Asthma management in kids: watching what they eat

Asthma, one of the most prevalent non-communicable diseases among children in Australia, can be better managed through weight management and correct nutrition.

Symptoms of the chronic disorder, which causes periods of airflow obstruction through inflammation and narrowing of the airways, include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness, all of which have induced significant worry in many a parent.

The extent to which a child’s nutrition and body weight can impact the development and severity of asthma is an important factor when it comes to what pharmacists and their assistants should pass on to anxious parents.

According to Megan Jensen, a clinical researcher and Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian working in the Priority Research Centre for Grow Up Well at the University of Newcastle, asthma is the leading chronic disease in childhood, with around 10% of children affected by the condition.

“It’s a significant problem, and that’s why it’s become a national priority in Australia,” she says.

Dr Jensen is known for her focus on how nutrition and obesity can impact asthma in children and for her nutritional interventions and assessments in this area.

However, when it comes to advising on weight management, Dr Jensen cautions pharmacists and their assistants.

“It’s a tricky business in childhood,” she said, “because pharmacists don’t want to experience the repercussions of incorrect advice, taking into account children are growing. So, it’s better to leave it to the experts in this area.”

However, general guidelines relating to diet in asthma management, which pharmacists and assistants can refer to for giving advice, can be found in the article, ‘The role of nutrition in asthma prevention and treatment’, in Nutrition Reviews.

The article states that the evidence suggests diets emphasising the consumption of plant-based foods might protect against asthma development and improve asthma symptoms through their effects on systemic inflammation, oxidation and microbial composition.

Additionally, increased fruit and vegetable intake, reduced animal product consumption, and weight management might mediate cytokine release, free radical damage, and immune responses involved in the development and course of asthma, according to the article.

The American Lung Association (ALA) has pinpointed certain foods and drinks that may contain elements that exacerbate asthma symptoms, such as sulphites, which are food preservatives; salicylates, which are compounds in aspirin, coffee, tea, herb-flavoured foods and spicy foods; and fast food.

On the other hand, the ALA recommends vitamin D-rich food such as fatty fish, liver, egg yolks, cheese and mushrooms, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables comprising rich sources of antioxidants – flavonoids and selenium – that have anti-inflammatory benefits, and beta carotene, which helps the body fight toxins that may damage tissues.

Flavonoids are found in black and green teas, apples, berries and grapes. Selenium is found in bread, cereals, seafood, poultry, eggs and dairy products.

According to the ALA, wholegrain foods could also play a part in reducing the symptoms of asthma.

To read the feature in full as it appears in the December issue of Retail Pharmacy Assistants magazine, visit: