Diet for Asthma and Eczema

I have a six year old daughter who suffers from asthma and eczema. I have heard about controlling these illnesses through diet. Is there a connection, and what foods might be helpful or harmful for her?

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Diet can certainly have an effect on asthma in two ways. First, some foods can provoke asthma attacks. This is because the asthma attack is the result of an allergic reaction to the food. If you find that eating certain foods are closely followed by an asthma attack, then, as you probably know, those foods need to be eliminated from your daughter's diet in order to prevent such attacks. Some of the most common food allergy asthma triggers are: eggs, nuts, milk, sulfites, fish, and chocolate.

The second way that diet can effect asthma, is in helping to control the severity of an attack. There are a few ways that food can do this. One, food can actually dilate air passageways, opening them up for freer breathing. One of the best known foods for doing this is coffee...because of the caffeine in it. This food choice is not one you will want to offer your daughter, as caffeine can have other unwanted side effects. The second way food can help is by thinning the mucus so that it can move out of the airways, helping her to breath better.

There are foods that offer an immediate relief from an attack. The foods in this category include the spicy, pungent foods like chili, hot mustard, garlic and onions. It may be that these hot foods work by stimulating nerves, resulting in the release of watery fluid in the mouth, throat and lungs. This watery secretion will help to thin down the mucus so that it can more easily move out of the airways. Thirdly, some foods can control inflammation of the airways because they contain anti-inflammatory components in their chemical makeup. Foods that help to do this include onions (these are particularly good), fatty fish (fish oil is a proven anti-inflammatory high in omega 3 fatty acids), and vitamin C packed foods.

Studies have also shown that a diet high in dairy and meat cause more asthma attacks than vegetarian diets. It may be that there are more allergenic components in dairy and meat. Vegetable oils high in omega-6 fatty acids should be avoided as that fatty acid promotes inflammation. Oils high in omega-6 f.a. include sunflower oil, corn oil, and safflower oil.

Like asthma, a flair up of eczema can be triggered by allergen containing foods. Similarly, the way to prevent the flair up is to avoid the food. In order to prevent unnecessary restriction of foods in your daughter's diet, it would be wise to consult with an allergist so that you can pinpoint the culprit. Unlike asthma, however, I cannot find evidence of diet effecting the treatment of eczema. It seems that more atopic cures must be used. In addition to avoiding the offending food, if that is the cause of your daughter's eczema, try and keep your daughter well hydrated. This will help insure that her skin does not dry out and become flaky, compounding the eczema.

If you haven't already, I suggest that you visit The Food Allergy Network at http://foodallergy.org as they may have some helpful suggestions for you.

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