Eat Away Your Asthma

PHOTO: An Indiana University review finds that many foods might stave off the symptoms of exercise-induced asthma.
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An Indiana University review finds that many foods might stave off the symptoms of exercise-induced asthma.

"Asthma is a disease of chronic inflammation in the airways, and most foods Americans eat contribute to this inflammation," says study co-author Sally Head, a medical student at Indiana University. We're not telling you to leave your inhaler at home, of course -- but choosing the right foods may help you use it less often. Here's what might affect your asthma.

Salt

A University of Colorado study found that people who maintained a low-salt diet (between 1,300 to 1,500 mg/day) had improved breathing post-exercise than those who followed a high-sodium diet. Why? Scientists believe sodium infiltrates smooth muscle cells like those in your lungs, and upsets the calcium levels. This imbalance triggers the cells to contract, causing labored breathing.

Though more research is needed to determine how big of a role salt plays in lung function, it doesn't hurt to cut back your sodium intake. Seventy-seven percent of Americans' salt intake comes from restaurant and processed meals—foods you should avoid anyway. And you should especially steer clear of these 25 NEW Saltiest Foods in America—some of which contain more than 4,000 milligrams!

25 NEW Saltiest Foods in America

Antioxidants

Asthma patients are known to generate more free radicals—chemicals that may produce mucous and cause the lungs and airway to narrow. Even worse, asthmatics tend to be deficient in antioxidants, which fight off the damaging effects of these molecules.

An Israeli study found that people who took a mega dose (64 mg/day) of beta-carotene for a week only had a 5 percent decrease in forced expiratory volume, a measurement of lung function, after exercising compared to a 25 percent drop for those taking a placebo. Five servings of fruits and vegetables (think: dark leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe) daily can provide up to 8 mg of beta-carotene. The Institute of Medicine recommends consuming between 3 mg to 6 mg per day.

Another study found that when participants took 30 mg of lycopene for a week, their asthma attacks weren't as severe when compared to no treatment. (Doctors recommend anywhere from 2 to 30 mg daily.) Ask your doctor about introducing a supplement into your diet, and fill up on lycopene-loaded fruits like watermelon (9 to 13 milligrams of lycopene in 1.5 cups) and tomatoes (3 mg in a medium tomato). Click here to discover 5 more nutrients you're not getting enough.

Click here to discover 5 more nutrients you're not getting enough.

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More from Men's Health:

The 10 Best Over-The-Counter Meds

5 Myths about Antioxidants

6 Power Foods You Should Be Eating

The 18 Best Supplements for Men

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