5 Surprising Foods That Can Trigger Asthma Attacks

Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition, affects millions of people worldwide. While managing asthma often involves medications and avoiding known allergens, diet can also play a critical role in triggering or alleviating symptoms.

1. Sulfite-containing foods

Understanding Sulfites and Their Effects

Sulfites are preservatives used in many foods and beverages to extend shelf life. They can cause severe asthma symptoms in sensitive individuals. Common sulfite-containing foods include:

  • Dried Fruits: Apricots, raisins, and prunes are often treated with sulfites to preserve their color and freshness.
  • Wine and Beer: These alcoholic beverages often contain sulfites as preservatives.
  • Pickled Foods: Pickles, sauerkraut, and other preserved vegetables can be high in sulfites.
  • Processed Potatoes: Frozen, dehydrated, or pre-cut potatoes often contain sulfites.

Why Sulfites Trigger Asthma

Sulfites can cause the airways to constrict, leading to difficulty breathing. They can also trigger other allergic reactions that exacerbate asthma symptoms. Asthma sufferers must read food labels carefully and avoid foods known to contain sulfites. Asthma Inhaler: Red Inhaler, Blue Inhaler

2. Dairy Products

The Connection Between Dairy and Asthma

Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are staples in many diets. However, they can be problematic for some individuals with asthma. The main issues arise from:

  • Lactose Intolerance: Many people with asthma are also lactose intolerant, and consuming dairy can lead to bloating, gas, and increased mucus production.
  • Allergic Reactions: Some individuals are allergic to proteins found in dairy, which can trigger asthma symptoms.

How Dairy Can Exacerbate Asthma Symptoms

Mucus production is a significant concern for asthmatics. Dairy products can increase the thickness and amount of mucus in the respiratory tract, making it harder to breathe. Avoiding or limiting dairy intake can help manage these symptoms effectively.

3. Processed Foods and Additives

Hidden Dangers in Processed Foods

Processed foods are convenient but often contain additives and preservatives that can trigger asthma. Key culprits include:

  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): Commonly found in fast foods, canned soups, and snacks, MSG can cause tightening of the airways.
  • Artificial Colorings and Flavorings: These chemicals can provoke allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
  • Nitrates and Nitrites: Used in processed meats like sausages, bacon, and hot dogs, these preservatives can exacerbate asthma symptoms.

Impact of Processed Foods on Respiratory Health

The additives in processed foods can cause inflammation in the airways, leading to increased asthma symptoms. A diet high in fresh, whole foods is recommended for better asthma management.

4. Foods High in Salicylates

What Are Salicylates?

Salicylates are natural compounds found in many fruits, vegetables, and spices. While generally safe, they can cause issues for some asthmatics. Foods high in salicylates include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Berries
  • Citrus Fruits
  • Spices such as thyme and oregano

Salicylates and Asthma Symptoms

For individuals sensitive to salicylates, consuming these foods can lead to asthma symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. It’s important to identify and avoid foods that trigger symptoms.

5. Shellfish and Seafood

The Risk of Seafood Allergies

Shellfish and seafood are common allergens that can trigger severe asthma attacks. The main types of shellfish include:

  • Shrimp
  • Crab
  • Lobster
  • Oysters

How Seafood Can Trigger Asthma

Seafood allergies can cause anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that includes asthma symptoms. Even inhaling steam from cooking shellfish can trigger a reaction in highly sensitive individuals. It is essential for people with known shellfish allergies to avoid these foods completely and carry an epinephrine auto-injector for emergencies.

Managing Asthma Through Diet

Identifying Food Triggers

Identifying and avoiding food triggers is a critical aspect of asthma management. Keeping a food diary can help track foods that cause symptoms, allowing for better control over asthma.

Consulting Healthcare Professionals

Before making any significant dietary changes, consult with healthcare professionals, including allergists and dietitians. They can provide personalized advice and ensure that nutritional needs are met while avoiding trigger foods.

Incorporating Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation in the airways and improve overall health.

Maintaining a Balanced Diet

A balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can strengthen the immune system and support respiratory health. Emphasizing fresh, whole foods over processed options is beneficial for managing asthma.


Understanding and managing dietary triggers is essential for individuals with asthma. By avoiding foods that can exacerbate symptoms, such as those containing sulfites, dairy products, processed foods with additives, high-salicylate foods, and shellfish, asthma sufferers can better control their condition. Always consult healthcare professionals for personalized advice and support.