalised plan that takes into account their individual needs and triggers.
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