Coffee for Asthma

December 8, 2010 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

A client just asked me about a column she read in the New York Times. It dealt with the advisability of using coffee to manage asthma symptoms. Home remedies such as coffee and tea contain naturally occurring chemicals known as methylxanthines which act as bronchodilators. According to a recent summary article in the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews, caffeine can also reduce “respiratory muscle fatigue”. However, the noted benefits for asthmatics tend to be rather short lived with improvements of airway function lasting four hours at best. In my opinion, there are better ways of dealing with the chronic issues that affect patients with asthma. (1,2)

Using coffee as a momentary aid to alleviate shortness of breath or wheezing is one thing. What I’m more interested in is the potential for Coffea beans to diminish the incidence of asthma in the first place. The amount of scientific evidence in this realm is admittedly limited. However, two studies have examined the association between coffee consumption and asthma prevalence. The latest was undertaken by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Data culled from the Second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES II) revealed that “Subjects who drank coffee on a regular basis had a 29% reduction in the odds of having current asthma symptoms when compared to non-coffee drinkers”. The authors of the piece noted a dose dependent effect of coffee. Those who drank the most coffee were found in the lowest risk category. Similar results were discovered in an earlier evaluation conducted in Italy – the 1983 Italian National Health Survey. A total of 72,284 men and women took part in that study. Those who had three or more cups of coffee daily demonstrated a 28% reduced risk of asthma. The conclusion of the paper states that “long-term moderate coffee consumption may not only reduce (asthma) symptoms, but also prevent the clinical manifestation of bronchial asthma”. (3,4)

Healthy Fats May Reduce Airway Inflammation
Source: Am J Clin Nutr February 2008 vol. 87 no. 2 498S-503S (link)

Acupuncture and fatty acid supplementation are two of the most promising natural therapies for asthmatic conditions. Acupuncture has a long history of use in improving the quality of life of patients with respiratory diseases. Acupoint treatment is particularly useful because it may provide a safe adjunct to conventional treatments. Recent evidence in both animal and human trials indicates that various forms of acupuncture work to decrease pulmonary inflammation. The same is true of select fatty acids including DHA, EPA and GLA – lipids found in the seeds of black currants, borage, evening primrose and in fish. Omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratios are often “significantly lower in asthmatics than in healthy controls”. Correcting this imbalance via dietary modification and fatty acid supplementation has been shown to increase the number of asthma-free days in adults and children alike. Taming airway inflammation is a primary objective of many conventional asthma medications. This mechanism is shared by the previously mentioned natural approaches. However, these naturopathic options are generally considered safer than relying exclusively on the powerful medications often required to manage bronchial asthma. (5,6,7,8,9,10)

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Food and Drink, Nutrition

13 Comments & Updates to “Coffee for Asthma”

  1. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    Acupuncture works best for me, but I’m in Florida now, 700 miles from my acupuncturist. Until I find a competent practitioner down here, Advair inhalation powder seems to work. Today however I pushed my luck. Was on my walk, temp in the high 30s, feeling good so I started running up this long hill. Felt good while I was running but when I resumed walking, my lungs started tightening up. I was gasping for the next 1/2 hour. No more running in cold weather for me.

  2. JP Says:

    A lesson learned, Iggy. 🙂

    On your next walk, go visit a few acupuncturists. If it works for you, it’s a heck of a lot healthier than Advair!

    Be well!


  3. Jessica Says:

    Honey works too. The next time your asthma flares up, open a jar of hone and just breathe it in for a while. It sounds a little crazy but it works!

  4. Pradip Gharpure Says:

    If the recent studies have proved it again, there is no harm in taking more coffee in countering asthma attacks.

  5. Ingela Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more on acupuncture and fatty acid or fish oil supplementation.

    I never knew coffee could help asthma. I remember my boyfriend told me this once, but he’d only seen it in a movie. He was still convinced that it worked 😉

  6. JP Says:

    Thank you for the interesting tip, Jessica. I’ll look forward to any reader feedback based on your advice.

    Be well!


