Do Foods Trigger Asthma?

Many other food additives and colorings have the reputation of inducing asthma, including tartrazine, or FD&C Yellow Dye Number 5. This dye, a derivative of coal tar, is commonly used to color foods (for example, margarine) yellow. Tartrazine is widely avoided by many people with asthma, but this is unnecessary, as the threat of true tartrazine sensitivity is grossly overrated. Similar concerns have been raised for other food additives and chemicals such as sodium benzoate, BHA, and BHT. Tests in large asthmatic populations have failed to implicate these food and chemical additives as important triggers of asthma.

The statement “one man’s meat is another man’s poison” is most definitely true, and food allergy is an unusual but very real asthma trigger. Asthmatics with real IgE-type food allergies often experi­ence many other allergic signs and symptoms when they have an allergic reaction to a food. Such symptoms can include swelling or edema, urticaria or hives, and in severe reactions shock or complete cardiovascular collapse. When hives are the only symp­tom, the reaction is considered mild. But if the lung, heart, and blood vessels are involved (shock) or if the throat closes up, then the allergic reaction becomes a severe life-threatening medical emergency called anaphylaxis.

Severe food-induced asthma is much more common in young children with eczema, an allergic skin disorder that usually begins in infancy. Four of every five infants with eczema and food allergies eventually outgrow these conditions later on in childhood. Children who have eczema and food allergies are more likely to be allergic to milk, eggs, or nuts.



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