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Diet Can Ease Asthma

Particularly controlling the most common link, gastroesophageal disease

SATURDAY, March 15, 2003 (HealthDayNews) --In treating asthma, doctors often look to the use of inhalers and warn against such environmental factors as exposure to pets or smokers.

But in some cases, dietary adjustments can go a long way in helping asthma sufferers breathe more easily.

Allergies to foods including milk, eggs, wheat, soy and nuts are common culprits for asthma symptoms in infants and young children. If symptoms coincide with ingesting certain foods, experts say simply avoiding those foods can prevent asthma episodes.

But many don't realize that another common dietary link to asthma in both adults and children is gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

GERD is a condition in which stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the condition affects as many as 89 percent of patients with asthma.

Symptoms of GERD can include severe heartburn, belching or an acidic taste in the mouth following meals. In people with asthma and GERD, increased asthma symptoms may follow meals or exercise.

The good news is that treatment of the GERD is often beneficial in controlling asthma symptoms as well, says Dr. Sandra M. Gawchik, an associate clinical professor in the department of pediatrics at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

"Treating a patient's GERD will often improve asthma symptoms," she says. "Instructions include refraining from eating for three to four hours prior to going to bed, avoiding high-fat foods and drinks including coffee and tea, and taking medications to adjust acid levels in the stomach."

Gawchik stresses that asthma sufferers should always inform their doctor if they experience frequent heartburn or other GERD symptoms because not all doctors will ask.

More information

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology offers this informational article on how treating GERD can help control asthma.

SOURCES: Sandra M. Gawchik, D.O., associate clinical professor, department of pediatrics, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia; American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
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