Each day, nine Americans die from an asthma attack. Unfortunately, an increasing number of Americans have asthma. The current count is about 25 million people. Asthma has become the most common chronic disease in childhood. Theories about the rise in asthma include changes in dietary habits, environmental pollutants, indoor lifestyles, and an increase in obesity. Symptoms include a cough that’s typically worse at night and in the early morning, chest tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath, and increased respiratory rate.
1. Omega-Packed Salmon Fillets
How it works: The omega-3 fatty acids in high-oil fish, such as salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel, are anti-inflammatory. Studies suggest that diets higher in the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may improve asthma.
- 2 salmon fillets (6 to 8 ounces, or 170 to 225 g each)
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) olive oil
- 1 to 2 tablespoons (14 g) bread crumbs
- ½ teaspoon dried tarragon
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) Dijon mustard
- Pinch of paprika
- Lemon slices, for garnish
- DIRECTIONS: Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C, or gas mark 8). Rinse the salmon fillets and pat them dry. Lightly grease a glass baking dish with olive oil. Place the fish skin-side down in the dish. Mix the tarragon into the mustard and spread over the fish. Sprinkle each fillet with the bread crumbs and paprika. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until just past pink in the center. Top with the lemon slices and serve.
- YIELD: 02 SERVINGS
2. Antioxidant-Rich Waldorf Salad
How it works: Apples, grapes, and celery leaves are high in flavonoids (water-soluble plant pigments that benefit health) and vitamin C. Both are antioxidants. People with chronic lung conditions, such as asthma, often have low levels of antioxidants, perhaps because this inflammatory condition depletes them. One study found that vitamin C supplementation helped protect against exercise-induced asthma. Other studies have shown that more fresh fruit in the diet improves asthma. Also, the beneficial bacteria in yogurt promote gut health. Research increasingly suggests that abnormal resident “flora,” or bacteria, predispose people to asthma and other allergic conditions. Preliminary research suggests that some probiotic supplements improve airway responses. Whether eating yogurt improves asthma isn’t yet known, but it does seem to fortify immune function.
- 6 tablespoons (75 g) plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons (28 ml) fresh lemon juice
- ¹∕8 teaspoons each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup (100 g) chopped celery
- 1 cup (150 g) sliced seedless red grapes
- 2 large red sweet apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
- 1 cup (100 g) walnuts
- Pinch of paprika
- Celery leaves, for garnish
- DIRECTIONS: In a large bowl, whip the yogurt and lemon juice together. Stir in the salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, mix the celery, grapes, apple, and walnuts. Pour the yogurt mixture over the fruit mixture until fully covered. Stir to combine. Add a pinch of paprika to each serving. Garnish with celery leaves.
- YIELD: 04 SERVINGS
3. Carotene Booster
How it works: Pumpkins, yellow squash, carrots, bell peppers, and other orange-hued vegetables and fruits get their pigment from carotenoids, powerful antioxidants that reduce inflammation, support the immune system, and maintain respiratory linings. One study found that a supplement containing a mixture of carotenes helped to prevent exercise-induced asthma.
- 1 pumpkin (3 pounds, or 1.36 kg) washed, cut in half, and seeded
- ¹∕3 cups (80 ml) olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (28 ml) balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon (7 g) honey
- 1 tablespoon (14 g) unsalted butter
- DIRECTIONS: Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C, or gas mark 7). Cut the pumpkin into ten wedges. Put the wedges on a baking sheet. Mix the olive oil and vinegar together, pour over the pumpkin, and toss until the pumpkin is covered. Spread the wedges in a single layer across the sheet. Sprinkle each wedge with cinnamon. Roast for about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and top the inside of each wedge with a tiny pat of butter. Enjoy the pumpkin by scooping it out of the skin.
- YIELD: 4 TO 6 SERVINGS
4. Iced Coffee Pick-Me-Up
How it works: Several studies have shown that caffeine modestly improves lung function for up to 4 hours in people with asthma. Avoid late afternoon or evening intake, which could interfere with a good night’s sleep. Caffeine is related to theophylline, an asthma medication that helps open airways, reducing breathlessness.
- 2 cups (475 ml) water
- ¼ cup (55 g) ground dark roast coffee
- ¼ cup (78 g) sweetened condensed milk, divided
- 8 ice cubes
- DIRECTIONS: Brew the coffee. Pour half of the condensed milk into each of the two mugs. Divide the hot coffee between the mugs. Stir until the milk is dissolved. Fill two tall glasses with four ice cubes each. Gradually pour each portion of hot coffee over the ice and stir to chill (for a thinner, cooler drink, add more cubes). Enjoy!
- YIELD: 02 SERVINGS
5. Eucalyptus Chest Rub
How it works: Eucalyptus has anti-inflammatory, expectorant effects. It may also help open the airways by relaxing the encircling muscles. One study found that a special preparation taken internally eased asthma symptoms and reduced the need for medications. However, it is not safe to take eucalyptus essential oil by mouth. Plant essential oils are highly concentrated. Many are toxic when taken internally.
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) unscented lotion, olive oil, or (15 g) petroleum jelly
- 2 drops eucalyptus essential oil
- DIRECTIONS: Blend the lotion and essential oil in a small, clean jar. Rub the mixture onto your chest: Start with a small amount to see how you respond to eucalyptus. Inhale deeply as you work. You’re drawing some of those aromatic, medicinal oils into your lungs. Wash your hands thoroughly before touching your eyes, nose, or other sensitive mucous membranes. If you have any remaining rub, store it in the jar and cap tightly.
- YIELD: 1 ruB
6. Beneficial Tuna with Brazil Nuts
How it works: Brazil nuts and seafood are excellent sources of selenium, an antioxidant that works against inflammation. At least two studies have shown that people who consumed selenium in their diet were less likely to have asthma than were those who did not. Tuna is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation in the airways. One survey showed that families that ate oily fish high in omega-3s, such as tuna, sardines, and salmon, had a nearly three times lower percentage of children with asthma than families that did not.
- 4 tuna medallions (4 ounces, or 115 g each)
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup (33 g) crushed Brazil nuts
- Lemon wedges, for garnish
- DIRECTIONS: Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C, or gas mark 7). Rinse the tuna medallions and pat dry. Brush each side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roll the medallions in the crushed nuts. Coat a glass baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Bake the tuna for 15 to 20 minutes until the center is just past pink.
- YIELD: 04 SERVINGS
7. Turmeric Toddy
How it works: This Indian spice is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Preliminary research suggests that concentrated extracts of turmeric and other anti-inflammatory herbs can improve some aspects of asthma. The fat in milk can improve intestinal absorption of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric.
- 1 cup (235 ml) milk
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) ground turmeric
- DIRECTIONS: Heat the milk to your desired warmth, but do not boil it. Stir in the turmeric. Drink this mixture up to three times daily.
- YIELD: 01 SERVINGS
8. Aussie Steam
How it works: Inhaling steam helps to relax airways, increase circulation, and thin respiratory mucus, which makes it easier to expel. The eucalyptus is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and expectorant. A 2003 study found that an oral preparation of a key chemical in eucalyptus (eucalyptol) had an anti-inflammatory effect in people with asthma and reduced the need for steroids. (Plant essential oils, including eucalyptus essential oil, however, should not be taken by mouth.) NOTE: For some people with asthma, essential oil vapors trigger coughing
- 1 quart (946 ml) water
- 1 to 2 drops eucalyptus essential oil, or ¼ cup (6 g) crushed, dried eucalyptus leaves
Boil the water. Turn off the heat.
If using eucalyptus essential oil, remove the pot from the burner. First, try inhaling the steam. If steam alone doesn’t trigger asthmatic coughing, add 1 drop of eucalyptus oil. Lean in gradually. If the eucalyptus vapors don’t trigger coughing, you can add the second drop of essential oil. Cover your head with a clean towel to entrap the steam. Breathe through your mouth slowly and deeply for 1 to 2 minutes.
If using dried eucalyptus leaves, add them to the pot, cover, and steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the lid. If you no longer have steam, heat the liquid again—just to the boiling point—and remove it from the burner. Lean over the steam and cover your head with a clean towel. Breathe slowly and deeply. If the steam triggers coughing or seem to worsen your asthma in any way, stop.
- YIELD: 01 APPLICATION
Fact or Myth?
- PEOPLE WITH ASTHMA SHOULD NOT EXERCISE. Myth. Physical activity conditions the lungs, heart, muscle, bones, and brain. Enjoyable exercise is a great stress buster. Swimming is thought to be a good exercise for people with asthma because of the breathing patterns typical of that sport. If you have exercise-induced asthma, you may need to use your inhaler before you start. Check with your doctor about that. Cold, dry air can also aggravate asthma. In that case, indoor activities may be the ticket.
- Breathe clean air. Steer clear of smoke-filled rooms or of strong odors from perfume, air fresheners, or paint. On days of heavy pollen or outdoor pollution, stay indoors, close windows, and use air conditioning as necessary.
- Check out your allergic reactions. Eighty percent of people who suffer asthma attacks are allergic to airborne particles that come from mold, pollen, trees and grasses, animal dander, and cockroach droppings.