Asthma & Diet: Is Food Triggering Your Asthma Attacks? 

Asthma & Diet: Is Food Triggering Your Asthma Attacks? 

There are so many different things that can trigger an asthma attack. So sometimes it can be hard for an asthma sufferer to really figure out what does and doesn’t lead them to wheeze and difficulty breathing.

On that journey of discovering your personal triggers, one of the things you should consider is food.

While things like pollen, exercise, stress, etc. may be more common and widespread asthma triggers, there are some hidden food ingredients and food allergies that could be making life much harder for your lungs and airways.

Let me be clear: not every single asthmatic will always have food triggers. Just because you have allergies or asthma does not mean any of these foods will cause you issues. However, other people are more sensitive to certain foods that can lead to real problems.

Below, I’m going to list some of the common foods that trigger asthma attacks in some people. This information can help you better figure out whether food is triggering your asthma attacks or not.

Asthma Triggering Foods

1. Food Preservatives

For the most part, food preservatives are all bad for your health in general, but they may also be triggering asthma attacks in anyone who is sensitive. These preservers can cause anything from light wheezing to full on anaphylaxis.

Here are two of the most common:


Sulfites are mostly included in foods and drinks to stop them from discoloring with age and stop the growth of bad bacteria. Commonly, they are found in wines, bottled lemon and lime juice, molasses, cocktail onions, maraschino cherries, sauerkraut, grape juice, dried potatoes (like the kind in the box), shrimp, and wine vinegar. Also, any type of sauce or gravy could have some as well.

While they are prohibited in fresh fruits and veggies, sulfites can pop up in dried fruit.

Of course, sulfites can be in many other different types of foods, so stay aware. If you are sulfite-sensitive, how do you avoid them? Search product labels for any of these clues:

  • Potassium bisulfite
  • Potassium metabisulfite
  • Sodium bisulfite
  • Sodium metabisulfite
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Sodium sulfite


Some people say that MSG will trigger an asthma attack. Science hasn’t seen enough evidence of this to conclusively say there is a direct connection. However, MSG is known to be quite terrible for you, so you should be avoiding it entirely regardless. If staying away helps your asthma in any way – then that’s just an added bonus!

2. Food Coloring

Some asthmatics believe that tartrazine, a yellow dye, leads to allergy and asthma symptoms. Like MSG, a scientific review cannot find enough consistent evidence to say this is an asthma trigger overall.

If you know something in your food is triggering allergy symptoms and can’t seem to nail down the culprit, you can try to eliminate this dye and see what happens. There are plenty of people who say they have found relief by removing it. You can find tartrazine in things like:

  • Drinks
  • Cheese
  • Canned veggies
  • Dressings
  • Ketchup
  • Candy
  • Ice cream
  • And more

Food coloring, in general, has been shown to be detrimental to health, so even if you’re not sure if it makes your asthma worse, it’s always a good idea to cut it out.

3. Salicylates

Salicylates are chemicals naturally found in all sorts of organic material – including fruits and vegetables. It can also be added to other items as a preservative.

Some of the most common symptoms of a salicylate allergy are asthma symptoms – from wheezing to trouble breathing. It can also bring on allergy symptoms like nasal congestion, as well as headaches and stomach pain.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few foods with salicylates, including:

  • Many fruits
  • Many vegetables
  • Some cheese
  • Some herbs/spices
  • Some drinks
  • Some nuts
  • Some candies
  • Aspirin
  • Menthol
  • Salicylic acid
  • Peppermint
  • Some cosmetics
  • Some herbs
  • And more

Because this list is so comprehensive, be sure you confirm this diagnosis with your doctor.

4. Common Food Allergies

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If you are allergic to a food, one of your symptoms may be asthma. The most common foods that can trigger these attacks are:

  • Milk and other dairy
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Seafood (often shellfish)
  • Soy

5. Any Other Food You Are Allergic To

I’ve covered the most common foods and preservatives that lead to asthma attacks, but the possibilities don’t end there. Anything you are allergic to, as an asthma sufferer, could potentially lead to an attack. The best idea is to go to your doctor and get a full allergy test.

Are Foods Triggering Your Asthma Attacks?

Like I mentioned, only some people will have food triggers. There are two great ways to figure out if you are one of them:

  • Go get comprehensive allergy testing: This will help you figure out if any food allergies are increasing your inflammation and leading to difficulty breathing. If you’ve never had allergy testing before, check out this video created by the Mayo Clinic. It shows exactly what you can expect:
  • Keep a food diary for a few months: This will help you find some of the finer sensitivities – like a food preservative sensitivity – that you may otherwise miss. Write what you eat for each meal, each day. Then mark down the time of each asthma attack you have or even slight breathing difficulties you experience. Eventually, you may be able to find a pattern.

Sometimes it can feel defeating when you first find out you have a food allergy or sensitivity. It can be difficult to find new ways of cooking and ordering food. Fortunately, there are so many resources available these days to help you navigate your choices.

  • Food brands often have full nutrition/ingredient info on their websites
  • Restaurants offer things like gluten-free, dairy-free, or nut-free menus
  • Grocery stores will sometimes even have guides to help you make better choices.

Once you get into a new routine, eating differently won’t feel like a chore. It will just make you feel great.

Next Steps

If you find that a food sensitivity or allergy is leading to asthma problems, the first thing you need to do is remove it from your life.

The next step is to take an all-natural allergy and asthma supplement to help strengthen up your lungs and airways to support your breathing.

But above all, remember that food can be our greatest medicine. Sometimes that means getting rid of the foods that are causing a problem. This knowledge can make an incredibly positive impact on your health in the future.