Last Updated: August 16, 2022

Asthma is a lung condition characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the airways, which results in episodes of wheezing and breathlessness. Asthma can be worsened by environmental exposures, such as allergens, cold air, exercise, viral/bacterial infections, and some drugs. Diet and supplementation may alleviate asthma by way of reducing inflammation.

Asthma falls under theLungs & Breathingcategory.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the airways.[1] People with asthma experience recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing.[2] These episodes are often worse in the mornings and evenings.

What are the main signs and symptoms of asthma?
  • Inflammation and tissue remodeling of the lower airway.
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in the chest[3]
How is asthma diagnosed?

Asthma is diagnosed through a combination of clinical and laboratory tools. Typically, a diagnosis is formed from a combination of patient history, a physical examination of the lungs using a stethoscope, and lung function tests (e.g., spirometry, peak expiratory flow, and response to an inhaler).[4] Since allergens can provoke immune responses that worsen the symptoms of asthma, clinicians may also do allergy tests.

What are some of the main medical treatments for asthma?

Inhalers are the primary medical treatment for asthma. During acute exacerbations, inhaled short-acting beta-agonists (SABAs), such as albuterol/salbutamol, are considered the primary tool for managing asthma.[5] As their name suggests, these drugs bind to β2 adrenergic receptors and cause the smooth muscles in the bronchi to relax and open.[6][5] If asthma is classified as “intermittent” or worse, inhaled long-acting beta-agonists (LABAs) and glucocorticoids can be used for more continuous or daily treatment.[7]

Have any supplements been studied for asthma?

A handful of supplements have been studied for asthma, but much more research is needed. Magnesium, coleus-forskohlii, pycnogenol, and saffron have all been the subject of a few studies that suggest they modestly improve asthma symptoms.

How could diet affect asthma?

There are several noteworthy connections between diet and asthma. Consumption of fruit-and-vegetable and dairy have all been correlated with a reduced risk of asthma.[8] Additionally, switching from a proinflammatory diet (such as the Western diet) to a less inflammatory diet (such as the mediterranean-diet) may reduce the risk of asthma.[9] Finally, there is evidence that alterations to the microbiome (e.g., by antibiotic use early in life) may increase the risk of asthma later in life.[10]

Are there any other treatments for asthma?

Alongside inhalers, avoiding triggers is a major part of asthma treatment. Ideally, people with asthma should keep track of environments, activities, and substances that make their asthma worse and avoid them. If exposure is unavoidable, bring and use an inhaler. In general, it is recommended to carry an inhaler at all times.

What causes asthma?

The cause of asthma is unclear, but it’s likely a combination of genetics and environment.[1] Acute episodes of asthma can be caused by exposure to allergens (e.g., dust mites, mold, pollen), exposure to nonallergens (e.g., cold air, household chemicals, smoke/pollution), and exercise.

