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Eating To Breathe

Eating To Breathe

When you are managing your COPD, you must take a comprehensive approach to optimize your health. People often think that food choices only affect a person’s weight and general health. While this is true, more knowledge regarding how optimal gut health affects the entire body including the lungs will lead to the improvement of lung function and a decrease of exacerbating symptoms.

“Let food be thy Medicine, and Medicine be thy food”


Milk and Dairy products. These good tasting, but not necessarily good for you items produce casomorphin when digested, which produces mucous in both the intestines and the lungs. During a COPD exacerbation, the lungs are in a state of inflammation and more mucous is produced during these times when casomorphin is present. For best lung health, limit their intake completely when your COPD is flaring up.

Citrus fruits. Citrus provides a great source of Vitamin C, but also is a common trigger of gastro- intestinal reflux disease (GERD). Acidic foods like lemons, grapefruits, tomatoes and tomato sauces cause the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax. The LES is a rubber band shaped muscle at the juncture of the esophagus and the stomach. This muscle is already weakened by the excessive pressure caused by the frequent coughing from COPD exacerbations. The combination of a weak muscle and frequent triggers to relaxation lead to excessive acidic liquid rising up the esophagus and can get up to the back of the throat.

Cured Processed Meats. Processed meats such as hot dogs, cold cuts, bacon, and hams that are cured with nitrates can worsen COPD symptoms when eaten excessively. Nitrates allow meats to have a long shelf life. When digested nitrates turn into nitrites. Nitrites have pro-oxidant properties. The process of oxidation produces ‘free radicals’ which are molecules that cause damage to tissues and increase the body’s risk for heart attack, cancers, strokes and lung diseases. Avoiding excessive nitrites in COPD is a must.

Beer and Wines. Both the hops in beers and the grapes in wines naturally contain the sulphur compounds called sulphites. Sulphites prevent bacteria from growing in these beverages. Many manufacturers add extra sulphites for this exact purpose. Sulphites are known to affect the airways of persons sensitive to this chemical by triggering a narrowing of the bronchial passageways. Smaller and tighter airways make normal breathing difficult. Persons with frequent COPD exacerbations should avoid sulphite containing beverages.

Gas-sy Foods and Drinks. Several foods and beverages are included in the gas producing and abdominal bloating group. Any food that creates extra space within the stomach, pushes up on the diaphragm which in turn will restrict lung expansion. Fiber rich vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts are common culprits and should be eaten in small portions and infrequently. Fried and greasy foods also are poorly digested and tend to create abdominal bloating. Carbonated beverages are other no-nos that can be easily be replaced with water.

Everyday you gain the ability to reverse the severity of your COPD symptoms by making healthy choices. You can live a long and fulfilling life by eating well, maintaining a healthy weight and always following your Doctor’s plan for medications and follow ups.


Coping with COPD: Avoiding Respiratory Illness

Coping with COPD:  Avoiding Respiratory Illness

If you are living with COPD, you know how sickness can bring with it major complications.  In fact, COPD patients are nearly four times as likely to be hospitalized with the flu, or other viral illnesses.  There are some important things you can do to minimize your chances of getting an illness that severely impacts your breathing. 

Manage seasonal allergies

Changes of season, pollen, molds, and spores that commonly cause allergies can trigger worsening COPD symptoms.  It is important to take allergy medications appropriately and monitor pollen counts.  More people are hospitalized during peak allergy seasons than at other times of the year. 


The number one prevention tactic is handwashing!  Handwashing and using hand sanitizer after coming into contact with crowds of people, touching public items like shopping carts and hand rails, and after shaking hands can help prevent colds and other viruses. 


Early season flu vaccinations at the appropriate dosages, as well as pneumonia vaccinations, are recommended for all people coping with COPD.  Those that are over age 55 or who have COPD are recommended by the CDC to have a higher dosage of the seasonal flu vaccine. 

Avoiding large crowds

During peak flu and cold season, it is wise for the COPD patient to avoid shopping centers, airports, and other centers where large crowds of people gather.  This is especially common during the holidays.  Using online services and shopping at off-peak times can help minimize the risks.


Good nutrition and hydration

Good nutrition, including important vitamins and minerals, can help you fend off illness and support your immune system.  Your doctor may recommend supplements specifically for immune support, and if so, it is important to consistently take them, along with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.  Adequate fluid intake helps to flush out allergens and keep your lungs clear. 

Avoid those that are sick

Communicate with your friends and family the risks if you get sick, and kindly ask them not to visit you if they or their household are dealing with an illness.  While healthy adults can cope with a cold rather easily, the COPD patient can have severe breathing problems and complications. 

Seek treatment early

Finally, if you DO get sick in spite of all the precautions, seek treatment early.  If you have flu symptoms, there are drugs that can minimize the length of the flu, and extra monitoring that can be done to support your breathing.  Your medications for COPD may need to be adjusted or increased during this time, and you may need supplemental oxygen or breathing treatments. 


While there is no need to become a hermit during flu season, it is important to be smart about minimizing your risks.  Giving your immune system a boost, good hand hygiene, vaccines, avoiding crowds and sick people, and treating your body well with good nutrition will go a long way towards reducing your chances of becoming ill. 

Coping with COPD: Making the Most of your Energy

Coping with COPD:  Making the Most of your Energy

Coping with COPD:  Making the Most of your Energy

How do I cope?

Have you been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?  If so, you know that some things you used to do easily have gotten harder for you.  You get out of breath, and it takes more time to recover.  Your energy is gone before the end of the day, and this can make you feel helpless and frustrated. 

Don’t stop, adjust!

Just because you are living with COPD, does not mean that you need to stop living!  Learning to manage your energy level throughout the day is an important part of making sure you get to do your favorite activities.  Most things will still be possible, but it will need to be done in a planned way. 

Tips for managing your energy for the day:

Extra Sleep

Make sure you are getting a little extra sleep, and try to go to bed and get up around the same times each day. This gets your body into a routine and you will know how much sleep you need to feel your best. 

Break it up

Don’t try to clean the whole house in one session.  Break jobs into manageable tasks, and rest in between.

Slow down

Allow more time for daily routines.  Showering, getting dressed, cooking meals – all of those things use up energy that can make you tired before the day gets started.  Allow more time for routines, and break it up.

Accept help

Let others help you.  It may be hard to accept help, but allowing your support system to take over some tasks so that you can do your favorite things more easily is worth it!

Work smart, not hard. 

Using an assistive device such as a shower chair, using a stool to sit while cooking or chopping vegetables, or a rolling garden stool can make your day more productive.

Schedule tasks

Tackle larger tasks when you have more energy, such as in the morning.  Do easier sit-down tasks in the evening when you know you will be more tired. 

Recovery time

Take it one day at a time.  If you are planning a big day with lots of activities, plan a rest day afterward without pressuring yourself to do much. 

Communicate with loved ones

Have an honest conversation with your family or friends about doing things together.  Make sure to plan activities that are easier for you to attend, so that you don’t miss out on seeing your favorite people!  Explain your need to rest frequently and the best times of day to go out. 

In addition to these tips, it is wise to take full advantage of the support services you have access to.  COPD patients can often meet with a nutritionist, enter a pulmonary rehab outpatient program, and attend support groups.  All of these resources will help you make the most of your life while adjusting to COPD.  Having lots of good days while managing a condition like COPD requires a plan.

Create your personal plan for managing your energy and make the most of your day!