Asthma is a chronic, inflammatory disease that can cause wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. It can be very distressing and when symptoms get significantly worse, it is known as an asthma attack.
The number of people with asthma has risen steeply since the 1970s when just one child in 50 had asthma. Now, one in every 12 adults and one in every 11 children in the UK are affected.
Allergies like asthma and eczema tend to run in families which suggests a genetic predisposition (sometimes also called genetic susceptibility) may be partly responsible. It has been suggested that because we live in such a clean and sanitised world, our immune systems are not being challenged enough by dirt and bugs so when a challenge does come along, in the form of dust mites for example, our immune systems overreact and the result is asthma. Children who are allergic to certain foods are more likely to have asthma or eczema and an allergic reaction to food can trigger asthma in some children.
Research shows that a high intake of fruit and vegetables can not only help prevent but also treat asthma. On the other hand, dairy foods, processed meat and saturated fats in general have been linked to an increased risk of asthma and poorer asthma management in people who already have the condition.
Find out more about allergies and dairy.