Healthy eating is a popular topic on the Pulmonary Fibrosis News Forums. Members discuss their attempts to promote optimal pulmonary wellness by improving their eating habits. They also share what foods they avoid because of side effects and what foods help them feel better.
Someone once said, “Eat food as your medicine. Otherwise, you will have to eat medicine as your food.” However, I always wonder how this applies to people with a chronic illness, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). I am not suggesting that patients with IPF neglect their antifibrotic medications and focus solely on eating healthy. But it is important to ensure that the two are working in tandem to benefit you.
I recently attended a session of this year’s PFF Summit called “Health and Wellness with Pulmonary Fibrosis.” The session was facilitated by two physicians, a senior dietician, and a respiratory therapist who specializes in pulmonary rehabilitation for patients with IPF. I sat next to Noah Greenspan, who started the Pulmonary Wellness and Rehabilitation Center.
Needless to say, I was surrounded by brilliance.
Weight loss isn’t the only benefit of healthy eating. Real food and a balanced diet fuel, protect, and optimize bodily functions. Diets for rapid weight loss, including keto diets, vegan diets, and paleo or Atkins diets, emerge regularly. They may help people achieve their weight loss goals, but they often aren’t a sustainable way of eating.
Barbra Swanson, a senior dietician at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, had a simple message for us: It’s best to eat a balanced diet of protein, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. I tend to be a fairly healthy eater, and I am grateful that I enjoy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. However, the session showed me how the food we consume affects our bodies, particularly our lungs.
According to Swanson, everything we eat produces carbon dioxide, energy, and water. Unsurprisingly, sugar produces the greatest amount of carbon dioxide, so patients with IPF must avoid frequent consumption of sugar. However, the natural sugars in various fruits do not affect the body the same way that processed sugar does. It is important to consume fruit as part of a balanced diet.
Swanson also spoke about the importance of foods that are high in bioflavonoids, which are beneficial to the lungs. Citrus bioflavonoids can be consumed orally or via supplement and are particularly helpful in boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation, and working as an antioxidant. I had never heard of bioflavonoids before the summit and am trying to incorporate them into my diet.
Unfortunately, patients with IPF often struggle with excess mucus in the lungs, which can complicate or stifle the cough that accompanies IPF. I learned that even though dairy is part of the food pyramid, it isn’t necessary to consume. Dairy consumption is beneficial, but some patients with IPF might be unable to tolerate the increase in mucus.
I also attended a session on the lung transplant experience, facilitated by Doctor Timothy Whelan from the Medical University of South Carolina. He said the two most common comorbidities post-transplant are diabetes and hypertension. Both can be influenced by the food we consume, which emphasizes the importance of healthy eating habits, especially for people with a chronic illness such as IPF.
Understanding the impact of food consumption on our bodies, particularly our lungs, was beneficial. I hope this information is helpful to you as well.
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.