You can’t magically cure yourself of your asthma symptoms by eating special foods. But the food you eat can have an influence. Some may even make your asthma symptoms worse. Not everyone will react the same way to the same foods, of course, but it may be worth closely monitoring your reaction to certain foods and avoiding them if necessary.
Many kinds of dried fruit include sulfites, which are preservatives designed to stretch out the shelf life of the food—and one of the most problematic additives in foods for many people with asthma. Read the package for words like “potassium bisulfite” and “sodium sulfite” to determine if those dried cherries or apricots may trigger an asthma flare.
Many kinds of wine and beer also contain those pesky sulfites. You may have to forsake that glass of cabernet if you find yourself coughing or wheezing after indulging. Some research also suggests that histamines in wine can cause symptoms like watery eyes, sneezing and wheezing.
Frozen or prepared shrimp could be risky for you. If you suspect that sulfites are once again the culprit, you’re right! Frozen shrimp—and other seafood—often contain sulfites because they discourage the growth of unappetizing black spots. If you’re eating out, be sure you don’t accidentally eat something that’s been cooked in a broth made with shrimp or other shellfish.
You may need to toss the pickle included with your deli sandwich. Pickled foods tend to contain sulfites as preservatives, as do fermented foods like sauerkraut. Watch out for relishes, horseradish sauce, and even salad dressing mixes for the same reason.
The next time you’re tempted to make mashed potatoes from a mix, think again. Take a look at the ingredients list on the package. Sure, that package contains potatoes, maybe some vegetable oil, some salt, perhaps some whey powder or dried nonfat milk, but further on down the list, you’ll probably spot a preservative like sodium bisulfite. The sulfites strike again! Opt for a whole potato that you can toss in the oven instead. Don’t forget to pierce it with a fork a few times first.
They look so beautiful, like brightly-colored jewels in a glass jar, but anyone with asthma who’s sensitive to sulfites should just admire maraschino cherries from afar. Canned fruits and bottled fruit juices—such as lemon and lime juice—may also contain preservatives that could trigger bronchospasms or other symptoms of asthma.
You’re probably already on high alert for foods that you know you’re allergic to. Keep on keepin’ on, since those foods may also play a role in triggering asthma attacks. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reports the foods that cause the majority of allergic reactions include tree nuts, wheat, soy, peanuts, eggs, fish, shellfish and cow’s milk. If you’re allergic to any of those foods, definitely avoid eating them—or anything that’s cross-contaminated by them.