Updated: Aug 23, 2022
While not always the only cause, the science shows that our diets are now a major cause of many of the preventable chronic conditions we are experiencing. High-processed diets that are being introduced to children and infants are having rippling effects on the long-term health of the US population, including respiratory health.
According to the CDC, diet and nutrition may be important modifiable risk factors for the development, progression, and management of obstructive lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The “western” dietary pattern, prevalent in developed countries, is characterized by high consumption of refined grains, cured and red meats, desserts and sweets, french fries, and high-fat dairy products. This pattern of intake has been associated with an increased risk of asthma in children. Furthermore, in children, increased intake of fast food such as hamburgers and related eating behaviors, for example, salty snack eating and frequent takeaway consumption, are correlated with the presence of asthma, wheezing, and airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR). - CDC study, Nutrition and Respiratory Health
Noncommunicable disease (NCDs) rates are increasing worldwide with 41 million people dying annually. Of that, 85 percent occur in low-and-middle-income countries. This poor-diet-driven induced medical tsunami is putting a strain on the global medical system.
There are a number of chronic conditions that have been identified as being caused or worsened by high levels of intake of processed foods including:
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
Tooth Decay and Periodontitis
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
The science also shows that ultra-processed food is the cause of other chronic diseases on the upswing, such as addiction, depression, obstructive sleep apnea, and autoimmune disease. - Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL "Metabolical: the Lure and the Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine"
HOW DOES FOOD RELATE TO BREATHING?
Metabolism, at its basic level, is the process of changing food to fuel in the body. Your body uses the raw materials of oxygen and food to fuel the process. Energy and carbon dioxide are the finished products of the process. Carbon dioxide is a waste product that we exhale and put back into the air as part of the natural carbon cycle.
Having the right mixture of nutrient-rich, not processed, foods in your diet can actually help you breathe easier. In a 2017 study, Nutrients found that increasing soluble fibers in the diet can have an anti-inflammatory effect on asthmatic and restrictive airways.
It is also important that people with airway issues maintain a high intake of water (6 to 8 glasses a day). Water helps to clear out mucus from the airways and lungs, preventing infection and blockage.
The American Lung Association has put together a nutritional guide specifically for people with airway issues, such as COPD. This guide offers food choices that will help, and not further hinder, airway and respiratory functions.
FOODS TO HELP SUPPORT AIRWAY HEALTH
Providing your child with the right food will help to create a solid foundation for their long-term health. It will also help to stave off many preventable chronic conditions.
While aiming to avoid high-processed foods as much as possible, here is a short list of food that are great to incorporate into your child's diet:
High-fiber foods such as raspberries, peas, lentils, black beans, whole-wheat spaghetti, chia seeds, pears, and broccoli
Whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, oats, quinoa, and barley
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, Chinese greens, and Swiss chard can lower the risk of getting lunch cancer
Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, which has been linked to lung health
Transversely, avoid giving your child sugary drinks, fast-food, too much salt, and processed meats as all have been linked to inflammation and preventable chronic conditions.