Asthma after Dinner? Dinner May Be the Culprit

by Abigail Lewis

What you eat can affect how you breathe

As someone who had childhood asthma, I know all too well how debilitating it can be. My childhood was crammed with medication for allergies and asthma that either knocked me out or kept me awake and jittery. If only I’d eaten more produce, I might have spared myself some of that rollercoaster ride.

You might not think that a lung problem relates to food consumption, but now researchers are discovering that asthma is influenced by what’s on our dinner plates. Studies show that heavy, high-fat meals lead to increased airway inflammation just hours after a binge, and also seem to inhibit the response to the asthma-reliever medication albuterol.

Fruit and vegetables, however, show a protective influence. They contain dietary fibers that are metabolized by gut bacteria, increasing the concentration of circulating short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that protect against allergic inflammation in the lungs. A team of Swiss researchers showed in experiments that a lack of fermentable fiber allows for greater allergic inflammatory reactions. In their study, mice that ate low-fiber food and were exposed to an extract of house dust mites developed a stronger allergic reaction with much more mucus in the lungs than mice with the standard diet.

We already knew that fermenting fibers play a significant role in preventing intestinal cancer, but this is the first time we’ve seen its connection to asthma. Which just goes to show that mom was right after all: we need to eat our fruits and vegetables.