Common and Suspected Asthma Food Triggers

(Shellfish is one of the main food allergies.)

I’m working on a long post right now. A long one. Since it’s going to end up as a static page, I’m taking extra time with it. In the meantime, check out this expansion of the common triggers page, a better explanation and more detail on flare-inducing foods.

Food allergy triggers affect only 6 to 8% of children with asthma and 2% of adults, and triggers like respiratory illnesses, airborne pollutants, and environmental triggers are much more common. True food allergies can make life pretty miserable for asthmatics and non-asthmatics, though, with side effects like skin rashes and/or eczema, vomiting and/or diarrhea, asthma flares, and swelling. In severe cases, food allergies trigger life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

Food intolerance triggers are a more subtle problem. Intolerance reactions are less severe than allergic ones, involve the gastrointestinal rather than the immune system, and are not always immediate. But here’s where it gets more complicated: even though the food intolerance itself is a digestive reaction, it can trigger an asthma flare, too.

Since we’re talking about food allergies and intolerances as asthma triggers, I’m lumping them together in this list. Keep an eye out for the following, bearing in mind that only some have been conclusively linked to asthma. Others are based on anecdotal evidence, but every case of asthma is different. What causes flares in one asthmatic does not necessarily trigger another, highlighting the importance of keeping your own personal trigger journal.

Common and Suspected Food Triggers

1. Eggs

2. Peanuts and tree nuts

3. Soy

4. Fish

5. Milk and milk products

6. Shellfish

7. Seeds

8. Wheat

9. Citrus

10. Sulfite, a preservative found in

– Dried fruits and vegetables
– Packaged potatoes
– Wine, beer, and cider
– Bottled juices, especially citrus
– Shrimp
– Pickles and pickled foods

11. FD&C Yellow 5 (tartrazine), a food coloring found in

– Numerous packaged and convenience foods
– Most condiments
– Shampoo, lotions, and other personal care products

12. Sodium benzoate, a preservative found in

– Jams and jellies
– Salad dressings
– Soft drinks
– Soy sauce

13. Monosodium glutamate, a flavor enhancer found in

– Package soups and stocks
– Frozen dinners
– Fast food
– Some soy sauce, steak sauce, and worcestershire sauce

14. Aspartame sweetener

15. Salicylate, a compound found in

– Aspirin
– Skin-care products
– Pepto-Bismol

For more on food allergies vs. food intolerances, please visit

Dr. Greene
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology
International Food Information Council

65 responses to “Common and Suspected Asthma Food Triggers”

  1. Ghinga says:

    Love the advice. Thank you.

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