The Role of Plant-Based Diets in Asthma Prevention and Treatment

By Safiyyah Bazemore

New Research Cites Benefits of Plant-Based Diets For Asthma Treatment and Prevention

Asthma, the chronic disease of the lungs caused by inflamed and narrowed airways, is characterized by symptoms including shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. The respiratory condition affects over 300 million people around the world, and many suffer from exacerbations, or asthma attacks, that can be triggered by allergens, exercise, infections, drug reactions, and stress.

Conventional medicine maintains that there is no way to prevent asthma, but recent studies suggest that a diet rich in plant-based foods may help prevent or treat asthma and its symptoms.

Going Plant-Based for Prevention and Treatment

Until recently, nutritional therapy was not closely observed as part of an asthma management plan, but some scientists have suggested that the increased prevalence of the condition in developed countries over the last 30 years could be linked to diets shifting towards more processed foods, and the decreased consumption of fresh and vitamin and mineral-rich foods.

A new Nutrition Reviews report authored by researchers from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found evidence that eating plant-based foods and reducing animal product consumption might mitigate the risk of asthma development and potentially treat the condition’s symptoms.

The Role of Fibre

Increased fruit and vegetable intake may help lower chances of developing asthma and can reduce asthma symptoms, due in large part to these foods’ high fibre content. High dietary fibre might help to reduce inflammation in the lungs, and it acts on the gut microbiome to regulate immune responses. Research shows that a high-fibre diet may reduce mortality from respiratory disease by 60%. While animal products lack fibre, plant-based diets are naturally rich in fibre, owing to the prominence of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

Photo: Khamkor

Avoiding Dairy and Fatty Foods

Limiting or avoiding dairy products altogether and monitoring fat intake are recommended to manage and decrease asthmatic symptoms. Regular dairy consumption has been shown to be positively correlated to the likelihood of developing asthma, and studies suggest that dairy products increase respiratory hyperactivity and significantly decrease lung function.

High dietary fat intake has also been demonstrated to increase airway inflammation. Standard Western diets are characterized by high saturated fat, particularly through the consumption of animal products. Alternatively, Mediterranean dietary patterns⁠—which include an emphasis on fresh plant-based foods like legumes, vegetables, and whole grains, and low saturated fat, red meat, and sugar⁠—have been associated with decreased asthma symptoms and improved lung function.

Taking Additional Measures

Opting for a plant-based diet is just one piece of a plan for the prevention or treatment of asthma. Research also suggests that avoiding sugary beverages, maintaining a healthy body weight, and getting regular vaccinations are important steps in managing the disease.

Given that people suffering from asthma may be at significantly higher risk of getting COVID-19, adopting a plant-based diet is an additional safeguard against serious illnesses.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We advise readers to always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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