Reducing Asthma Symptoms With Nutrition

Do you ever feel chest tightness and the annoying feeling when you take a deep breath and it doesn’t “catch” — like you’re not actually getting the air? These symptoms may sound familiar if you suffer from asthma. I have some nutrition considerations for you, and they include antioxidants, magnesium, and omega-3 fats.

Antioxidants and Asthma

What are Antioxidants?

Free radicals are created from normal body functions such as breathing and exercise, and environmental factors such as sun exposure, smoking, alcohol and pollution. Free radicals attack healthy cells, and when these healthy cells are weakened, they are more susceptible to cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancers. Antioxidants help protect healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals.

A few antioxidants associated with helping asthma symptoms include Vitamin C and Bromelain.

Have You Heard Snacking On Fruit May Prevent Asthma?

Eating fruit could lower your risk of asthma, according to Dutch researchers who tracked the asthma symptoms and diets of children from birth through eight years of age. They found those who ate more fruit throughout their childhood had lower rates of asthma. Researchers think the antioxidants in fruits and veggies could protect airways from damage, possibly reducing risk of asthma.

Vitamin C (Antioxidant)

There’s a great deal of research supporting the use of Vitamin C as a treatment of asthma, especially against exercise-induced asthma. It certainly won’t be a cure, but Vitamin C may provide some relief and reduce asthma symptoms.

Good sources of Vitamin C include: berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, oranges, honeydew, kale, kiwi, mango, nectarine, papaya, snow peas, sweet potatoes, strawberries, tomatoes, and red, green, or yellow peppers.

Bromelain (Antioxidant)

This is an enzyme naturally found in pineapple. It has a strong anti-inflammatory effect that lasts a few hours. Although it can be found in all parts of the fruit, it is typically extracted from the stem. At least one study has found bromelain to be effective against asthma by limiting airway inflammation.   


Magnesium helps keep smooth muscle fibers (the kind in your lungs) relaxed. A study involving 68,535 female participants found a high intake of spinach is directly linked with a lowered risk of asthma. This may be due to the fact that spinach is high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E (all antioxidants), and magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is prevalent among people with asthma, and emergency intravenous (IV) treatments with magnesium have been shown to help halt an asthma attack. Magnesium citrate is a better bet than magnesium oxide. Too much of the latter can make you run to the bathroom. 

Antioxidants and Omega-3 Fats

EPA and DHA (Eicosapentaenoic acid and Docosahexaenoic acid)

Keeping a favorable Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acid ratio is extremely important for preventing and managing inflammatory conditions. Omega-3 fats include EPA and DHA. When out of balance, excess intake of omega-6 promotes inflammation, increases blood clotting, and depresses the immune system. Here’s something you may not realize…the modern Western diet has negatively shifted this crucial balance by the availability of too much omega-6 on a daily basis from refined vegetables oils, processed foods, meats, and too little intake of omega-3 fats.

EPA and DHA are both effective for reducing your risk for numerous inflammatory conditions, including asthma.

Evening Primrose Oil

One exception to the omega-6 rule above is a uniquely beneficial type of omega-6 found in borage oil, evening primrose oil, black currant oil, spirulina (a blue-green algae), and hemp seeds. This oil supplies GLA, an omega-6 fatty acid which can have a positive anti-inflammatory effect and is a traditional treatment for asthma in some cultures.

If you’re interested in using any of these supplements, please talk to your health care provider.

In Health and Happiness,

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods


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