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Eating right with asthma

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Posted: Friday, September 28, 2012 9:45 am

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and current health statistics indicate that asthma is the most chronic childhood disease in Arizona, affecting 9.4 percent of children and being a leading cause of absences from school.

And while there’s no specific diet that will eliminate all symptoms, did you know that having nutritional deficiencies including magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, vitamins B6, C, and D have been known to assist in bringing on an asthmatic attack along with factors such as the environment and allergens?

Did you also know that understanding the relationship between asthma and acidity will enable you to select more alkaline food choices and potentially significantly decrease you or your child’s asthma symptoms?

The entire metabolic process of a healthy body is based on its pH (potential hydrogen) levels of acid-alkaline balance (or pH Balance). This balance impacts immunity, digestion, bone strength, symptoms of joint disease, hormones, and the function of essential internal organs. Mucus plays a pivotal role in asthma, causing the sensitive bronchial tubes to swell and become plugged. During an asthma attack, spasms in the muscles surrounding the bronchi constricts, inhibiting the exhalation of stale air.

The body creates mucus as a natural defense against acids, as a way to bind them up and get them out of the body, preventing the acids from burning internal tissues.

But if the diet is excessively acidic, too much mucus is created and the mucus/acid mixture gets sticky and congestive, causing poor digestion, cold hands/feet, light-headedness, nasal/lung congestion (asthma), and continual throat clearing.

The more acid-forming the food, the greater the amount of mucus secreted.

The foods known to cause the most mucus and need to be avoided if you have asthma are:

1. All dairy products. Dairy breaks down into lactic acid, which creates mucus in the lungs.

2. White flour and refined starches. Breaks down into carbonic acid and causes excess mucus production that may saturate the respiratory tract.

3. Animal proteins. Breaks down into uric acid, which creates mucus. All meats should be eliminated from the diet if you want to regulate respiratory issues.

4. Sugar.

5. Eggs.

6. Coffee and alcoholic beverages.

A high alkaline diet consisting of plenty of raw and organic fruits and vegetables can improve respiratory problems. They’re a good source of antioxidants such as beta carotene and vitamins C and E, which may help reduce lung swelling and inflammation.

It’s also very important to drink a lot of water, but especially if you suffer from bronchitis or asthma. Take in extra vitamin D, as people with more severe asthma often have low vitamin D levels.

Avoid sulfites. Often used as a preservative, sulfites are found in processed meats and hot dogs. It’s also possible that eating less salt and eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (oils found in cold water fish and some nuts and seeds) may reduce asthma symptoms.

Making informed choices about what foods to eat and what foods to avoid won’t cure asthma. But it may improve your symptoms.


• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Dr. Deborah Vogt Purscell, Psy.D., is a school psychologist and nutritional consultant. Comments and suggestions are welcomed at

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