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Asthma Center

Nutrition, Fitness and Lifestyle Choices for Asthma

by
author image Ann Wu, M.D., M.P.H.
Ann Wu, M.D., M.P.H., is a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital in Boston, an asthma researcher and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. She is also an investigator with the Pharmacogenetics of Asthma Treatment project, which is part of the Pharmacogenomics Research Network, and the lead investigator of the Population-Based Effectiveness in Asthma and Lung Diseases network. She blogs at asth.ma from her point of view as an asthma doctor, researcher and mom. She tweets from @Asthma3Ways.
Nutrition, Fitness and Lifestyle Choices for Asthma
Nutrition, Fitness and Lifestyle Choices for Asthma Photo Credit Getty Images

Overview

For people with asthma, eating well, moderate exercise and making healthy lifestyle choices are important to reduce asthma symptoms and have a high quality of life.

If I Have Asthma, Can I Exercise?

Nearly three in five people with asthma limit their usual activities because of their asthma. Although some people with asthma think that they can’t exercise, exercising is actually good for asthma and helps with aerobic capacity. If you have exercise-induced asthma, talk to your health care provider about your asthma management practices before and after exercising.

What Type of Diet Should I Eat?

Eating a well-balanced diet and maintaining healthy weight is important for asthma. The risk of asthma is higher in obese people than individuals of normal weight, although the exact mechanism of the link between obesity and asthma is unknown. Inhaled corticosteroids are less effective in reaching asthma control in obese individuals who have asthma.

Antioxidants, which include vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids and flavonoids, seem to protect against asthma and a decrease in lung function. Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables. Vitamin E is found in apples, vegetables, vegetable oils, meat, poultry, nuts and eggs. Carotenoids are found in carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, collard greens and tomatoes. Flavonoids are found in fruits, vegetables, teas, soy and legumes. Dietary antioxidants may help protect against oxidative stress, which plays a role in the development of asthma.

A Mediterranean-style diet that includes omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may also be beneficial. Intake of fish or long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may be beneficial in preventing asthma in children, but this hasn’t been demonstrated in adults.

An increasing body of research suggests that vitamin D is associated with fewer asthma exacerbations and symptoms. Vitamin D is contained naturally in oily fish, fish liver oil and egg yolks. Most vitamin D that we eat in the United States comes from fortified foods such as milk, yogurt, margarine and breakfast cereals.

What Lifestyle Changes Should I Make?

Managing stress can help keep asthma under control. The most important things you can do to control your asthma are to not smoke cigarettes and to avoid smoke exposure as much as possible.

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