Asthma triggers

I find milk seems to aggravate my asthma. I cannot have cereal with milk or even soya milk as it makes me cough more and I can easily be sick. I know this is not a pleasant subject, but does anyone else find this to? I have given up eating yogurts, even ice cream. I also have Hayfever and eczema. What other food triggers have anyone else got?


8 Replies

  • Hi jenmac,

    Welcome to AUK!

    Food allergy as a cause for asthma has always been thought from studies to be a relatively rare situation, but anecdotal reports from patients might suggest that it is more common than studies suggest. Type I brittle asthma, which is a distinct form of very severe asthma, has been shown by some studies to be associated with food allergy in up to two thirds of cases.

    The most common allergens that provoke asthma are dairy, eggs, soya, fish, nuts, citrus, and wheat. Methods of determining whether a particular allergen is causing asthma include skin prick tests and blood RAST tests, both of which can have problems with accuracy, and exclusion diets, which are usually considered to be more accurate but can be very difficult and time consuming to do, and require a lot of commitment.

    If you think you have an allergy, please do consider seeing your GP or an NHS dietician before excluding major food groups from your diet - you need dietary advice to make sure you are getting a balanced diet. Obviously, if you are ever on oral steroids, getting enough calcium if you eat a non-dairy diet can be a real concern. It is also worth being aware that there are many private practitioners who have set themselves up as nutritionalists or provide allergy tests to the public - whilst some of these are excellent, others have very little in the way of qualifications and can even sometimes provide advice that is dangerous. It is always best to seek advice from your GP first.

    Personally, I have had Type I brittle asthma for about 12 years, and did an exclusion diet at Heartlands hospital, a specialist centre, about 10 years ago. The results did seem to suggest that I was allergic to dairy, eggs and fish, but after excluding them for six months with no improvement, I reintroduced them and they did not make my asthma worse. For me, the disadvantages of not being able to eat cheap protein easily as a student far outweighed any possible benefit! If I had been able to see some benefit to my chest, I would of course have continued. These days, the only things I can't eat are certain food colourings, particularly the very bright blue ones (think Slush Puppies and similar), which make me wheeze, and recently, wine :( which causes more of a generalised allergic reaction.

    Hope this helps and you do manage to find a diet that agrees with you more

    Em H

  • I am definitely not allergic to milk, but i too find that it triggers my ashtma. I get insanely stuffy from it. And the only sweets i like is chocolate (i get sick from everything else) so if i eat the tiny amount of chocolate that i can eat before i get sick in the stomach it sets off my asthma. I gave up ice cream years ago, and gave up yoghurts last year. I find this subject rather odd because i havent really given it much thought, nor have i ever brought it up with my doctor. I kind of look at it as a positive thing because it automatically makes me a lot healtier. Oh, and i eat cheese... lots of cheese with minimal problems depending on the cheese.

  • Haagendaz, I would agree that not eating ice cream probably means that you have a more healthy diet, but you might just want to watch your calcium intake. There is some evidence that women who eat a high calcium diet when they are young have lower rates of osteoporosis later on in life. You are probably getting plenty if you are eating lots of cheese, but it's always worth thinking about. Most soya milks have added calcium these days.

    By the way, a friend of mine who doesn't eat dairy makes amazing 'ice cream' by blending soya milk and mashed banana, then freezing, whipping every half hour till frozen (or make in an ice cream machine). It tastes amazingly creamy, and, as my husband says, 'almost normal'! It's even better with melted chocolate over it - which of course is non-dairy if you use most brands of high cocoa solids dark chocolate. It's fairly healthy, too!


  • I have a problem with dairy products, not so much with the effect on my asthma but I come out in a rash and I did find that it aggravated my chesty coughs. My solution is to use rice milk fortified with calcium.

  • I only developed asthma in June this year and since then I find that after having cereal with milk, cheese and other diary foods that my asthma is worse, with chest tightness and coughing. Interestingly after this occured my mum told me how I couldn't tolerate dairy products as a baby and she had to gradually introduce them as I got older, I'm not sure if this is connected in anyway. Also since I have developed asthma I seem to have a mild reaction to nuts with tingling and swelling in my lips. I am under a consultant, and going back Monday for a follow up appointment so will be asking for some allergy testing.

    I find that my worse trigger at the moment is stress (work related) which makes my asthma worse, therfore I struggle more at work and get more stressed which makes the asthma worse etc etc. I saw my GP last week but he is reluctant to step up my meds as I am changing jobs in December (light at the end of the tunnell so to speak). Does anyone else find that stress triggers their asthma and how do you deal with it?

  • Asthma Triggers

    Hi, I'm new to AUK and it's been really interesting reading what sort of things triggers attacks. Has anyone ever had an attack set off my having an aromatherapy massage?

  • Hi IreneH,

    Welcome to Asthma UK; I hope you find some support and useful advice here.

    Quite a lot of us get triggered by strong smells, including aromatherapy oils. Perfumes are another favourite one - I dread going into those big department stores where the perfume department always seems to be on the ground floor by the entrance, and therefore unavoidable! Luckily, the fashion for shop assistants spraying samples of perfume on you as you go past seems to have died down a bit in the last few years.

    I can sometimes tolerate light aromatherapy oils if my chest is not too twitchy - it depends how I am. Generally, though, it's un-perfumed everything for me!

    Take care

    Em H

  • My allergies are fish, eggs, nuts, milk & strawberries and an intolerance I think to other berries - I can eat a few but not as many as I like to or I get wheezy and my IBS plays up. When the IBS flares up, bloating etc I get really tight chested too. A very attractive sight.

    I use soya milk - nice and cheap from ASDA 4 for £2 at the moment - I dont have the one with calcium added as I already take AD CAL D3 and do not want to overload (is this possible?)

    Thanks to Emily H for the banana and soya milk recipe I will have a go - I will probably eat it before it sets though. I could stir cocoa into it I suppose as I found in the past that even the dark chocoate sets of an allergic reaction in my mouth.

    In response to Jenmac rice milk is thinner and less cloying than soya milk and this may suit you better.

    Imagine trying to give a dinner party with us lot present - actually it would work as we seem to be reactive to the same foods. We could pass the inhaler as opposed to the peace pipe.


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