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COPD Diet Tips

Updated on March 4, 2016

COPD Diet Tips, by J.D. Meyer

Have you ever heard of a diet that suggests high calorie snacks between meals, such as peanut butter, guacamole, and bagels? Welcome to the COPD diet. COPD means you have emphysema and bronchitis. COPD sufferers need as much as ten times more calories than the normal person. Yet the COPD patient needs to eat several small meals to prevent restriction of the diaphragm due to a stuffed stomach.

I notice plenty of fine healthy fit information locally at sites such as Fit Tyler and Brookshire’s. I’m including the COPD diet in my research since I’m on disability for it, and it’s the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

I began writing this article in March 2011, starting as a summary of the article by Deborah Leader, RN. is an old friend where I’ve found plenty of information on other topics. But I returned to edit it in late January 2012 after a very difficult week with info from and

Then I met a lovely dietitian, so I interviewed her about COPD diet; she wishes to remain anonymous--a wise move when we recall the President's former pastor's (Jeremiah Wright) controversial colleagues. Later I found detailed info on why the COPD meals should be small but frequent in Health Monitor while waiting my turn at Total Health Care—a clinic in North Tyler. Now I’m editing the article after more information from going to Trinity Mother Francis (local hospital's branch outpost)pulmonary rehab.

Simply adding Vitamin C and E to your list of medicines is a good idea because those vitamins are anti-oxidants.

Some of the suggestions resemble good eating tips for anyone else, such as avoid eating a lot of food with sugar; of course, diabetics really must avoid sugar. Then the dietitian told me that simple sugars is what turns into the carbon dioxide that emphysema sufferers have such difficulty getting rid of. Time to switch to artificial sugar for coffee and iced tea! Complex carbohydrates aren't so bad.

Thus the COPD diet is somewhat similar to the diabetic diet. Cactus (nopalitos) is a great food for coping with diabetes or excess sugar in the diet. also notes the positive effects cactus has in battling diabetes, along with lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Folks in India eat cactus for asthma and whooping cough. One of my earliest articles at the now-defunct KLTV in your community was "Grilled Steak & Cactus at Lindo Mexico," 2-25-11.

Dairy products are recommended in the article for their protein and calcium. Osteoporosis (and cataracts) is a possible side effect of anti-inflammatory steroids. Reading about COPD diet can become an extensive project because of the lack of unanimous opinion on some foods. Natural Home Remedies and Health Expert Advice both give warnings about dairy products. The fat content can thicken mucus already there. Perhaps avoiding dairy is best for those with an active case of bronchitis. But milk as an ingredient is OK. Soybean milk is great and low-fat milk is good, for thin liquids move secretions. Soybean products, whether milk or tofu, have calcium and protein. I got some horchata (rice milk) at La Michoacana recently; it has a little cow milk in it and a dash of cinnamon, but it's very thin compared to cow milk. Sherbet has less fat than most dairy products. The dietician assured me to stop worrying about eggs, as I was mistakenly ready to lump them in with dairy products--perhaps because a chicken and cow may live on the same farm together.

"Graze Throughout the Day," proclaims the first heading in "Eat right to breathe better," by Jacqueline Stenson in Health Monitor (April/May 2012). By not stuffing yourself, your diaphragm can move freely as cited earlier. In addition, it's less exhausting to eat smaller meals.

Drinking plenty of fluids is extra important for the COPD population since lung congestion is such a major problem: 6 to 8 eight-ounce glasses of non-caffeinated beverages daily. At the same time, decrease your sodium intake so you don’t retain water. So I asked the dietitian what is bad about retaining liquid. She replied that it causes the heart to pump harder since there's more volume. One certainly doesn't want to have both lung and heart problems. My latest ER pulmonary tech said, "Water, water, water," but the dietitian said to keep one's fluid intake down to nine, eight-ounce cups of liquid.

Olive oil--a mono-unsaturated fat-- hails as being anti-inflammatory. Those of us with weak lungs need to gravitate toward anything that says “anti-inflammatory.’ Polyunsaturated fats are advised too, such as canola, corn, and sunflower oil. If you find yourself being served dry rolls or biscuits, try pouring a little olive oil on it. Olive oil goes well on grits also. Grits can be compared to a ground corn while hominy is an inflated kernel of corn. Cooking salmon in olive oil is a good idea. Garlic is another wonderful anti-inflammatory food. Saturated fats are not recommended.

Some foods are gas producing, such as beans, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach and cabbage.

My oxygen saturation is usually quite good; that means I still have good alveoli, despite the severe obstruction on exhale tests. According to nurses, carbon dioxide saturation level can be determined through a blood test--unlike the ubiquitous oxygen sensors heading toward my waiting finger. I even started wheezing after couple of bottles of soda in late January 2012. However, gas after eating is due to methane in your stomach, not trapped carbon dioxide in your raggedy lungs, according to my latest pulmonary tech in the ER room. I started taking over-the-counter gas pills in 2016 after either a carbohydrate-heavy meal, a few beers, or before sleep.

Ms. Leader recommends high calorie beverages such as protein shakes with fruit. Have you ever tried the Mexican fruit smoothie—the licuado? That’s blending carrots and bananas with milk and sugar—perhaps another fruit or two. Bananas are a high-calorie fruit. It’s important to put the carrots in your blender before the banana. Two of my favorite other fruits are guava paste and blueberries. A shake of any kind is a great place to add lecithin or wheat bran. Did you know that lecithin, an enriched soy product, produces the neurotransmitter, choline?

I was glad to see that granola is a recommended cereal; it often contains nuts—another positive for us. Nuts and seeds are good snacks with unsaturated fats. Furthermore, granola bars come in an increasingly wide range of flavors. Sometimes, I spread a little peanut butter on my granola bar as well as a bagel. Then I discovered peanut/caramel granola bars. Mangos, papayas, and dates are more high-calorie fruits.

Good high fiber foods are dried legumes, whole grains, rice, cereals, pasta, and fresh fruit in general; eat 20-35 grams of fiber daily. Finally, look for starchy vegetables. Potatoes are mentioned twice in the article. Corn, peas, and carrots are more starchy vegetables. Recommended soups are pea, navy, lentil, and black bean chili. Try to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables. Choose dense, whole-grain, wheat bread instead of spongy white bread—ready to go soggy.

In conclusion, COPD can lead to weight loss and low energy. Try to eat several small meals per day with occasional snacks. At least this diet offers a lot of variety. I got hungry writing this article!

Lung flare-ups are no longer common for me, but I'll always rely on albuterol breathing treatments and Advair or Symbicort + Spiriva and Daliresp. I'm glad to have a rescue inhaler too. No smoking is a key factor, but learning the right diet for COPD is important too.


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