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COPD is a term used to describe a group of lung diseases that block airflow and impact an individual’s ability to breathe. However, through... Can COPD be Managed with Diet?

COPD is a term used to describe a group of lung diseases that block airflow and impact an individual’s ability to breathe. However, through a few key changes, you can improve your quality of life even with a COPD diagnosis.

You may find it odd, but the food you consume greatly impacts your breathing. Through the right choices, you can breathe easier, feel more energetic, and more easily manage your overall health.

The food you eat impacts your body’s ability to produce oxygen and breathe better. However, individuals with COPD have to be careful with their diet as certain, seemingly healthy, foods can actually aggravate the symptoms. A diet high in fats and low in carbs is likely best. Below is a list of foods which may be able to help manage your COPD symptoms. Please consult your physician about any diet changes:

What to eat:

Beans are known for their fiber, but their secret benefit is zinc. Some research suggests COPD symptoms can be improved with zinc. Assure you take in the suggested daily amount of zinc for your gender, age, and weight. However, be cautious as beans can cause gas and bloating which would impair breathing. Strike that fine balance. (4)

Potassium-rich Foods
Potassium deficiency can cause breathing issues as it is necessary for proper lung function. Potassium directly impacts the ability for a muscle to contract. If limited coughing, and other lung functions can become more tiresome or difficult. Consume high potassium foods such as: Avocados, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, asparagus, beets, bananas, and others. (2)

Fatty Fish
COPD can cause a protein deficiency leading to muscle loss, and an overall lack of energy. Additionally, omega-3s from lean meats can help improve COPD symptoms. Focus on lean protein but rich in the right omegas. For example, salmon, tuna, sardines, lean cuts of chicken, and beef. (4)

Although come fruits can cause bloating and gas, others have shown in studies to reduce COPD mortality risk by 24 percent. Focus on berries, pineapple, cherries, grapes, and similar. The benefit was seen with as little as a 100mg of additional fruits per day. Later we discuss which fruits to avoid. (5)

Non-Caffeinated Fluids
As with any healthy regime: fluids, fluids, fluids. With COPD, the right fluids will help thin mucus, make mucus easier to cough up, and flush out the body. You should target 8 fluid ounces per day in order to adequately hydrate and thin mucus. Caffeine has been seen to impact the medicines associated with COPD. So stick with low fructose juices, water, and other non-caffeine drinks. Except or dairy, keep reading to see why.

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Examples of What to avoid:

Dairy has been accused of increasing mucus production, but that’s not entirely true. Research has shown dairy actually increases the thickness of mucus. This mucus can impact your COPD symptoms. If you crave dairy, consider having some club soda with it which can thin mucus levelsl. (6)

Studies have shown eating high amounts of foods with Nitrates can aggravate COPD symptoms. Just one serving a day has shown to increase these symptoms. High nitrate foods include hot dogs, bacon, cold cuts, and other cured meats. Additionally, these nitrates have been shown to increase the risk of contracting cancer. Since COPD already increases the risk, might be good to steer clear.

Too much sodium or salt may increase your water retention which can impact breathe. Most of the salt you consume is not from the salt shaker but contained in the foods you eat. Check all of the labels for sodium levels. Examples of high sodium foods include : pickles, certain salad dressings, fast foods, cured meats, and others. A high sodium food would be over 600 mg. Instead try herbs and spices which can often enhance flavor. (2)

Certain Fruits
Ever heard of fermentable carbohydrates? Certain fruits such as apples, and stone fruits have these which can cause gas and bloating impacting your ability to breathe. Instead opt for berries, pineapples, and similar fruits. Of course, if you don’t feel gassy or bloated they are fine to eat. Just listen to your body. (2)

Vegetables & Legumes
You can finally not eat your vegetables, or at least some of them. Some individuals body’s react with gas and bloating to certain vegetables impacting breathe. Beans, brussel sprouts, cabbage, lentils, and others can cause these symptoms. (2)

Fried foods, soy and other foods can all have similar impacts to the ones above. However, the ones above people often find surprising. Again consult your physician to get tested for food intolerances and advice on the overall best diet for COPD. (2)

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Additional Tips

The foods mentioned above should provide the vitamin and mineral requirements to help limit the effects of COPD. However, there are a couple of vitamins to keep an eye on. First Calcium, since many people with COPD need to take medicine for corticosteroid, osteoporosis can occur. Calcium helps limit the occurrence of osteoporosis. Second Magnesium, which helps provide fuel to the muscles including the breathing muscles. Stronger, more energetic breathing muscles will help hold off the symptoms of COPD. (7)

Now with your new list of what to eat, you cook some tasty meals and feel better. But, with COPD we all know eating itself can be hard, as your breathing might become labored. Here are some tips to make eating more comfortable and enjoyable based on research:
Use pursed-lip breathing
Clear your airways at least one hour before eating.
Wash it down with fluid especially after eating
Eat sitting up to let gravity help you and keep your digestive anatomy aligned.
We know it tastes good but eat more slowly.

With these tips and tricks, we hope your life can be more fulfilling and healthier while living with COPD. To effectively implement these tips, studies find implementing a consistent meal plan, and tracking food intake in a food diary or app will help improve. MyFitnessPal is one app often recommended. Bottomline, commitment and consistency will make a make a noticeable impact on your life with COPD. Remember although fast food or other items might be good in the moment, your overall week, month, year, and life will be better when you take care of yourself.