21 Worst Foods For People With Asthma


Asthma is a respiratory condition that is characterized by attacks of spasm in the respiratory tract, which causes breathing difficulties. Although it is mainly connected to allergic reactions (as well as other forms of hypersensitivity), there are certain things asthmatics should pay special attention to. One of those things is eating a specific diet.

To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of 21 foods you should definitely avoid if you have asthma. Here they are:

1. Eggs

Eggs are the main component of countless dishes, some of which you might eat regularly, but if you were to learn how dangerous allergies to eggs can get, you would definitely stop eating them. Even though skin reactions such as hives are the most common manifestation of egg allergy, asthma is yet another probable reaction. Egg allergy most commonly tends to develop at an early age, so if you happen to have children who are allergic to eggs, it is paramount for them to avoid egg products and eggs in general. Pay special attention when purchasing food in stores and make sure to always read the labels carefully.

It’s also important to note that there have been cases of people allergic to eggs reacting to a paste used to preserve ancient buildings. This prompted experts to warn the public about the increased risk of an asthmatic reaction in people who restore old buildings. Still, you are much more likely to suffer an allergic reaction to eggs after consuming them.


2. Red Meat

According to a research conducted in Australia in 2012, eating a diet rich in meat, poultry and seafood can easily be linked to higher incidence of asthma and hayfever in both children and adults. When we say higher, we’re not talking 2 or 3 percent, it goes more along the lines of 10 to 25 percent.

Combine that with a diet that’s low in fruits and vegetables and you end up with an even higher chance of having an asthma attack. The reason for this is somewhat simple, although experts weren’t sure up until recently. Red meat contains a molecule called Neu5GC that humans don’t produce naturally.

As soon as you ingest this compound, your body develops antibodies which are known to trigger constant inflammatory responses. Reducing red meat consumption and replacing it with poultry, fish, as well as lean cuts of red meat (once a week at most) could reduce the risk of asthma.


3. Milk

Milk is a tricky one here – a cold glass of milk is a common sight on dinner tables around the world, which is not surprising when you take into account all the vitamins it contains, as well as its reputation as a good source of protein and calcium. Drinking milk regularly is also a good way of ensuring you have just enough nutrients to supplement your bones and teeth with the good stuff they need to stay healthy.

However, milk allergies are fairly common and result in your immune system overreacting to proteins in milk. This triggers a reaction that can range from rashes, hives, itching and swelling, all the way to trouble with breathing, which is definitely not a thing you want to have if you already have asthma. A severe reaction can even be life threatening. Statistics show that an allergy to cow’s milk is the most common food allergy in infants and children.


4. Peanuts

Here’s a weird fact straight off the bat – more people around the world die from peanut allergies than from shark attacks on a yearly basis.

Peanuts are well known to provoke strong allergic reactions in some people, which can even lead to death. It can also provoke allergic asthma in others. The harmful properties of this nut, however, go way beyond that and include the likes of mineral absorption issues and high-blood pressure.

A study found that children with asthma who were also unfortunate enough to have peanut allergy developed asthma much earlier than kids without a peanut allergy. They were also more likely to be hospitalized and more likely to need steroids. Note that a large percentage of asthmatic children with peanut allergies also have allergies to grass, cats, dust mites, weeds and tree pollen, all of which can easily trigger asthma attacks.


5. Soy

Soy has been reported to cause serious issues in people with asthma, no matter in what form it comes, soy milk, soy bread or soy meat.

For people who are suffering from asthma, it’s important to stay as ‘soyfree’ as possible, which also includes not using soy-propellant inhalers (there is a number of brands which include soy in their propellants), as well as making sure not to breathe in soydust-laden air.

Beware of bin aisles in health food stores, as there may be soybean dust lurking about and stay clear of highways, as you may be exposed to the exhaust of motorcycles or cars using biodiesel fuel. People who work in bakeries and other places which use soy flour or other soy ingredients have a high chance of developing what people call an “occupational asthma.” The symptoms of reacting to soy include mouth itching, rash or hives, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, a running nose, as well as wheezing and other general asthma symptoms.


6. Food Additives

The long list of food additives that are common allergy triggers includes sulfites, tartrazine, monosodium glutamate (MSG), as well as aspartame.

Sulfites are basically salts that are commonly used for preserving processed foods. You can often find them in pickled products (especially eggs and apples), wine and dried fruit. Tartrazine is a type of food coloring that is mainly used to produce the color yellow. Many foods contain tartrazine in varying proportions, depending on the manufacturer or person preparing the food.

Monosodium glutamate is the sodium salt of glutamic acid and one of the most plentiful naturally occurring non-essential amino acids. It is used as a flavor enhancer and can be found in processed foods to intensify their meaty, savory flavor. Aspartame is an artificial, non-saccharide sweetener that is often used instead of sugar in some foods and beverages.


7. Alcohol

Bad news for all you beer-chugging, wine-tasting folks with asthma out there – you’ll be surprised to find out that it’s usually the combination of substances found in alcoholic drinks rather than the alcohol itself that can trigger the symptoms of asthma.

According to current research, alcoholic drinks contain a natural food chemical called histamine, which red wine and some beers have in abundance. Interestingly enough, histamine is also the same substance that is released in the body when you have an allergic reaction and may trigger asthma symptoms.

Some alcoholic drinks (including wine) contain preservatives called sulfites. 8% of people with asthma are quite sensitive to sulphites and they can exhibit different symptoms – from mild wheezing to a potentially life-threatening asthma attack. You will most likely notice symptoms almost immediately after drinking, although people’s sensitivity to them tends to vary.


8. Wheat

Believe it or not, wheat can make asthma even worse than it already is. In fact, anyone who is struggling with more or less difficult-to-control asthma should seriously consider completely dropping wheat from their diets.

In the past, Celiac’s disease was treated as the only indication that someone should seriously cut out gluten, but new research suggests that we can also be gluten sensitive (or gluten intolerant) without meeting the diagnostic criteria for Celiac’s. And what happens if you can’t tolerate gluten? Your asthma control suffers.

People can have different reactions to wheat, but what we associate with asthma symptoms looks way too similar to be ignored. The symptoms are immediate and can include rashes, wheezing, conjunctivitis, diarrhea, as well as a worsening of eczema. People working in bakeries have reportedly developing asthma as a result of inhaling flour.


9. Nuts

A nut is a hard-shelled fruit of a plant, but you all knew that already. What you probably didn’t know is that while they provide important nutrients, tree nuts are also one of the leading causes of allergies, affecting approximately 1.8 million people in the United States alone!

Tree nuts include many of the nuts that are commonly eaten and can be found in bowls in living rooms around the world, including cashews, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts, etc. Tree nut allergies usually develop during infancy or childhood and 0 percent of those affected grow out of the condition, according to the Food Allergy Initiative.

If you suffer from a tree nut allergy, consuming a nut can easily trigger an immune response, causing the airways to swell, which leads to the development of asthma. In addition, if you are allergic to nuts, you must also avoid any foods containing the nut, such as the oil of the nut or the protein of the nut.


10. Shellfish

Shellfish allergy is among the most common and dangerous food allergies, sending more people to hospital emergency rooms for allergy treatments than any other. Note that an allergy to shellfish is not the same thing as an allergy to fish – those who are allergic to shellfish do not necessarily have to avoid fish and it goes the other way around.

Looking at the entire shellfish family, the crustacean group (shrimp, lobster and crab) are the main perpetrators and cause the greatest number of allergic reactions. Many shellfish-allergic people are able to eat mollusks (oysters, clams, mussels, etc.) without any problem. But still, anyone who suffers from shellfish allergy would be wise to consult an allergist before eating any other kind of shellfish.

Note that cross-reactions among shellfish are rare, but actually do appear. This is mainly caused by the fact that various types of shellfish are usually stored together in restaurants and markets, leading to cross-contamination.


11. Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits are not something you eat rarely and even though they are invaluable sources of both fiber and nutrients, they have been reported to increase one’s sensitivity to asthma. It’s the seed of the fruits which is, in fact, the main issue here.

They are abundant in protein and have increased allergenicity compared to the pulp or juice and share similar protein allergens. Citrus allergies are commonly associated with pollen allergies (especially grass) due to cross-relative proteins. Citrus fruits also share common Cit s 1 and Cit s 3 isoforms that are found in apples as well.

The thing about citrus fruits is that, like many other allergens, they also tend to provoke allergic reactions in any form available. People have reportedly had allergic reactions by using lemon soaps with crushed lemon seeds or by using lime oil and exposing the skin to the sun afterward. Since fruits provide antioxidants, you might want to swap citrus fruits for nonacidic varieties such as kiwi, plums and mangoes.


12. Chocolate

Chocolate is yet another divinely delicious treat you will have to say goodbye to if you notice that your asthma is getting increasingly worse after each bar. Chocolate allergies are not as uncommon as you might think they are, simply because chocolate is packed with common allergenic ingredients such as milk, soy, eggs, etc.

What happens during an allergic reaction is that your immune system makes the mistake of reacting to proteins in common chocolate ingredients, treating them as if they were dangerous. This reaction prompts the body to attack the proteins with antibodies and histamine, resulting in the inflammation of the soft tissue.

If you are certain that you aren’t allergic to milk, soy, eggs or any of the other common ingredients found in chocolate, you may want to check whether you’re allergic to cocoa, which is basically the alpha and the omega of chocolate. You can always eat carob instead.


13. Saturated Fats

You probably know the term from prepared foods such as pizza, dairy desserts and sausages, but let’s jump into the science part for just a second. Fats are made of long chains of carbon atoms. Some carbon atoms link with single bonds while others are linked by double bonds. A saturated fat is a fat in which the fatty acids all have single bonds.

The consumption of saturated fats can actually increase the amount of inflammation which is produced within your body. The saturated fat from red meats, butter, lard, full-fat cheese and cream can contain higher amounts of arachidonic acid, which is a chemical that serves as an important contributor to the inflammatory response. If you think saturated fats are to blame, you might want to try switching to a vegan diet.


14. Trans Fats

Trans-unsaturated fatty acids (thank god we can shorten that to trans) are unsaturated fats that aren’t that common in nature but are commonly produced from vegetable fats for use in snack foods, packaged baked goods, frying fast food and margarine. Studies have shown that teenagers are much more likely to have severe asthma and eczema if they eat fast food more than three times a week.

Not only are trans fats bad for your health (and looks as well), but this type of fat promotes the inflammatory response in the lungs, thus leading to the severe worsening of asthmatic symptoms. Take an allergy test and check whether or not you are allergic to trans fats. If you are, you should completely avoid trans fats in order to control asthma, although you might want to consider doing so even if you’re not allergic, for the sake of your overall wellbeing.


15. Kiwi

Native to the Yangtze Valley in China, kiwi is commercially developed in New Zealand. Available in green and gold varieties, it is produced in Italy, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand and the United States.

While the fruit is popular for its exotic and sour taste, it’s also notorious for causing allergies in people. Not only that, but some researchers report that allergic reactions to kiwi are among the strongest, especially if you have asthma.

Around 12 allergenic proteins have been found in the kiwi fruit and school age children have kiwi to thank for 10% of all the food allergic reactions. In a research conducted some years ago, it was reported that 64% of subjects who were allergic to kiwi suffered allergy symptoms in under just two minutes after exposure.


16. Salicylates

”Salicylates” really sounds like a fancy word, but it’s actually just the salts and esters of salicylic acid, which occur naturally in plants and act as a natural immune hormone, protecting against diseases, insects, fungi, as well as harmful bacteria.

