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Diet and Asthma

Hello everyone,I had moderately severe asthma since I was 7 years old. After I was diagnosed, my parents did the best they can to help me but as a child, it was not easy to remember to bring my inhaler to school. I wanted to be normal just like the other kids so during PE class for example, I would push myself to run as fast as I could then face the consequences later. Six  years ago, my pulmonologist told me that she was concerned with my lung capacity. She said that a person's lung capacity naturally declines but since I have asthma, I am already starting at a lower rate and could get worse if I don't take care of myself. That appointment was a wake up call for me. I haven't smoked in my life but I was doing things that made my asthma worse. I was no longer working out, I was eating more processed food especially sweets, I was stressed out a lot, and I was using harmful chemicals like bleach around the house. Since then, I have been working out 4x a week and eating healthier meals. I also switched to natural cleaning products, did my breathing exercises daily and made a conscious effort to not be stressed out. My lung capacity increased and my asthma attacks became less frequent. Last year, I joined my husband (who wanted to lose weight) in eating plant based meals during the week and having cheat meals during the weekend. I noticed a huge difference in my breathing. I didn't really think that my diet this will affect my asthma but it did. I am not vegan but I am eating a plant based diet. Right now, I am thinking of doing an experiment of switching to a completely plant based diet to see if my asthma will continue to improve. I am still hoping that the day will come when I don't have to use an inhaler or a nebulizer anymore. I'm in my thirties now but I'm still hopeful this can happen. Has anyone tried a plant-based diet? If so, has it helped your asthma? 

Thank you for taking the time to read.

 

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  • Shea

    Does a plant-based diet include cheese and milk and eggs? I have tried to eat meat in lesser amounts and less frequently, but I dont have that many proteins that both my 6 year old and I like (besides eggs, cheese, and milk–which I try not to do too much dairy but do like the calcium and protein). We have alot of food allergues, including nuts, soy, and legumes (like peas, beans). I have been trying to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, but it seems like the "people" are always changing what is good for you and not. I have heard a lot of success with paleo and that includes a lot of meats. 

    Our greatest success is just trial and error. My son loves sunflower butter (since we have nut allergies) and that is high protein and high B12. I love coffee and chocolate, lol… And I swear I crave coffee when my asthma is bad and it helps me (but we know coffee gets a bad rap). 

    I once tead this book called "eat right for your blood type" and I just loved it's philosophy– blood types evolved with people and some blood types originate from agrarian, some were hunters/gatherers, and it made a LOT of sense. Then when I was pregnant with my son, I would crave and be disgusted bt different foods and I learned that our body can sometimes know what we need at the time, and we just have to shut off that control valve and listen to it. But I do also believe that some chemicals snd dyes in foods can trick our bodies and minds into "wrong" cravings, so avoiding those types of chemicals I think is a good choice, so eating fresh, organic, high quality foods is good. 

     I have not found a perfect diet, nor a cure for my asthma, but I am becoming more mindful of what I eat and how it affects me, and which cravings to give into, and which to watch out for. 

    In my perfect world, I would have an organic fruit and vegetable garden in my backyard and a few cows, chickens, and pigs… Which I would not eat daily, but on occasion (like when the animal gets old after it raised its babies, but notvtoo old where it is diseased.) Then I would get to have everything in a natural proportion with no waste. I happen to be type A which evolved during agrarian times (type B is nomadic, and type O is hunter/paleo-type). But we are more unique than the blood type book gives credence to, because if one has diabetes or asthma or an athlete, or a desk-job whatever, they are going to eat not just for their blood-type and history, but for their lifestyle and disease as well. 

    I think there are many benefits to eating more plant-based, and less processed foods– I think it gives more vitamins and nutrients per calorie for one. I would love to hear recipes you find that you like too! 

     

  • Kathy P

    Welcome @Faye! That's awesome that you've been able to make so much improvement in you asthma with diet and exercise! I know for myself, exercise has made improvement….but it's a challenge since I have exercise induced asthma! 

    Anything we can do to be healthier overall is a good thing .

