Do You Know Nutrition: Many foods can trigger asthma attack

By Phylis Canion
Sept. 25, 2012 at 4:25 a.m.

Phylis Canion

Phylis Canion

I am asthmatic and have changed my diet dramatically. I avoid chocolate, caffeine, nuts, shellfish and eggs, but I recently had an attack and can't figure out what I ate. I eat plenty of fresh fruits (recently some dried fruits), fresh vegetables, and I try to follow the Mediterranean diet.

Can you share with me some asthma triggers that I might have a sensitivity to and do not realize it?

Studies show that the number of people suffering from asthma has risen dramatically over the past 15 years.

In fact, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, an estimated 20 million Americans suffer from asthma.

Two possible reasons are new food additives and genetic manipulation of plants that have resulted in food components with greater allergenic tendencies.

You mentioned that you eat dried fruits, but didn't say how frequent. Dried fruits, except for raisins and prunes, contain sulfites. Sulfites are salts used for preserving processed foods and could be a factor if you are asthmatic. If you have a sulfite sensitivity, some foods to avoid are; lemon juice and lime juice (non-frozen), wine, molasses, sauerkraut juice, wine vinegar, maraschino cherries, pickled products and, of course, dried fruits.

The Food and Drug Administration ruled that any product that contains sulfites must have it listed on the label, regardless of the amount in the finished product.

In addition, three common food additives than can cause asthma symptoms are tartrazine, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame.

Tartrazine is a common food ingredient in food dyes and coloring. MSG is a flavor enhancer found in many processed foods, and aspartame is an artificial sweetener used in diet sodas and sold in individual packets.

Another asthma trigger is preservatives that manufacturers add to food products to prolong shelf life.

These preservatives are known as benzoates, BHA, BHT and nitrites are found in fruit juices, sodas, cured meats and pickles.

Because of bio-individuality (each individual is unique with individualized nutritional needs), it is hard to say exactly what foods can aggravate or trigger an asthmatic attack but common culprits are corn, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts, soy, eggs, beets, carrots, colas, cold beverages, milk, salt, spinach, chicken, turkey, white flour and refined sugar.

Preventing food-induced asthma attacks requires reading the laundry list of ingredients on food labels and avoiding the allergens, additives and preservatives that could trigger an attack.

Thought for the week: Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.

Class: The next free nutrition class is 7 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Organic Emporium. For more information, call 361-576-2100.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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