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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.


1 comment

Jul 06, 2020 • Posted by Kathleen Douglass

You have deleted nearly all foods. Why not tell people what they can eat instead. I just read the entire article and can’t figure out what can be eaten.

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