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Posted on: May 02, 2016

Can certain foods trigger asthma?

Foods triggering asthma is unusual.  Although food allergies may trigger asthma in a small number of people, not all individuals with food allergies have asthma.  Substantial scientific investigation has found that the following foods and food additives can trigger asthma.

Diagnosed foods that trigger asthma:

  • milk
  • eggs
  • peanuts
  • tree nuts
  • soy
  • wheat
  • fish
  • shellfish

Sulfites and sulfiting agents:  sulfur diooxide, sodium bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, and sodium sulfite.

Where are Sulfites Found?

Sulfites or sulfiting agents, both occuring naturally or used in food processing, have been found to trigger asthma.   If sulfites are used in food preparation or processing as a preservative agent, you will find them listed on the food label.  Common food sources of sulfites include:

  • Dried fruits or vegetables
  • Potatoes (some packaged and prepared)
  • Wine, beer
  • Bottle lemon or lime juice
  • Shrimp (fresh, frozen, or prepared)
  • Pickled foods, such as pickles, relishes, peppers, or sauerkraut (some)

Does food ingredients trigger asthma?

Other food ingredients have been previously suspected to trigger asthma.  However, scientific evaluation has not been able to conclusively link these food components to asthma.  They include tartrazine (and other food dyes or colorings); benzoates (food and drug preservative); BHA and BHT (food preservatives); Monosodium glutamate (MSG, flavor enhancer); aspartame (NutraSweet®, intense sweetener); and nitrate and nitrite (food preservatives).

What can you do to prevent asthma triggered by foods?

The best way to avoid food-induced or aggravated asthma is by avoiding or eliminating the food or food ingredient from your diet or the environment. Remember that these substances can be both released into the air or consumed when eating or drinking.

Reading ingredient labels on food packages and knowing where food triggers are found in foods are your best protections against an asthma attack. By working with your physician on a care plan and proper use of medications, you will be prepared to act in case of an asthma attack.