  • Shea

    I made this today… It is swirly pasta made of rice, quinoa, and corn, with some chopped veggies, havarte cheese cubes, and olives, and a soy-free italian dressing. Im bringing it to my parent's house today, along with some frozen soanakopita spinach and feta phyllo appetizers, and some uncured canadian bacon (my sister is vegetarian, but my dad likes meat, so he can easily add the canadian bacon to his pasta salad). I also bring some plain veggies and cheese for my son. I try to please them all–but mostly– I like it all

  • K8sMom2002

    Welcome @Faye! I'm with Kathy — anything that improves our health is a good thing!

    It sounds like you're doing a lot of good things — trying to improve your diet by adding more veggies, de-stressing and trying to remove things that trigger your asthma. 

    I know that after my May 2016 asthma flare (really, really bad) and a bout with pneumonia, my lung capacity seemed to fall off a cliff. It took me a long time to get anywhere near my baseline, but doing exercise as approved by my doc (walking every day at least) really helped. 

    It's hard to keep with changes, even when we KNOW they make us feel better. So we're here for you as you work to make at least some of these changes lasting ones. We have a couple of thread that might encourage you – 

    (we post our dinners on there to help us swap tips to make healthy eating easier)

     - a thread where we try to encourage each other to stay active in whatever way we can.

  • Faye

    Hi @Shea! A plant based diet does not include dairy or eggs. But I am not vegan. I always make it clear to my friends and family because I don't think it's wrong to eat meat. I just tell them that I feel better eating more plants and if they want to they can try it as well. Thanks for sharing your insights. I agree with you on being mindful on what we eat and how we feel because our bodies will tell us. I have not read the book you mentioned but it sounds interesting. I was looking through my pinterest boards for recipes that you and your son might like but the recipes I like to eat usually includes beans and legumes. But I have some snack or meal ideas for you. I like making oatmeal for breakfast and adding fruits like bananas or whatever is in season. Does he like avocados? I slice up some avocados and put it on toast, season it with salt and pepper, and add cucumbers and tomatoes as a snack. I started eating more grains like quinoa, barley, couscous, and farro because these are high protein and filling. 

  • Faye

    Hi @Kathy P! I have exercise induced asthma as well. Do you workout from home too? I used to go the gym years ago because I like the Zumba classes. But I am always gasping for breath and when I stop too often I don't get the full workout benefit. Right now I am doing Beach Body on Demand that way I can pause it anytime

  • Faye

    Hi Cynthia! I'm glad to hear your lung capacity has improved. Your consistency pays off. It's encouraging to read your responses as I don't have friends who have asthma. I wish I knew about this forum earlier. Thanks for sharing the threads as well. I will definitely check them out. 

  • Shea

    Thank you for the recipe ideas Faye! I have had some success with oatmeal, and fruits too. Dinners with protein and getting veggies in are the hardest. I am interested in quinoa recipes because I have read about its benefits. I like stuffed peppers with quinoa but my son didn't… But if you have any favorites or links to them, post them here or on the what's for dinner thread that @K8sMom2002 posted a link above for, I would love to incorporate more of those high-protein grains and veggies into our diets. I am with Kathy on the exercises induced asthma difficulties-light exercise is where I am at right now, which is another reason I try to eat well, because those high calorie burning exercises can get me winded and wheezing!

  • Kathy P

    Totally understand on the public workout thing! Not my thang!

    I do some yoga videos/streaming or just do my own set of poses. My main exercise is cycling. I'm still learning how to deal with everything.

  • K8sMom2002

    Faye, sounds like a great approach! I like a minimalist approach when it comes to exercise: the less equipment, less travel, and less money I have to sink into something, the fewer excuses I have for not doing it! Can't wait to have you chime in on our  thread!

    Ditto on food — I have found ourselves slipping when it comes to veggies, but everything my mom told me about eating veggies has turned out to be true! You really have to be mindful just to get the minimum amount of veggies in each day. 