You can also commonly find them in many medications, perfumes, solvents and preservatives. There is a high number of people who are sensitive (or utterly intolerant) to salicylates and symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from mild to life-threatening.

Here’s the thing – while the classical symptoms of salicylate intolerance include rhinosinusitis, nasal and sinus polyps and asthma, the combination of polyposis and asthma occurring together with analgesic intolerance is something we call “a triad.” A triad is definitely something you don’t want to experience, especially if the consumption of salicylates was sufficient to lead to chronic conditions such as urticaria, a severe skin rash notable for pale red, raised, itchy bumps that can cause a burning and stinging sensation.


17. Simple And Refined Carbohydrates

If you consume simple sugars and refined carbohydrates manufactured from refined grains like wheat or rice, you may be subjected to a rapid increase of both blood sugar and insulin levels.

The increased levels of insulin and body fat storage associated with this type of diet have a continual secretion of chemicals as a result. The next thing you may very well expect to happen is that those chemicals encourage an inflammatory response.

There are hundreds of foods that people consume on a daily basis that contain simple sugars, including candy, soda, desserts, snack foods, cereals and fruit drinks, all of which should be consumed very carefully and dosed appropriately. In addition, white flour products like pasta and rice should also be eaten in very modest quantities in order to control the symptoms of asthma.


18. Bagels And Buns

Even though they will do their best to convince you otherwise, many shops that sell bagels, buns or even certain types of bread utilize azodicarbonamide (or azobisformamide), a chemical compound that is used as a food additive to bleach pastry and increase its shelf life. You immediately start to get the picture when you learn that the compound is also used as a blowing agent in the rubber and plastic industries – what is that doing in our food then?

Research has established a direct link between exposure to azodicarbonamide and the onset of asthma. Regular occupational exposure to the chemical compound can lead to a serious case of asthma. Various reports note that people have developed asthma and other respiratory complications within just three months of exposure.


19. Foods With Starch

Starch (sometimes called amylum) is a polysaccharide that is produced by most green plants as an energy store. It’s the most common polysaccharide in human diets, which is heavily contained in a number of staple foods such as potatoes, maize, rice and cassava.

The problem is that many people develop an allergy to starch without even knowing it and since it’s nothing but a mere additive to food, it is somewhat difficult to realize that it might be the cause of your increased asthmatic problems.

What you can do is always read the labels – every single food company has to note on the packaging that they use starch in their food, which will help you evade potentially problematic situations regarding your asthma. Starch comes with many names (food starch, gelatinized starch, modified starch and vegetable starch) but you should know that if you have an allergic reaction to one type of it, you will probably react badly to all of them.


20. Rosaceae

While you may not have heard of it before, Rosaceae is a term used to describe a large botanical family of plants that consists of about 3,000 species.

Allergies can occur with exposure to plants in this family and as a result of the ingestion of fruits like the blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, plum, peach, apple, almond, cherry, apricot and others. Studies suggest that cross-reaction within the same family is possible, with the sufferer experiencing reactions to non-food plants in this family such as birch pollen.

Although mostly mild and focused around the oral area, the effects of Rosaceae allergy can end up being rather severe, including manifesting themselves as anaphylaxis. Asthmatic people would do well to stay clear of these fruits. Various sources cite herbal/complementary remedies to minimize the effects of the allergy.


21. Casein

There are two main types of casein and learning to differentiate them is very important if you have asthma. Edible casein is used in medicine and food for nutritional value and as a binder. Technical casein is used in paints, cosmetics and adhesives, where it can act as a protective colloid, binder and cohesion promoter.

Casein intolerance is often apparent with babies, but it is not uncommon for it to remain undiagnosed until late adulthood. The symptoms of casein allergy can, like many others, vary from mild to severe. They can even be life-threatening in some cases.

Make sure to carefully read the labels on products and keep in mind that even if the product is labeled ”lactose-free,” it might still contain casein for other reasons. Soy cheeses often contain casein derived from milk, which may stimulate allergic reactions in people who would assume that they are dairy-free.

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