foods to avoid with asthma

Managing Your Asthma with a Healthy Diet

Top 4 Foods to Avoid With Asthma

Though on the surface it may not seem like what you eat can impact your lung health, there is a strong connection between food and asthma. While you should not treat your asthma solely through diet, there are certain foods that you can avoid to help prevent triggering asthma attacks, lower inflammation in your lungs, and improve your breathing capacity.

So, what foods should you avoid if you have asthma? You will want to avoid specific preservatives such as sulfites, common food allergens, and foods that cause gas and bloating. By limiting your intake of these foods, you can lower your risk of experiencing a severe asthma attack.

What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects the tubes that bring air into the lungs, causing them to swell or overproduce mucus. Both reactions cause narrowing of the airways which can lead to shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness or pain. These symptoms can sometimes be triggered or worsened by exercise, respiratory illnesses, and allergies.

Although there is no current cure for asthma, with the proper treatment many people can live symptom-free. Today I am going to share how your diet can play an important role in your treatment plan.

How Does Diet Affect Asthma?

While there isn't one recommended diet to follow for people with asthma, there are certain foods, such as specific preservatives, that can trigger or exacerbate inflammation in the airways. Other foods may impact your breathing by putting unnecessary pressure on the lungs causing gas and bloating.

Finally, there are common food allergies that can trigger an immune response in the body that is like an asthma attack. If you are allergic to these foods and have asthma, then they can make your symptoms worse and even trigger an attack. Avoiding common food allergens, certain preservatives, and foods that cause gas and bloating can be a simple way to limit your risk of experiencing a severe asthma attack.

4 Foods to Avoid with Asthma

Rather than listing specific foods, I wanted to share with you some categories of foods that may be triggering or worsening your asthma symptoms. Every person may react or respond to different foods on this list.

Some people who have asthma will be able to eat sulfites, but not beans, while others may react to wheat but not eggs. Working with a dietitian or nutritionist to discover what foods might be worsening your symptoms through an elimination diet can help simplify the process for you.


Sulfite additives include sodium bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, and sodium sulfite. You will often find them added to things like dried fruits, wine, beer, picked foods, shrimp, maraschino cherries, and packaged lemon and lime juices to preserve freshness. They are also naturally occurring in certain foods such as wine and cider.

Not everyone with asthma will react to sulfites in food, but there is evidence that they can cause negative reactions and worsen symptoms or even trigger asthma attacks in some people.

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Foods That Cause Allergic Reactions

Not every person is going to react to every food on this list and others may react to foods not listed below. However, these foods are the most common ones associated with allergic reactions and immune responses.

If you think you may have a food allergy that is impacting your lung health, try working with a qualified dietitian or nutritionist on an elimination protocol and digestive healing plan. This process can help lower body-wide inflammation and make sure you are not eating foods that are causing a reaction.

Top 8 Food Allergies

  • Eggs
  • Wheat and gluten-containing grains
  • Cow's dairy
  • Peanuts and tree nuts
  • Soy
  • Citrus fruits
  • Fish
  • Shrimp & Shellfish

This is by no means an exhaustive list but it gives you a great place to start if you think food might be an issue for you.

Foods That Cause Gas & Bloating

Certain foods that cause excessive gas and bloating can put pressure on your lungs. This pressure can make breathing difficult and possibly even trigger an asthma attack.

Foods that cause allergies, such as those listed above, may cause gas and bloating and should be avoided if that is the case for you. If you find that you tend to experience worse asthma symptoms when you're gassy and bloated, then you may want to limit your intake of these foods:

  • Beans such as chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, etc.
  • Carbonated beverages.
  • Fried foods.
  • Spicy foods.
  • Onions & Garlic.
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, & Brussels sprouts.
  • Dairy.
  • Sugar alcohols such as xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol.
  • Beer.

You may not have to eliminate these foods but watching your portion sizes can help reduce gas and bloating. Working with a dietician or nutritionist can help you pinpoint specific foods that are triggering digestive issues.


Salicylates are naturally occurring chemicals found in tea, coffee, some herbs or spices, and even aspirin. Though it isn't as common a trigger as some of the other foods on this list, some people may experience negative reactions when consumed.

If you're unsure whether a food contains high levels of salicylates, just google the food + salicylate to get your result. Eliminating salicylates is only something I would recommend if you have exhausted all the other potential food triggers on this list without any results.

When to See Your Doctor

Once you have received your asthma diagnosis, it is important to monitor your symptoms to make sure your treatment plan is working. You should book a visit with your doctor if you notice your symptoms are worsening or your asthma attacks are getting more frequent.

If you start using your quick-acting inhaler more often, that may be a sign that you need to revisit and revamp your treatment plan.

Asthma attacks can be life-threatening, so don't be afraid to go to the emergency room if you experience a rapid worsening of shortness of breath or wheezing that doesn't improve after using your quick-acting inhaler.

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