Does a Vitamin Deficiency Make Asthma Symptoms Worse?
Asthma is the most common lung disease in the United States. In fact, the disease has affected around 8.3 percent of Americans. Though there are several causes of asthma, scientists have discovered a unique link between vitamin deficiency and asthma. Research has revealed that vitamin D, vitamin C, and vitamin E have some role in developing asthma and affecting its severity. This article reviews the possible impacts of vitamin deficiencies on asthma and whether vitamin supplementation has any role in preventing the disease or improving its symptoms.
What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs resulting in coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
It is estimated that 50 percent of people with asthma suffer from asthma attacks every year. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, asthma causes more than 3,500 deaths every year.
Causes of Asthma
A bunch of different causes can lead to asthma or trigger an asthmatic attack. Primary causes of asthma can be allergic and non-allergic. However, genetics play a massive role in causing asthma. In addition to genetics, people with a personal history of allergies, hay fever, or eczema are more vulnerable to suffer from asthma.
Some allergic causes of asthma include:
- Tobacco smoke;
- Inflammatory gases;
- Chemical fumes;
- Plants, including pollen grains, and;
- Chronic sinusitis.
The non-allergic causes of asthma are:
- Viral infections of the lungs;
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease;
- Use of certain medications, such as aspirin and beta-blockers;
- Obesity, and;
Most cases of asthma are commonly diagnosed in childhood. Asthma with allergic causes usually comes along with other conditions, such as hay fever and eczema.
Symptoms of Asthma
The four main classic symptoms of asthma are:
- Chest tightness;
- Shortness of breath, and;
During an asthmatic attack, these symptoms become severe and more persistent. For example, shortness of breath in asthma may become so intense that routine activities, like sleeping, eating, and speaking, make you severely breathless.
Other asthma symptoms include:
- Increased heartbeat;
- Faster breathing;
- Bluish nails and lips, and;
What Is Vitamin Deficiency?
Vitamin deficiency refers to a condition characterized by a long-term lack of different vitamins in your body. Since each vitamin provides unique health benefits, the more vitamins you lack in your body, the more impact it will have on your health.
Based on the causes, vitamin deficiency can be either primary or secondary. Primary deficiency refers to a lack of vitamins due to an inadequate diet. Secondary deficiency is due to the presence of an underlying disorder that hinders the absorption of vitamins in your body. Its treatment requires managing the underlying health issue.
The most common signs of vitamin deficiency are:
- Gum bleeding;
- Hair loss;
- Brittle nails;
- Vision problems;
- Restless leg syndrome;
- Bone pain, and;
- Muscle cramps
Each of the above signs reflects the deficiency of a particular vitamin. Taking a diet rich in adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals is the safest and natural way to remediate vitamin deficiency.
The Connection Between Vitamin Deficiency and Asthma
While researching the possible causes of asthma, scientists have discovered that a lack of specific vitamins can be associated with the occurrence and severity of asthma. The following vitamins are found to be linked to asthma:
- A 2017 study published on Cureus revealed that lower than average vitamin D levels are linked to higher rates of asthma attacks.
- In another study, the deficiency of vitamin C was also identified as causing asthma. People who consume a typical western diet lacking in fresh food may suffer from vitamin C deficiency and respond poorly to inflammatory lung response in respiratory viral infections.
- A scientific review published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that consuming baby formula fortified with vitamin E may lower the risk of having childhood asthma in small children.
It’s important to note that vitamin deficiency cannot be recognized as one of the primary causes of asthma. However, the lack of these vitamins reflects the general well-being of an individual. A person suffering from vitamin deficiency is more likely to have a weaker immune system and is more prone to suffer from infections, allergies, and conditions directly associated with asthma.
Can Vitamins Treat Asthma?
A large chunk of asthma attack cases results from a viral respiratory infection. Any vitamin that boosts immunity and reduces the risk of developing a viral respiratory infection will have a role in fighting asthma.
We conducted an online scientific literature survey to identify the roles of vitamin C, E, and D in asthma and whether vitamin supplementation can treat asthma.
Vitamin C is power packed with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that have a crucial role in reducing oxidative stress on respiratory airways. Likewise, some studies have also suggested the role of vitamin C in narrowing lung airways and improving breathing in people with exercise-induced asthma.
However, no single study claims that vitamin C supplementation can prevent or treat asthma in a larger population. Likewise, no research suggests avoiding the use of the vitamin to prevent asthma.
Although many different studies have shown some correlation between vitamin E deficiency and asthma, vitamin E supplementation has little or no impact in improving lung function in asthma. However, one study claims that there may be some role of one of the forms of vitamin E in controlling the symptoms of allergic asthma. Still, more research is needed on this subject.
Most research related to vitamin deficiency and asthma is directed toward vitamin D. A series of systematic reviews conducted by the Cochrane Library revealed the role of vitamin D in managing asthma.
The “sunshine” vitamin was found to reduce asthma attacks, emergency visits, and hospital admissions due to asthma. Another study demonstrated that vitamin D provides some degree of protection against mild to moderately severe asthma in adults. Although the exact mechanism by which vitamin D supplementation produce the anti-inflammatory response in asthma is still unknown.
While science has identified the role of vitamin deficiency on asthma, it’s hard to tell whether supplementation with any of the vitamins supports asthma management.
Taking a balanced diet that provides all the key vitamins daily can help improve the anti-inflammatory response of your lungs. However, if your typical diet is deficient in vitamins, there’s no harm in taking vitamin supplements. Just make sure you don’t go overboard in supplementing yourself — or you’ll end with vitamin toxicity.