  7. Peter Little Says:

    Interesting article there are always arguments for and against nearly anything you eat or drink and the subsequent benefits and side effects if any.
    In relation to coffee the negative for some people seems to be caffeine spike which affects some drinkers.There is a coffee on the market now that has no caffeine spike and is also infused with Ganoderma Lucidium spore extract which has many benefits.
    Ganoderma also known as Linghi or red reishi is highly acclaimed in China and other eatern countries as the magical herb as it seems to help many ailments. I found it( the coffee ) to have no accidity,no caffeine spike and pleasent to drink. my personal experience was more energy, better sleep pattern, and I was more focused from the moment I got up in the morning.I won’t make any medical claims here but according to research I have done re studies etc it helps to boost immune system better than anything (over 150 antioxidants) lower blood pressure.lower collesterol,increase circulation and oxeginate the body and the list goes on. google ganoderma + tinitus or an ailment and links to many research docs will come up.In japan and Korea it has been used for many years to counter the effects of chemo. NB: the ganoderma must be organic. Organo Gold seems to be the best coffee with the highest concentration of the herb.

  8. JP Says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience and suggestion, Peter!

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Update: Avoiding food allergens improves asthma symptoms …

    Glob Adv Health Med. 2015 Jan;4(1):62-6.

    Food-specific IgG Antibody-guided Elimination Diets Followed by Resolution of Asthma Symptoms and Reduction in Pharmacological Interventions in Two Patients: A Case Report.

    Asthma is one of the most common causes of office visits in the primary care and emergency care settings. Individuals are often able to maintain symptomatic control with long-term pharmacological therapy. Exacerbations of asthma commonly occur due to exposure to triggers such as viruses, pollutants, and allergens. While it is widely accepted that exposure to immunoglobulin E food allergens can exacerbate asthma symptoms, there is little evidence examining delayed immunoglobulin G-mediated reactions to food. Here we present two clinical cases of individuals who experienced a reduction in asthma symptoms, decreased dependence on pharmacological therapies, and increased quality of life by eliminating foods that demonstrated reactivity to immunoglobulin G levels identified through serum testing.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Update 05/06/15:

    Psychosom Med. 2015 May 2.

    The Effects of Expressive Writing on Lung Function, Quality of Life, Medication Use, and Symptoms in Adults With Asthma: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

    OBJECTIVES: Asthma is a chronic condition affecting 300 million people worldwide. Management involves adherence to pharmacological treatments such as corticosteroids and β-agonists, but residual symptoms persist. As asthma symptoms are exacerbated by stress, one possible adjunct to pharmacological treatment is expressive writing (EW). EW involves the disclosure of traumatic experiences which is thought to facilitate cognitive and emotional processing, helping to reduce physiological stress associated with inhibiting emotions. A previous trial reported short-term improvements in lung function. This study aimed to assess whether EW can improve lung function, quality of life, symptoms, and medication use in patients with asthma.

    METHODS: Adults (18-45 years) diagnosed as having asthma requiring regular inhaled corticosteroids were recruited from 28 general practices in South East England (n = 146). In this double-blind randomized controlled trial, participants were allocated either EW or nonemotional writing instructions and asked to write for 20 minutes for 3 consecutive days. Lung function (forced expired volume in 1 second [FEV1]% predicted), quality of life (Mark’s Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire), asthma symptoms (Wasserfallen Symptom Score Questionnaire), and medication use (inhaled corticosteroids and β-agonist) were recorded at baseline, 1, 3, 6, and 12 months.

    RESULTS: Hierarchical linear modeling indicated no significant main effects between time and condition on any outcomes. Post hoc analyses revealed that EW improved lung function by 14% for 12 months for participants with less than 80% FEV1% predicted at baseline (β = 0.93, p = .002) whereas no improvement was observed in the control condition (β = 0.10, p = .667).

    CONCLUSIONS: EW seems to be beneficial for patients with moderate asthma (<80% FEV1% predicted). Future studies of EW require stratification of patients by asthma severity.

    Be well!


  11. JP Says:

    Updated 06/15/16:

    Cytokine. 2016 Jun 8;85:61-66.

    Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on serum levels of T-helper cytokines in children with asthma.