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  1. ^The content of this page was partially adapted from MedlinePlus of the National Library of Medicine
  2. ^National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (US)National Asthma Education and Prevention Program, Third Expert Panel on the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. Expert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma(2007-08)
  3. ^James W MimsAsthma: definitions and pathophysiologyInt Forum Allergy Rhinol.(2015 Sep)
  4. ^Emily P Brigham, Natalie E WestDiagnosis of asthma: diagnostic testingInt Forum Allergy Rhinol.(2015 Sep)
  5. ^National Asthma Education and Prevention ProgramExpert Panel Report 3 (EPR-3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma-Summary Report 2007J Allergy Clin Immunol.(2007 Nov)
  6. ^S E LibrettoA review of the toxicology of salbutamol (albuterol)Arch Toxicol.(1994)
  7. ^ Global Initiative for AsthmaGlobal Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention (2021 update)(2021)
  8. ^Jihad Alwarith, Hana Kahleova, Lee Crosby, Alexa Brooks, Lizoralia Brandon, Susan M Levin, Neal D BarnardThe role of nutrition in asthma prevention and treatmentNutr Rev.(2020 Nov 1)
  9. ^Laurent Guilleminault, Evan J Williams, Hayley A Scott, Bronwyn S Berthon, Megan Jensen, Lisa G WoodDiet and Asthma: Is It Time to Adapt Our Message?Nutrients.(2017 Nov 8)
  10. ^Jessica Stern, Jennifer Pier, Augusto A LitonjuaAsthma epidemiology and risk factorsSemin Immunopathol.(2020 Feb)
  11. ^D Kromhout, A Keys, C Aravanis, R Buzina, F Fidanza, S Giampaoli, A Jansen, A Menotti, S Nedeljkovic, M PekkarinenFood consumption patterns in the 1960s in seven countriesAm J Clin Nutr.(1989 May)
  12. ^Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvadó J, Covas MI, Corella D, Arós F, Gómez-Gracia E, Ruiz-Gutiérrez V, Fiol M, Lapetra J, Lamuela-Raventos RM, Serra-Majem L, Pintó X, Basora J, Muñoz MA, Sorlí JV, Martínez JA, Fitó M, Gea A, Hernán MA, Martínez-González MA, PREDIMED Study InvestigatorsPrimary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil or NutsN Engl J Med.(2018 Jun 21)
  13. ^Courtney Davis, Janet Bryan, Jonathan Hodgson, Karen MurphyDefinition of the Mediterranean Diet; a Literature ReviewNutrients.(2015 Nov 5)
Examine Database References
  1. Asthma Symptoms - Stickford JL, Mickleborough TD, Fly AD, Stager JMConjugated linoleic acid's lack of attenuation of hyperpnea-induced bronchoconstriction in asthmatic individuals in the short termInt J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab.(2011 Feb)
  2. Asthma Symptoms - Fernando Holguin, Hartmut Grasemann, Sunita Sharma, Daniel Winnica, Karen Wasil, Vong Smith, Margaret H Cruse, Nancy Perez, Erika Coleman, Timothy J Scialla, Loretta G QueL-Citrulline increases nitric oxide and improves control in obese asthmaticsJCI Insight.(2019 Dec 19)
  3. Asthma Symptoms - Kazaks AG, Uriu-Adams JY, Albertson TE, Shenoy SF, Stern JSEffect of oral magnesium supplementation on measures of airway resistance and subjective assessment of asthma control and quality of life in men and women with mild to moderate asthma: a randomized placebo controlled trialJ Asthma.(2010 Feb)
  4. Asthma Symptoms - Gontijo-Amaral C, Ribeiro MA, Gontijo LS, Condino-Neto A, Ribeiro JDOral magnesium supplementation in asthmatic children: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trialEur J Clin Nutr.(2007 Jan)
  5. Asthma Symptoms - Bede O, Surányi A, Pintér K, Szlávik M, Gyurkovits KUrinary magnesium excretion in asthmatic children receiving magnesium supplementation: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind studyMagnes Res.(2003 Dec)
  6. Asthma Symptoms - Fogarty A, Lewis SA, Scrivener SL, Antoniak M, Pacey S, Pringle M, Britton JOral magnesium and vitamin C supplements in asthma: a parallel group randomized placebo-controlled trialClin Exp Allergy.(2003 Oct)
  7. Asthma Symptoms - Boskabady MH, Javan H, Sajady M, Rakhshandeh HThe possible prophylactic effect of Nigella sativa seed extract in asthmatic patientsFundam Clin Pharmacol.(2007 Oct)
  8. Asthma Symptoms - Han A, Shi DThe efficacy of Nigella sativa supplementation for asthma control: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies.Postepy Dermatol Alergol.(2021-Aug)
  9. Asthma Symptoms - Gupta I, Gupta V, Parihar A, Gupta S, Lüdtke R, Safayhi H, Ammon HPEffects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with bronchial asthma: results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, 6-week clinical studyEur J Med Res.(1998 Nov 17)
  10. Asthma Symptoms - G Belcaro, R Luzzi, P Cesinaro Di Rocco, M R Cesarone, M Dugall, B Feragalli, B M Errichi, E Ippolito, M G Grossi, M Hosoi, S Errichi, U Cornelli, A Ledda, G GizziPycnogenol® improvements in asthma managementPanminerva Med.(2011 Sep)
  11. Asthma Symptoms - Hosseini S, Pishnamazi S, Sadrzadeh SM, Farid F, Farid R, Watson RRPycnogenol((R)) in the Management of AsthmaJ Med Food.(2001 Winter)
  12. Asthma Symptoms - Marzie Zilaee, Seyed Ahmad Hosseini, Sima Jafarirad, Farhad Abolnezhadian, Bahman Cheraghian, Foroogh Namjoyan, Ataollah GhadiriAn evaluation of the effects of saffron supplementation on the asthma clinical symptoms and asthma severity in patients with mild and moderate persistent allergic asthma: a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trialRespir Res.(2019 Feb 22)
  13. Asthma Symptoms - Seyed Ahmad Hosseini, Marzie Zilaee, Maryam Haddadzadeh Shoushtari, Mohammad Ghasemi DehcheshmehAn evaluation of the effect of saffron supplementation on the antibody titer to heat-shock protein (HSP) 70, hsCRP and spirometry test in patients with mild and moderate persistent allergic asthma: A triple-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trialRespir Med.(2018 Dec)
  14. Asthma Symptoms - Babita Agrawal, Anita MehtaAntiasthmatic activity of Moringa oleifera Lam: A clinical studyIndian J Pharmacol.(2008 Jan)
  15. Asthma Symptoms - Martineau AR, MacLaughlin BD, Hooper RL, Barnes NC, Jolliffe DA, Greiller CL, Kilpin K, McLaughlin D, Fletcher G, Mein CA, Hoti M, Walton R, Grigg J, Timms PM, Rajakulasingam RK, Bhowmik A, Rowe M, Venton TR, Choudhury AB, Simcock DE, Sadique Z, Monteiro WR, Corrigan CJ, Hawrylowicz CM, Griffiths CJDouble-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial of bolus-dose vitamin D3 supplementation in adults with asthma (ViDiAs)Thorax.(2015 May)
  16. Upper Respiratory Tract Infection Symptoms - Denlinger LC, King TS, Cardet JC, Craig T, Holguin F, Jackson DJ, Kraft M, Peters SP, Ross K, Sumino K, Boushey HA, Jarjour NN, Wechsler ME, Wenzel SE, Castro M, Avila PC, NHLBI AsthmaNet InvestigatorsVitamin D Supplementation and the Risk of Colds in Patients with AsthmaAm J Respir Crit Care Med.(2016 Mar 15)
  17. Asthma Symptoms - Mohammed Al-Biltagi, Mona Isa, Adel Salah Bediwy, Nevien Helaly, Dalia D El LebedyL-carnitine improves the asthma control in children with moderate persistent asthmaJ Allergy (Cairo).(2012)
  18. Asthma Symptoms - R González-Sánchez, X Trujillo, B Trujillo-Hernández, C Vásquez, M Huerta, A ElizaldeForskolin versus sodium cromoglycate for prevention of asthma attacks: a single-blinded clinical trialJ Int Med Res.(Mar-Apr 2006)
  19. Asthma Symptoms - Pearson PJ, Lewis SA, Britton J, Fogarty AVitamin E supplements in asthma: a parallel group randomised placebo controlled trialThorax.(2004 Aug)
  20. Asthma Symptoms - Welsh EJ, Bara A, Barley E, Cates CJCaffeine for asthma.Cochrane Database Syst Rev.(2010-Jan-20)
  21. Asthma Symptoms - Jia Y, Huang Y, Wang H, Jiang HA dose-response meta-analysis of the association between the maternal omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids supplement and risk of asthma/wheeze in offspring.BMC Pediatr.(2022-Jul-16)
  22. Airway Inflammation Markers - Neil C Williams, Kirsty A Hunter, Dominick E Shaw, Kim G Jackson, Graham R Sharpe, Michael A JohnsonComparable reductions in hyperpnoea-induced bronchoconstriction and markers of airway inflammation after supplementation with 6·2 and 3·1 g/d of long-chain n-3 PUFA in adults with asthmaBr J Nutr.(2017 May)
  23. C-Reactive Protein (CRP) - Koushki M, Dashatan NA, Meshkani REffect of Resveratrol Supplementation on Inflammatory Markers: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.Clin Ther.(2018-Jul)
  24. Forced Expiratory Volume - Labhe R, Mani U, Mishra M, Bhattacharya JThe Effect of Spirulina in the Treatment of Bronchial AsthmaJ Diet Suppl.()
  25. Allergic Disease Risk - Abrahamsson TR, Jakobsson T, Björkstén B, Oldaeus G, Jenmalm MCNo effect of probiotics on respiratory allergies: a seven-year follow-up of a randomized controlled trial in infancyPediatr Allergy Immunol.(2013 Sep)