Coffee and Asthma

Coffee_Red_CupAs an asthmatic and an avid reader, I have done my fair share of research on various aspects of asthma.  One interesting thing my reading uncovered is that different foods and drinks can affect asthma symptoms. Some can help, and some can certainly make things worse.

 Is Caffeine Your Friend?

I was first introduced to the idea of caffeine as a supplement to prescription asthma medications by a respiratory therapist that was treating me in the emergency room during my first asthma attack. The way he talked to me about it made it pretty clear it was not something any “official” communication from the hospital would include. Given the fact that he was one of the people in the emergency room that spent the most time with me, it was clear he was pivotal to getting me stabilized and that made me take his advice very seriously. I later researched the effects of coffee and caffeine on asthma symptoms. That’s when I stumbled across references to a medication that is not used nearly as much as it used to be.

Theophylline is a drug that was widely used in the treatment of asthma years ago.  Theophylline has been relegated to relative obscurity because of its many known side effects, and the many other drugs that have come onto the market that have proven effective without as many negative side effects.  It turns out that the basic structure of Theophylline is similar to that of caffeine.  Although Theophylline is not used much to treat adults anymore, it is still sometimes used to treat “acute respiratory distress” (what most of us call and asthma attack) in adults who have not experienced favorable results from steroidal therapy. The similarity of Theophylline to caffeine made me more interested in how caffeine affects asthma symptoms.

You can find stories of people drinking coffee in between asthma treatments with prescription medications as a sort of add on to their doctor’s prescribed regimen.  The danger with this is that most asthma medications have a stimulant effect, and too much stimulant can raise your heart rate to dangerous levels. Some people still believe that drinking coffee between asthma treatments gives them some benefit that is worth the side effects that come with it.

There are many foods and drinks that have mythology, for lack of a better word, attached to them.  My grandmother used to espouse the wonderful health effects of garlic and I thought she didn’t know what she was talking about.  As it turns out, there is a lot of evidence in the medical community that grandma was on to something, even if she hadn’t done double blind studies to know it. Many cultures around the world have used natural treatments for many conditions for thousands of years. Our current western medicine has only recently started to acknowledge some of the treatments that were once considered, “alternative medicine”.

Don’t ignore your doctor’s advice, but do realize there are treatments that your doctor may not discuss with you that might be worth learning about. Educate yourself and proceed with caution, but if you have a condition like asthma it helps to know as much as possible about your options.

If you want to learn more about Theophylline or caffeine’s effects on asthma symptoms check the following links for more information:

  1. WebMD –
  2. Wikipedia –
  3. FDA information at –

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