There are a wide variety of supplements on the market that promise to help with numerous conditions, from joint pain and headache to asthma. But can supplements actually help with asthma symptoms?
Learn more about which supplements are sometimes recommended for asthma and whether there is evidence to support those claims.
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Asthma is a condition that creates inflammation in the lungs and airways, making it difficult for you to breathe. It impacts an estimated 1 in 13 Americans¹, and people of all ages can develop it.
While there is no cure for asthma, there are plenty of treatment options to get it under control and keep it from interfering with daily life.
Although some supplements may be able to help asthma symptoms, it isn’t recommended to use supplements as the only form of treatment for this condition.
If your doctor prescribes you a quick-relief inhaler, corticosteroids, or other medications to keep your asthma under control, be sure to take those as prescribed, but you may be able to use supplements in conjunction with them.
People struggling with asthma may look for treatment options outside of the ones their doctor prescribes for a variety of reasons, and it is common for people with asthma to reach for supplements to use with their prescriptions.
Some asthma supplements include the following:
Omega-3s are commonly found in fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and similar foods, but the American diet tends to be lower in omega-3 fatty acids than recommended.
One study² found that children who consume diets higher in omega-3 fatty acids tended to have fewer asthma symptoms from indoor air pollution. Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the body’s production of an antibody called IgE, which can create allergic reactions that trigger asthma.
Unfortunately, omega-3 fatty acids aren’t effective in people who have severe asthma and are taking high doses of oral steroids.
Magnesium is a mineral that can be found in whole grains, leafy green vegetables, beans, and more. One treatment for asthma that contains magnesium, magnesium sulfate, is sometimes given to people experiencing an asthma attack when other treatments don’t work.
Magnesium as a supplement may also be helpful for asthma by addressing inflammation, but more research is needed to determine whether magnesium supplements should be recommended for those with asthma.
Magnesium supplementation can also lower a person’s risk of heart disease and enhance bone health, but you should talk to your doctor before starting them. Taking too much magnesium can cause unpleasant side effects.
Choline is a nutrient you can get from eating nuts, beans, vegetables, eggs, and meats. While some asthma sufferers swear by choline supplements, research is still limited on whether it can help people with asthma.
One study³ found that choline has no effect on various asthma control test metrics after six weeks. On the other hand, a study⁴ in mice showed that choline could help some symptoms of asthma. If you decide to take choline supplements, speak with your doctor about it.
Taking too much choline can result in serious side effects.
Antioxidants are compounds that help keep your body safe from numerous threats, like viruses and free radicals. Free radicals can cause changes and damage in the body, but antioxidants can fight them.
There are several compounds that are considered antioxidants, including some vitamins, like A, C, and E. Research⁵ has shown an association between low vitamin A intake and an asthma diagnosis, while lower serum levels of vitamin C were also associated with increased odds of having asthma.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that antioxidant supplementation can help asthma, but increasing your intake of antioxidant-rich foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, may provide some benefit.
Many people love to start their day with a caffeinated beverage, but there is some evidence⁶ showing caffeine can act as a weak bronchodilator. This means it may help improve lung function for a few hours after it is consumed.
That doesn’t mean it’s a good option for asthma treatment, as it doesn’t provide enough of a bronchodilator effect to help during an asthma attack. Plus, caffeine taken in large doses can result in sleep problems, upset stomach, shakiness, and even irregular heartbeat that can result in death.
You can certainly drink coffee and other caffeinated drinks in moderation, but don’t expect them to treat your asthma.
Black seed is a spice that has been used in traditional medicine for numerous conditions. There are some small studies⁷ that show that black seed may have anti-inflammatory and anti-histaminic effects that might help with asthma symptoms. More research is needed before black seed can be considered a viable option for asthma treatment.
Plenty of people already take individual vitamin supplements or multivitamin pills to avoid nutritional deficiencies. While there isn’t evidence that multivitamins may help with asthma, one study⁸ found that individuals who took vitamin E had lower levels of mucins, which are proteins that are usually found in higher amounts in people with asthma.
Other evidence⁹ shows that vitamin D supplementation may also help reduce asthma attacks and low blood levels of vitamin D are also associated with asthma. As always, ask your doctor before starting asthma supplements to ensure they don’t produce adverse reactions to your medications.
Although many supplement companies may claim that their powders, pills, or tinctures can help with your asthma symptoms, only a few have shown real promise in preliminary studies.
As always, you should work closely with your doctor to treat your asthma, and it’s important to keep them informed on which prescription medications and asthma supplements you are taking to prevent accidental interactions.
What is asthma? | NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Omega-3 fatty acids tied to fewer childhood asthma symptoms | Johns Hopkins Medicine
AAFA explains: Will coffee or caffeinated drinks help my asthma? | Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Can asthma be controlled with a vitamin supplement? | UNC Health Talk
Evidence points to fish oil to fight asthma | University of Rochester Medical Center
Magnesium | NIH: National Institutes of Health
Choline | NIH: National Institute of Health
Antioxidants | Harvard T.H. Chan
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