    Shea, one thing to keep in mind about food — sometimes the package directions aren't the way you like to eat it. Take for instance grits (back when I could eat them, before my DD was diagnosed with a corn allergy.) Most grits packages will instruct you to cook the grits for a really short amount of time and with a really small amount of water, compared to what they need. They turn out to taste like wet sand.

    To cook grits so that they're perfectly creamy with no "grit," you have to use lots more water, cook them longer, or use a steam approach where you cook it in excess water, then let them "steam" in their own heat.

    When I first tried millet grits, I followed the package directions. Tasted exactly like the worst grits I've ever had. So I used my traditional grits approach, and they tasted good. 

    Same thing with most any veggie — I dislike steamed broccoli, which is the way most people tell you to fix it. But roasting broccoli? Yum!

    So could you experiment with cooking techniques?

  • Megan Roberts

    Hey @Faye I'm taking the same approach as you: eating plant-based, getting as much exercise as possible, reducing exposure to triggers, eliminating synthetic ingredients as much as possible. I am technically vegetarian right now as I still eat some dairy but I'm trying to reduce it. I too am interested in the benefits to my respiratory and overall health. And the reduction of inflammation from animal sources.

    Like you, I am just trying to eat the best way I can f or myself. I have found a lot of plant proteins and substitutions for the dairy products I love with the exception of yogurt. I haven't found anything that's not godawful so far!! Like literally, I throw the whole thing out after one bite it's so bad. I do use a plant-based protein powder in shake form twice a day (I use vega which is a combo of plant sources), but I'm also trying to gain muscle mass so my protein needs are greater than most. 

    @Shea I read that book as well when it came out (like 17 years ago?) and it really resonated with me as well. It was just a completely different concept than the usual theories you hear about diet (typically some incarnation of the low carb atkins/zone/paleo/keto/ which are largely based on research funded by the meat and dairy industries). It is really hard to eat plant-based all the time when you're allergic to nuts and legumes, two of the best plant sources of protein, but you do have some options. And eating plant-based sometimes is still better than eating meat for every meal, if that's what you're going for. What about some of the ancient grains — many of those are protein packed. Also, seitan, or stretched wheat gluten is a protein source, and you can make it yourself (and freeze). I have sold it to picky eaters by describing it more of a bread than a meat-substitute. 

    I also love your concept of going local and preparing/growing your own foods. In a perfect world, I would do that too, but in the real world, I am almost never home!! Maybe someday.

    @Faye so nice to meet you in the forums! Love this topic — I really believe diet has been making a difference in my asthma symptoms, as well. 

  • Shea

    Yes that bloodtype book is old– I didnt realize how old until you said that Megan, now I feel old! I have been reading a new book called Think and Eat yourself Smart by Dr. Caroline Leaf and it is really about being mindful of what we eat and how it affects our bodies, minds, spirit, and environment. It just motivated me to kerp trying new dishes that are in line with my health and wellness and values. 

    So I tried mashed butternut squash with cinnamon and cumin and roasted the seeds and sprinkled them on top– used ghee in it and also made steamed carrots…. I liked it but not Tommy. Darn. He ate a piece of potato bread and 2 carrots for dinner :/   … Later my parents made bananas and icecream and he ate that, so at least he got a little more in that. 

    But earlier for breakfast/lunch he ate a hard-boiled egg and a grapefruit and blackberries and a sunbutter jelly sandwich with chocolate milk. So.. I think Im getting him his nutrition, but I am still working hard on the veggies–Im going to keep trying things! 

  • K8sMom2002

    Shea, good for you when it comes to trying new things! For awhile there, I was trying a new veggie a month, seeing if it was something that a) my family liked and b) we could afford it. 

    When it comes to butternut squash, we liked it. But it tasted so much like sweet potatoes that we decided sweet potatoes would be easier and cheaper! 

    A few food finds that we really liked that I try to squeeze into our budget on occasion:

    • tomatillos (yum!)
    • rhubarb
    • leeks

    As for getting kiddos to eat more veggies … I have to say that I've used my mom's approach with great success. I was a picky kiddo, made all the more picky by health issues that left me without a real appetite.

    Here are some of my mom's approaches:

    • She gave me plenty of opportunities to try the food without pressure — even if I didn't like it, she would continue to serve it.
    • She would serve it first with something I really liked.
    • Later she would serve it with something I didn't like at all — I would wind up picking a "lesser evil" which later turned out to help me like that "lesser evil" better.
    • She allowed it to "hang out" on my plate — she was willing to "waste" a tablespoon of food in order for me to be exposed to it, even if I didn't try it or even if I didn't like it if I did try it.
    • When I did try something and didn't like it, she would nod and say, "That's okay. We were just checking to see if you were "big enough" yet to like it. When you get "big enough," you'll like it.
    • She talked about the qualities she liked about the food:
      • It helped a certain body part grow stronger or get better (carrots for eyes; greens for teeth and bones; oranges, tomatoes, etc., for skin and the immune system)
      • What she liked best about the taste — greens were sweet to her, for instance. It took me years of trying greens before I could "taste" the sweetness, but I kept trying to find that sweetness.
    • She realized that sometimes I wasn't going to be hungry and I wasn't going to eat … she would put that food away, then later when I was hungry, she would pull it out and serve it again.
      • This was before microwaves, mind you, so I learned that food was better warm and fresh the first time!  
      • But in all honesty, this is a good approach — reheat it and let them have another try at it when they are hungry. 
  • LK

    Cynthia, Your mother was absolutely brilliant!!  What a wise mother!  I bet you are, too! 

    I especially like the part of saving the food and having it later if the child is hungry.  They learn that just because they don't eat dinner they don't get something else that they like better later.

  • Shea

    I loooooove those tips K8SMOM! 

    I think I like mashed sweet potatoes better than mashed butternut squash too. 

    It certainly messes with the budget when I buy stuff that goes to waste :/  But that is sometimes the only way to learn and to find things that do work!

    Do you have a good leek recipe? And/or for tomatillos?–Ive never had those before.

    He has not tried those yet. Greens are especially difficult–so far Tommy only likes cucumbers and green bell peppers snd occassionally asparagus (sometimes I can hide zucchini in baked goods but Im not sure it retains its vitamins that way).

    My food stamps got taken away starting next month because I am moving into a home where it eont be as much for rent–I swear there is no getting ahead on the welfare system… I didnt get much anyways since getting social security, but I still have expenses galore, and every little bit helped            One day I will figure everything out. 

  • Megan Roberts

    Wow, K8smom2002, I am seriously impressed with your mom's strategies! 

    What about vegan Shea? MMmmmm… creamy without the use of dairy!

    For tomatillos, they are good for a that can be used on or in a number of things! 

    Also, I'm going to check out the book you mentioned. Sounds right up my alley! 

  • Faye

    Update:

    Hello everyone. I started writing about my asthma journey months ago. My goal is to inspire people with asthma to take actions to improve their health by managing their triggers such as eating healthier, exercising, journaling, following their asthma plan, etc. I consider you all my online support group.

    Thank you so much.

  • K8sMom2002

    Woohoo, Faye! What a great thing to do! Journaling is a wonderful way to see improvement over time, and it can help with so many things. 

    I love your goal to inspire people!   That encouragement is so important! I know for me, I start off with the idea that I'm going to do ten different things at once to improve my lifestyle, and then I fall off the wagon with a decided thud.

    What are some things that have "stuck" with you over the past few months? What changes have you been able to make to your diet, for instance?

  • Faye

    I hear you. Sometimes when I want to make a big change, I try to do too many things and get overwhelmed. My husband immediately notices it and he tells me you're doing too much. I told him to keep doing that because I don't catch myself at times.One thing that has changed are my taste buds. My husband knows that I do not love veggies. I like certain veggies but I don't crave them. Since I started eating a plant based diet, I have been craving veggies and healthier food like quinoa, lentils, etc. It took awhile though. It's almost two years but it took some time. Whenever I eat out with friends and family, I try my best to eat as close to a plant based diet but if I happen to eat non plant based food items, I don't stress about it. For example, last week my brother and his wife visited us and they wanted to eat a steakhouse. He was kind enough to ask me if I'm okay with it. I said yes because I know I have some options there and this is their vacation so I didn't want to be pain. They ordered steaks and I had a bunch of sides (broccoli, rice, asparagus, bread). I didn't realize that they put butter on the broccoli and bread until I was already eating it but I didn't want to be a pain and order another one. I just told myself I'll eat better tomorrow. Do you have a specific health goal you are working on right now? 

  • K8sMom2002

    What a great approach to your dinner out! Sometimes the sides are tastier than the main meal — and a lot cheaper! Oops on the butter. Have you ever thought about creating a chef's card that says, "I have medical issues that require me to avoid …" and list your "avoids?" We do that for DD's food allergies. It really helps when eating out. 

    I hear you on the time it takes to acquire a taste for veggies, especially if your lifetime diet has been mashed potatoes and canned veggies. My DH was like that … he'd never eaten fresh asparagus until he married me, and the first time he tried it, he did NOT like it.

    But he eventually came around, and now he loves asparagus. I'm hoping my DD will one day like it, too!

    I was not a veggie fan myself, growing up. But I do like veggies now! 

    I guess my health goals would be:

    1. To eat more veggies – I'd love to have a more Mediterranean type diet
    2. To eat less junk food – I've picked up some mighty bad habits lately
    3. To exercise more

    But I think you may be onto something by adding one thing at a time. DD and I have decided that we will try to up our veggie intake so that we crowd out our appetite for junk food. 

    What are some obstacles you have for adding more veggies to your diet? How do you get past them?

  • Brenda Silvia-Torma

    Faye, I know what you mean when you say that your taste buds changed…I recently noticed that mine have too. I've been eating Fage yogurt now for about a year and I recently had my husband's Chobani yogurt and it was sooooo sweet!

    I'm so glad you've found a diet that has helped you to improve your breathing and reduce your asthma symptoms! 

    Brenda

  • Faye

    Hi Cynthia,Thanks for your suggestion. I might do that to make it easier for the servers/waiters to understand my dietary restrictions. Way to go for encouraging your husband to eat more veggies. I think that it is easier to eat veggies when they are cooked and seasoned properly. It seems like you got this one down.You have doable goals and it's great that you already have them even before the New Year starts. I know you can accomplish these especially because you have been working on them. Do you write down New Year's resolutions? just curious because  do…My obstacles were how to make veggies taste good. My husband has helped a lot on this because we always says you don't have to follow the recipe all the time. He's right. We have been adding other spices or even switching up the cooking method to see if it tastes better. I like trying new recipes each week to keep things interesting.

     

  • Faye

    Hi Brenda,Are you trying to cut down on sugar like myself? I agree that Chobani is pretty sweet. I think it's amazing your taste buds adapted to the change pretty quickly. 

  • MizWheezie

    Re: Getting your Child to eat more Veggies…

    * Have you tried "sneaking" some greens like spinach or kale into a Fruit Smoothie?

    * Have you tried getting your child to go with you to the grocery store to select and then help cook some veggies as an "experiment?" – I've always read that when a child helps "prepare" their meals (especially veggies), they will be more likely to eat them – *Wink-Wink* 

  • Shea

    Thank you all for the ideas.

    Tommy always comes with me to the grocery and we pick out veggies together… But no, he is seldom interested in helping me prep dinners– and I did have him help break the stems on the asparagus but he does not like and refuses to eat asparagus still. Also no to zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower (plain, cheesy, any style, always no's from him even after multiple attempts at different ages… He is 7 now).

    He will eat homemade guacamole (dies that count as a green? Lol– I think avacado is technically a fruit but I dont know), mashed potatoes, cooked carrots, cooked bell peppers and onion, and spring mix lettuces. 

    He got sick after eating a fruit smoothing 2 out of 2 times, so I dont do them anymore– I have fruit allergies and he has a melon allergy and oral food allergy syndrome to a lot of fruits and veggies, so that may be why smoothies dont work for him (and why I am not big on them– most recipes call for something Im allergic to). I usually cook the veggies, and bake fruits. 

    He did enjoy the potato soup I made a few nights ago and for the meats he likes certain specific types like boars head brand beef hot dogs or all beef cocktail weiners, homemade meatloaf and sometimes homemade pork (like pork schnitzel or pork tenderloin) and he has a soy allergy so there are certain newmans own cheese pizza that is soyfree that he likes and I will cut up fresh peppers and onions and put them on top (but no to spinach for him). So we are slowly finding things he eats and likes. But sunbutter jelly sandwiches will always be his favorite  

  • Melissa G

    Sorry, Shea, but I agree with Tommy, I say no to asparagus. My dh loves it but I do not. Josh is my picky one. He is getting some better with age. I think one day, the switch will flip and they will eat lots of things they wouldn't. 

  • Breatheeasy

    I am allergic or atleast my asthma gets worse when I eat some foods. I eliminated everything and started eating some foods that I hope I am not allergic to.

    recently though I tried something new and got a flare up so I am back to eating only carrots, potatoes and spinach and beans & lentils for protein and rice for carbs. I was hoping I’d do well on millets and squash but they made me flare up. I wasn’t allergic to squash or millets or soy. But I am now.

    Nothing else makes me feel good. 

  • Breatheeasy

    The mantra for getting the most of what you eat is try and get all colours into your food. for e.g. Red – beets, green leafies, squash whatever you can tolerate(I try and try but can’t  tolerate it). Try and get atleast 3 colours into your diet everyday. And of course the best thing for antioxidants is fruit. Which I am trying as I am allergic to most of the fruit. Berries in particular are very good. 

    And of course clean water and some fats for deriving vitamins. 

  • Breatheeasy

    Nope I am allergic to most fruit. I have grown allergic to berries too now. 

    Before that I liked them in my cereal or just snacked on them whenever I could. I enjoyed making yogurt and berry smoothies.

  • Dar007

    I used to love bananas. They were a good snack I could bring anywhere. One day I was writing a microbiology exam and in the middle had a bad reaction. So allergic to them now. Which sad. I miss them. Love this thread! Trying to get in better shape and I keep reading how what you eat is SO important. 

  • Shea

    Tommy sometimes reacts to different things with itchy mouth or skin. I have lots of fruit allergies. I have been reading up on fruits and they often test positive for high in molds and funguses– there are some other foods too. Simetimes it depends on if its fermented or where its from. So for me, it is not really good advice to eat lots of fruits like the doctors say… And I listen to Tommy when he says something makes him itchy– it is usually something on tbis list of foods that cross-reacts with his ragweed allergies or it is one of the foods often listed as high in molds.

     

  • Breatheeasy

    Yep that the biggest challenge. Food contamination. And of course the amount of pesticides on/in the food is also a concern I guess. Also nuts and grains can have mold. And it’s uaually not killed by heat or cooking it. I am allergic to mold and ragweed. Ragweed is my biggest problem with constant itchy throat, nose and almost causes mild anaphylaxis. 

  • K8sMom2002

    Breatheeasy, love your suggestion about getting all the colors of the rainbow in!

    I think it was Deborah who shared a recipe that had spinach or broccolini in it, and since then, I've been tossing in frozen spinach into nearly everything. Even several handfuls wind up looking like herbs. And it really doesn't change the taste of the dish at all. 

  • Breatheeasy
    K8sMom2002 posted:

    Breatheeasy, love your suggestion about getting all the colors of the rainbow in!

    I think it was Deborah who shared a recipe that had spinach or broccolini in it, and since then, I've been tossing in frozen spinach into nearly everything. Even several handfuls wind up looking like herbs. And it really doesn't change the taste of the dish at all. 

    I love spinach! I eat it in everything too and use carrots to sweeten a dish instead of sugar. 

  • Shea

    I like sauteed spinach– putting it in an omelette or homemade lasagna… And I like broccoli too if cooked right… I miss the broccoli quiches I used to get at Barnes and Noble before the dogs took over the store. I just have to learn to make them on my own.