Q: "What sort of foods trigger asthma, and how do you identify which they are? I am asthmatic and find foods like dried apricots provoke my asthma. Are there other foods I should avoid?”
C. Boyes, Tas
A: Food is not the usual trigger for asthma, which is more commonly triggered by dust, pollens, sprays and other inhalants. However, you may be one of the small number (thought to be less than 2%) of adults with asthma that is affected by certain food chemicals – both added and natural.
If you get a flare-up of your asthma from dried apricots, it’s most likely the sulphur that’s the cause. Dried apricots are treated with sulphur preservatives such as sodium metabisulfite (code number 223) to maintain their nice colour and prevent wrinkling or drying out. Other foods that are preserved with sulphur compounds are:
wine, especially white, and cheaper blends sold in casks
fruit-flavoured soft drinks
sausages from the butcher
On the label, you can check whether a sulphur preservative is present by looking for the code numbers 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 225 and 228 on the ingredient list.
You can avoid these trigger foods relatively easily, but if you need guidance it’s best to seek the advice of a dietitian who specialises in food sensitivity or intolerance. For your nearest Accredited Practising Dietitian, call 1800 812 942 or go to www.daa.asn.au