The Best Diet for Children with Asthma
Asthma is a chronic condition in which inflammation of the airways occurs due to the reaction of various stimuli. Children can experience asthma “attacks” or “episodes” that result in narrowed airways but the inflammation is continuous. Asthma seems to be on the rise in children and is one of the most common chronic disorders for this age group. In fact, in the United States nearly 9 million children, under the age of 18, suffer from asthma. Stimuli that can flare asthma symptoms include allergens such as pollen, mold and animal hair and/or dander; feathers; dust mites; certain foods; air irritants such as cigarette smoke and/or air pollution; cold weather and/or changes in weather; exercise; stress and infections such as the flu or the common cold. Common symptoms of asthma in children include frequent coughing spells, trouble breathing especially in the early morning or at night, less energy during play, complaints of chest “hurting” or tightness, and wheezing or whistling sound when breathing in and out. Treatment usually involves medications but some foods and nutrients may be able ease symptoms and help prevent asthma.
Foods that can help and hurt asthma symptoms:
Fruit and Vegetables
Some experts believe that children who eat a lots of vegetables and fruits have less problems with asthma. Produce can help to boost a child’s immune system by providing loads if essential antioxidants and phytonutrients, which may be the reason why eating produce seems to lessen the chance of a child developing asthma and reduce symptoms in those that have it. According to the USDA, most children aged 4 to 8 years old should consume at least 1 to 1 ½ cups fruit and 1 ½ cups vegetables daily.
According to Phillipa Ellwod, studies have found that children who ate more grains and less meat were the least likely to produce asthma symptoms. A good reason be certain that your children get at least 5 ounce equivalents of grains per day with at least half of them coming from whole grains. Good choices include whole grain cereals, whole wheat breads, brown rice, whole wheat pastas, plain popcorn and oatmeal.
Calcium and Magnesium
According to researchers from ISAAC – the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood in Auckland New Zealand, children who consumed more calcium were less likely to develop asthma. A study by Dr. Seaton from Saudi Arabia came to the same conclusion. Experts from England’s University of Nottingham believe that magnesium has similar anti-asthma properties. Children between the ages of 4 to 8 years old, should get 130 milligrams of magnesium and 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day to meet their needs. The best sources of calcium include yogurt, cheese, juice fortified with calcium, cottage cheese and milk (choose low-fat options for children over 2). Magnesium is also found in milk as well as fish, some beans, green vegetables, nuts/seeds and cereal such as oatmeal.
Studies have shown that children that are breastfed are less likely to develop asthma either as a child or as an adult.
Common food allergens
Although it is not really known which specific foods can trigger asthma attacks, there are several foods that are suspected because of their high susceptibility to being common food allergens. Dairy products such as milk, yogurt and ice cream can cause bouts of wheezing and coughing. Other common food allergies to be aware of include wheat, eggs, soy, shrimp, citrus fruits, fish, peanuts and processed foods.
Children who suffer with asthma may want to avoid or at least limit salt and sodium intake. Experts have known for quite some time that a high sodium diet seems to worsen asthma symptoms in children. Most of the sodium that children get comes from processed foods, which can also be a source of sulfites. For this reason children with asthma should also try to avoid as many processed foods as possible.
If your child suffers from asthma or is at risk for developing asthma you need to work closely with your pediatrician to ensure your child’s asthma is under control. A healthy diet and moderate activity, with doctor’s permission, will only benefit your child. It is important to not only use medication for your child but to look at their lifestyle as a whole.
Asthma in Children:
Asthma and Children Fact Sheet:
Feeding Your Baby:
USDA Choose My Plate: