For a long time, people have often suspected food or food ingredients to exacerbate asthma symptoms. After many years of scientific and clinical investigation, it is known that there are very few confirmed food triggers.
There are many ‘triggers’ for asthma, and food or food ingredients are only one of the many triggers. Of the 3-4% of people who have asthma, only 1% of adults and 11% of children may have experienced food-induced asthma attacks.
A food allergy is an immune reaction by the body to specific allergens. There are different responses that the body can have. One of them can be constricted airways, as in asthma. Although food allergies may trigger asthma in a small number of people, not all individuals with food allergies have asthma. Though they have an increased risk of a rection.
Some known foods and food additives that can trigger a reaction include:
- Diagnosed food allergens:
- tree nuts
- fish and
- Food additives, sulfites and sulfiting agents
There are many different kinds of food additives used in the food industry.
There are five main reasons for their use:
- to maintain product consistency
- to improve of maintain nutritional value
- to maintain palatibility and wholesomeness
- to provide leavening or control acidity
- to enhance flavour or impart desired colour
Often we take for granted the benefits we get from food additives. Many negative aspects and controversy surrounding food additives but there are also many positive aspects that we forget.
Sulfites are sulfur-based preservatives and are a type of food additive.
They are used for many purposes in the food industry, the main ones are:
- to prevent the browning reaction that occurs in fruits and vegetables
- to stop bacterial growth in fermenting wine
Sulfites are found mainly in:
- dried fruits and vegetables
- some packaged potato products
- wine and beer
- bottled lemon or lime juice
- processed meats
- canned fish
- pickled foods
About 5% of asthmatics are allergic or sensitive to sulfites.
There has been some regulation of sulfites, products must be labelled if they contain sulfites, due to the reactions that can occur.
Asthmatics are more likely to be sensitive, not allergic, to these foods. Exposure occurs when the fumes of the sulfites are inhaled, and then airways are restricted.
There are other food additives that have been suspected but not conclusively linked to asthma, these include:
- tartrazine (food dye/colouring)(102)
- benzoates (food and drug preservative)(210)
- BHA and BHT (food preservatives)(butylated hydroxyanisol/hydroxytoluene)
- MSG (flavour enhancer)(621)
- aspartame (artificial sweetner)
- nitrite and nitrate (food preservatives)(251)
Food additives are all labelled on food packages, but they are number coded so often it is difficult to match the additive with the number. Sulfites are numbered 220 - 228
People who are sensitive to a specific food do not need to give up the food as often it is a ‘build up’ effect.
If you are diagnosed to be allergic to a specific food, then you probably need to avoid or eliminate that food completely. If you need to restrict a food you should see a dietitian to make sure you are not missing out on any nutrients.
If you suspect a food allergy or intolerance see your doctor.
Remember that most asthmatics do not react to food or food additives. And, all asthmatics should follow an overall healthy and balanced diet, and use the ‘Healthy Eating Pyramid’ as a guide.
Eat most: fruits, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals.
Eat in moderation: dairy foods, meat, fish, eggs, legumes and nuts
Eat Least: butter, margarines, oils, salt and sweets.