• Denine Rogers

Go Further with Food Allergies and Asthma

Since this is the last post for National Nutrition Month and Spring is finally here, I felt that it time to talk about food allergies and asthma. When we thing of spring we usually think of green grass, short days and warm sunshine. But we also associate spring with flying pollen, asthma flare ups and constant allergic reactions. While most people do not think these things can be prevented, there are ways that they can be managed. This article discusses food allergies and asthma; even though food allergies and asthma are not a seasonal allergy it is still very important to educate members on how to manage their conditions.

Food Allergies

A food allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks a food protein.

Ingestion of the off ending food may trigger the sudden release of chemicals, including

histamine, resulting in symptoms of an allergic reaction. The symptoms may be mild (rashes, hives, itching, swelling, etc.) or severe (trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness, etc.). A food allergy can be potentially fatal and scientists estimate that approximately 12 million Americans suffer from food allergies. There is no cure for food allergies and research studies are inconclusive about whether food allergies can be prevented. A strict avoidance of the allergy-causing food is the only way to avoid a severe reaction. Reading ingredient labels for all foods is the key to steer clear of a reaction. If the product doesn’t have a food label, those with a food allergy should

not eat that food. If in doubt about the safety of a certain food, call the manufacturer

for more information and check our website listing information later in this article.

Common Food Allergens

There are eight foods that account for 90% of all food-allergic reactions. They are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy.


There are a few foods that trigger asthma problems. Sulfites and sulfiting agents in foods (found in dried fruits, prepared potatoes, wine, bottled lemon or lime juice, and shrimp), and diagnosed food allergens (such as milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish) have been found to trigger asthma symptoms. The incidence of asthma has risen in the United States during the past three decades, and many researchers believe that the changes in our diets have something to do with it. Several research studies have suggested that as Americans continue to eat fewer fruits and

vegetables and more processed foods, we are possibly running the risk developing asthma.

While the connection between diet and asthma remains inconclusive for now, there is evidence that people who eat diets higher in vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, flavonoids, magnesium, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids have lower rates of asthma. Many of these items contain antioxidants, which protect cells from damage.

The Role of Antioxidants

So what kinds of foods have antioxidants which can help asthma? Eating plenty and variety of fruits and vegetables is a great start. Also, foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids (i.e fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines as well as some plant sources like flaxseed), are believed to have a number of health benefits. Although evidence of the

specific benefits as it relates to asthma is not clear, it’s still a good idea to include them in your diet. Avoid trans fats and omega-6 fatty acids foods as there is some evidence that eating them in foods like margarine and processed foods, may worsen asthma.

Asthma & Food Allergy Support Resources

Below is a list of website resources that you can check out to assist members in managing food allergies and asthma. All of these resources will provide some

of the nutritional education needed for members with food allergies and asthma.

Asthma & Food Allergy Support Websites

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) www.foodallergy.org

Organization dedicated to improving public awareness for food allergies through education and research. FAAN’s membership now stands at approximately 25,000 worldwide and includes families, dietitians, nurses, physicians, school staff as well as representatives from government agencies and the food and pharmaceutical industries. FAAN serves as the communication link between the patient and others. FAAN has nutrition information on the eight common food allergens, how to manage food allergies tips such as shopping and selecting “safe foods”, eating at home, dining and traveling with food allergies and how to educate others.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) (approved for member use) www.aaaai.org

The AAAAI represents a dynamic and diverse group of medical professionals focused on advancing the knowledge and practice of allergic disease. Membership is open to all medical and research professionals, including pharmaceutical staffers, who have an interest in the area. AAAAI has nutritional material on Food Allergy-Free Recipes, an Asthma and Anaphylaxis Action Plan.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (approved for member use) http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FoodAllergens/default.htm

The FDA is a government agency which focuses on food allergens labeling and consumer alert on food allergens.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) www.aafa.org

Not-for-profit organization for people with asthma and allergies, which provides information, community based services and support groups. AAFA has a free asthma management and education course online for healthcare professionals, advocacy groups as well as a free asthma PACT educational guide.

International Food Information Council Foundation - Food Allergy Information (clinician use only)



A nonprofit organization that serves as a nutrition and food safety resource for consumers, health professionals, journalists, educators, government officials, and students. The International Food Information Council Foundation provides important and timely resources on a variety of topics such as weight management, diet (food) and health, food safety, food production, international food issues, and communications.

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