What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease which affects the air passages to the lungs. These airways are the tubes which carry air in and out from the lungs and if these are swollen, you have asthma. This inflammation makes the airways very sensitive and reacts strongly to your allergies. In this process your airways get narrower, excess mucus plugs which caught in the narrowed airways results in congestion and only less air flows to the lungs.

What about children?

Anyone can have asthma, including infants and children, it is often inherited, that means it can run in the families. Many children with asthma, the gap between flares, normally for weeks and months, but flares can come without warning.

In most of the children, asthma develops before the age of 5 years and it is also more in children below 3 years age group.

Can asthma be cured?

Unfortunately, asthma cannot be cured, but it can be controlled and managed effectively so that they have few and infrequent symptoms and can live active as well as normal lives.

Are there any early warning signs of asthma?

There are early warning signals and they include:

• Breathing changes
• Sneezing
• Headache
• Stuffing or running nose
• Coughing
• Itches in throat
• Moodiness
• Feeling tired
• Dark circles under the eyes
• Trouble in sleeping
• Less tolerance to physical activity

What are the symptoms?

The common symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, shortness to breath and trouble breathing or tightness in the chest, especially at night and in the early morning. It is necessary to take the treatment of these symptoms before they become worse. The aim of asthma care and treatment with food or medicine are to be symptoms free in your day to day life. Consult your doctor for the medical treatment and follow it properly and a dietician is also helpful here.

You talk about common symptoms, are there also severe symptoms?

Do not forget, severe asthma symptoms are life-threatening. These symptoms include:

• If there is severe coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or tightness in the chest
• If the breathing is shallow and slower or faster than usual
• If walking causes shortness of breath
• If the nostril increases with breathing
• Gray or bluish colour to skin and it begins around the mouth first
• If it is difficult to talk and concentrate
• Posturing symptoms with shoulders
• If the neck and rib areas move inward with breathing

If you have or observe these symptoms, it is emergency and go to your doctor immediately. You must be prepared to meet this situation by keeping ready the telephone numbers of, doctor and call taxi always.

What about diet and medicines?

Most of the people with asthma need not follow a special diet. However allergies to certain food and environmental factors should be considered. Avoiding triggers alone is unlikely to control your asthma and you need medicine as well.

Loss of weight can help to manage the asthma better; combined with more healthy and active life style it is possible to improve the lung function.

Are there any historical evidences between asthma and food?

There are many historical evidences as follows:

An Egyptian medical text from 1550 B. C, prescribed figs, grapes, cumin, juniper fruit, wine, sweet beer and frankincense for asthma.

Ancient Greek and Roman physicians recommended the pungent foods like garlic, pepper, cinnamon and vinegar to treat asthma.

Moses Maimonides, the famous medieval philosopher-physician wrote an entire book about asthma and his favourites are freshwater fish, fennel, parsley, watercress, fenugreek, mint, fig, radish, raisin, wine, quince and barley porridge.

Early Chinese medicine recommended the tea leaves, from which the anti-asthmatic medicine theophylline was extracted in 1888.

Ancient medicine, pungent fruit, fruits, vegetables and fish have been scientifically proved and theophylline is still a very important medicine for asthma although it is chemically synthesized now.

What are the roles played by vegetables and fruits in asthma?

Fruits and vegetables which are rich in vitamin C can make you breath better by decreasing the inflammation. Vitamin C is a strong agent to reduce asthmatic wheezing and bronchitis in a significant way. In much vitamin C consuming countries the people have less breathing complaints. Vitamin C can help also to scavenge oxygen free radicals which may stimulate inflammation. The histamine is formed during allergic reaction and its metabolism is accelerated by vitamin C.

Is there any relationship between vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals?

The power of fruits and vegetables with different active substances against asthma may be more complicated than just vitamin C. There is enough evidence that giving up animal products helps to relieve asthma, e.g. meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. The asthmatic persons have less allergens and/or the lack archidonic acid which is needed to produce leukotriens that cause major inflammatory responses. It is present only in this fatty acid present in animal foods.

What about cow milk?

Milk may be the common problem in asthma and milk-free diets can cause improvement. Both children and adults must be careful with milk.

What about fish?

Fatty fish and fish oils are good for a long term treatment for asthma. The fish oil is a proven anti-inflammatory agent. It may help to heal inflammation of the air passages, allowing the regeneration of the lining of the airways, restoring easier breathing. It is not a medicine to cure immediately but regular consumption of fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines and tuna may prevent asthma in persons who do not have it and also to help to heal it. Eskimos who eat regularly seafood have little asthma.

Note: Persons who are sensitive to aspirin may have problems with airway obstruction after taking the fish oil.

What about the modern soft drinks and asthma in children?

Cola drinks have been shown to cause symptoms of asthma like wheezing and coughing.

What is the Chinese restaurant asthma?

The known chemical MSG (Ajinomoto) can trigger asthma and the research studies show that MSG (Ajinomoto) is not good for some individuals. In Germany, in the beginning Ajinomoto was used only in Chinese restaurants. Many got health problems and started avoiding these restaurants. Today you can see in many restaurants a board which shows that they don’t use Ajinomoto in their food. In India it is used almost in all restaurants as well as in all the kitchens. If asthma patients are living in your house avoid Ajinomoto and see the positive results. My opinion is that Ajinomoto must be avoided in our food.

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