    BACKGROUND: There has been a considerable interest in the potential therapeutic value of dietary supplementation with ω-3 fatty acids in patients with asthma.

    OBJECTIVES: This cross-sectional study was designed to identify the effect of ω-3 fatty acids on symptom score, pulmonary function and serum T-helper cytokine concentrations in children with mild to moderate persistent asthma.

    METHODS: A total of 39 patients among 50 volunteers completed this 3-month study. They took a soft gel capsule containing 180mg EPA and 120mg DHA daily. Pulmonary function was evaluated in 28 eligible patients by spirometry, and serum levels of Th1, Th2, Th9, Th17 and Th22 cytokines were measured by multiplex cytometric bead assay before and after treatment.

    RESULTS: After treatment with ω-3, symptom score improved in 28 (72%) patients. The results of spirometry showed remarkable improvement in FEV1/FVC (P=0.044) and PEF (P<0.0001) after treatment, but considering a cut-off of 80%, real improvement was observed in 32% of patients with PEF<80% which raised above the cut-off after ω-3 treatment (P=0.004) whereas, FEV1/FVC changes were above the cut-off value in 89% of the patients. After treatment, IL-17A and TNF-α levels decreased significantly (both P=0.049).

    CONCLUSION: Oral administration of natural anti-inflammatory products such as ω-3 is a promising complementary approach to managing asthma.

    Be well!


  12. JP Says:

    Updated 07/05/17:

    Clin Respir J. 2017 Jul 3.

    Chronic coffee consumption and respiratory disease: a systematic review.

    PURPOSE: The widespread consumption of coffee means that any biological effects from its use can lead to significant public health consequences. Chronic pulmonary diseases are extremely prevalent and responsible for one of every six deaths on a global level.

    METHODS: We searched major medical databases for studies reporting on the effects of coffee or caffeine consumption on a wide range of non-malignant respiratory outcomes, including incidence, prevalence, evolution or severity of respiratory disease in adults. Studies on lung function and respiratory mortality were also considered.

    RESULTS: We found fifteen studies, including seven cohort, six cross-sectional, one case control and one randomized control trial. Coffee consumption was generally associated with a reduction in prevalence of asthma. The association of coffee with natural honey was an effective treatment for persistent post-infectious cough. One case-control study found higher risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with coffee consumption. No association was found with the evolution of COPD or sarcoidosis. Coffee was associated with a reduction in respiratory mortality, and one study found improved lung function in coffee consumers. Smoking was a significant confounder in most studies.

    CONCLUSIONS: Coffee consumption was associated with some positive effects on the respiratory system. There was however limited available evidence, mostly from cross sectional and retrospective studies. The only prospective cohort studies were those reporting on respiratory mortality. These results suggest that coffee consumption may be a part of a healthy lifestyle leading to reduced respiratory morbidity.

    Be well!


  13. JP Says:

    Updated 12/18/17:

    J Sci Food Agric. 2017 Dec 11.

    How grinding levels and brewing methods (Espresso, American, Turkish) could affect the antioxidant activity and bioactive compounds in a coffee cup.

    BACKGROUND: Depending on geographical origins and cultural traditions, different brewing procedures are used all over the world to prepare a coffee cup. In this work, we explored as three grinding levels of coffee powder and three coffee preparation methods such as by filtration (American), by boiling (Turkish) and by extraction under pressure (Espresso) affect healthy compounds and physicochemical attributes in coffee cup served to consumers.

    RESULTS: The grinding level slightly affects the quality of coffees, while the preparation methods significantly influenced all in-cup attributes. When compared the content per cups, the American coffee presented higher values of antioxidant activity and total phenol content than Espresso and Turkish coffees. Caffeine content resulted of 316, 112 and 64 mg for American, Turkish and Espresso coffee cup, respectively.

    CONCLUSIONS: One American (316 mg), three Turkish (336 mg) and five Espresso (320 mg) coffee cups result in an amount of caffeine below the maximum daily consumption (400 mg/day) suggested by the European Food Safety Authority. The extraction method affects the intake of bioactive and antioxidant substances with specific properties.

    Be well!


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