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Asthma is a chronic disease involving reversible narrowing and inflammation of the airways that is triggered by various irritants. It affects over 8 percent of the population of the United States.

  • Overview
  • Action Plan
  • Ask The Doctor
  • Success Stories


The prevalence rates of asthma have increased a remarkable 18.2% from 2000-2001 to 2008-2009 among adults in the majority of the U.S.1 Asthma is found in all countries but especially in westernized countries, suggesting a link to diet and environment.

Symptoms of asthma include:

  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • cough
  • fatigue
  • chest pain and tightness

Asthma triggers include:

  • allergens like mold
  • pollen
  • dust mites
  • cockroaches
  • animals
  • changes in weather
  • infections
  • exercise
  • irritants like tobacco smoke

Risk factors for asthma include:

  • childhood obesity.2 Obesity is associated with inflammation as well as mechanically compromising lung function
  • metabolic abnormalities like elevated cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin
  • eating high-calorie, low-nutrient food high in animal protein and fat is associated with increased airway inflammation3
  •  lack of breastfeeding
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • tobacco use
  • secondhand smoke
  • pollution
  • occupational exposures
  • antibiotic use during infancy
  • acetaminophen use

Though it can take one to two years, many who follow the Nutritarian diet have resolved years and years of suffering with asthma through superior nutrition.

  1. Zhang X, Morrison-Carpenter T, Holt JB, Callahan DB. Trends in adult current asthma prevalence and contributing risk factors in the United States by state: 2000-2009. BMC Public Health 2013, 13:1156.
  2. Sutherland ER. Obesity and asthma. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am 2008, 28:589-602, ix.
  3. Wood LG, Garg ML, Gibson PG. A high-fat challenge increases airway inflammation and impairs bronchodilator recovery in asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2011, 127:1133-1140.

Action Plan


  • Since asthma is both a lifestyle and inflammation-related disease, dietary changes and weight loss are effective at improving asthma symptoms. A high micronutrient diet reduces inflammation and promotes detoxification needed for recovery.
  • Foods highest in flavonoids, such as quercetin (which has anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory effects), may be recommended for regular use. These include berries (particularly chokeberry and cranberry), citrus fruit, buckwheat, kale, watercress, red onion, black plums, etc.
  • Regularly eating foods higher in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), such as ground flax seeds (up to 2 tablespoons), chia seeds, and walnuts, may help reduce the inflammation associated with asthma.

Tobacco cessation and environmental exposures

  • Tobacco use and secondhand smoke increase the risk of the development of asthma. A tobacco cessation plan is necessary, in conjunction with a Nutritarian diet to improve and resolve asthma symptoms.
  • Reduced allergen exposure to animals (especially cats), cockroaches, dust mites, pollen, etc., will decrease the rate of asthma exacerbations. Some people find it necessary to live in a home without cats and free of cat dander.

Find additional help

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Ask The Doctor

The following are sample questions from the Ask the Doctor Community Platinum and higher members can post their health questions directly to Dr. Fuhrman. (All members can browse questions and answers.)


I have been following a 100% Nutritarian diet for three months with great success (35 pounds lost so far!). I no longer have daily headaches, aches and pains or problems with arthritis and am no medications, however, the condition I most hoped to heal, asthma, remains under very poor control. I hesitate to see my doctor and tell him how much I am using my rescue inhaler (Ventolin- up to 10 times/day) as I know he will prescribe steroids, and I really don’t want to go that route. Do you have any suggestions as to how I might tweak my diet to see more improvement?


It is very common for the overuse of a rescue inhaler (beta agonist) to inflame/irritate the lung and prevent the resolution via the nutritional intervention. Using a steroid inhaler and getting off the beta agonist is the first step. Then, once you are well controlled on the steroid alone, it is likely that you can begin to slowly wean down the medication under your doctor’s supervision.

You said that you are 100% Nutritarian, but just to reiterate, make sure that you are eating a high-nutrient diet with no processed foods, dairy, oils or saturated or trans-fats. Eat flaxseeds and other nuts and seeds daily. Avoid your known triggers for your asthma if possible. Remember, it can take up to 2 years of superior nutrition to see the asthma and allergies improve.


My son has been having difficulties with asthma for the past few months. He is allergic to dairy, eggs, and mold. Most of the books say that asthma will improve if dairy is eliminated, but he has never had any. He currently uses albuterol and Pulmicort. The allergist wants him to go on Singulair long-term. Is this a good option? I am concerned about all this medication. I know he needs to increase his fruit and vegetable intake, but this is difficult, as he is a very picky eater. What should we focus on?


The medications are a fairly safe method to make sure that he doesn’t have a dangerous asthma attack, so I certainly would continue the Pulmicort and use the rescue inhaler/nebulizer when needed. The Singulair may be needed temporarily if he isn’t having good control of his asthma symptoms so far, BUT, if you want him to gradually improve as he gets older, then maximizing his nutritional intake is critical before you can safely consider decreasing these medications under the supervision of his doctor. So, the whole family has to get involved with eating high-nutrient foods daily without dairy, processed foods, or too much salt and oil. Even if you make efforts to begin by hiding vegetables in his food, that would be a start. It can take nearly 20 times or more to introduce foods to a child before they get used to them and possibly want to eat them, so don’t give up. Also, offering two healthy choices (such as, "do you want an apple or a peach") will give him the feeling of independence while still eating a healthy food.


Can a Nutritarian diet help improve exercise induced asthma? Are inhalers harmful for this condition, as they make me jittery?


Yes, a Nutritarian diet rich in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, minerals, and vitamins will reduce inflammation, improve immune function, and reduce the hyper-reactivity of your airways. I have observed many people who have made complete recoveries. Also, vitamin D sufficiency is important, so make sure you have your level checked when you can. An optimal level is between 30-45ng/ml. Some inhalers can be harmful. Even though rescue inhalers are important in a breathing emergency, long term use can worsen asthma control. If you eat perfectly and optimize your vitamin D level, over time you should be able to avoid them.