The two most common conditions of COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Emphysema is defined as enlarged airspaces (alveoli) whose walls break down resulting in permanent damage to the lung tissue. Chronic bronchitis is defined as a productive cough that is present for at least three months each year for two years.
The most common cause of COPD is tobacco smoking. Other factors include pollution, exposure to occupational irritants, advanced age and genetics[i][ii]. Diagnosis is based on poor airflow as measured by spirometry[iii].
Fruit and Vegetables:
Fresh fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals, and fibre to keep your body healthy.
Opt for complex carbohydrates. These foods are high in fibre, which helps improve the function of the digestive system and blood sugar management. Examples include: whole grains, fibre-rich fruits, fibre-rich vegetables and beans.
Higher fat, lower carbs:
A reduced carbohydrate diet lowers carbon dioxide production. This may help people with COPD manage their symptoms. Be sure to include plenty of green vegetables and fibre in the diet. Also, be aware that severely cutting carbohydrates can put the body under strain and may not be suitable for all individuals. These extreme diets are best practiced under the supervision of a nutritional therapist.
Potassium is vital to lung function, so a potassium deficiency can cause breathing issues. Try to eat foods containing high levels of potassium, such as:
dark leafy greens
Choose meals containing fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut and coconut oil, olives and olive oil, fatty fish, and cheese. These foods will provide more overall nutrition, especially in the long term, due to being higher density and less inflammatory than refined oils seed oils such as vegetable oil etc.
Foods to avoid:
Salt contains sodium, excess sodium causes water retention, which may affect your ability to breathe. Ensure you use unsalted herbs and spices to flavour food instead.
Some vegetables and legumes
Some foods may cause bloating and gas in some people due to their fermentable carbohydrates. This may lead to breathing problems in people with COPD.
There’s a long list of vegetables and legumes known to cause bloating and gas:
Dairy products, such as milk and cheese, can make phlegm worse.
Doctors may advise to avoid or limit alcoholic beverages, as they can interact with medications. Alcohol may also slow down your breathing rate and make it more difficult to cough up mucus.
Omega-3 fatty acids: can help reduce inflammation, which may be beneficial for people with COPD. Omega 3 fatty acids occur naturally in fish, seeds and nuts such as walnuts, however, some people take fish oil supplements to make sure that they get sufficient amounts of this nutrient. Vegan options are also available.
Try: Eskimo 3 (250caps)
Try: Psyllium Husks, Organic (275g)
Try: Siberian Ginseng Eleutherococcus Drops (50ml)
Ginseng: has been recommended for building up lung strength in COPD; 100 mg twice daily for 12 weeks improved results on lung function tests and respiratory endurance in 92 moderate COPD participants [vi].
Try: Siberian Ginseng Eleutherococcus Drops (50ml)
Vitamin D: Studies suggest that people with COPD may have low vitamin D, Taking vitamin D3 supplements for COPD can also protect against moderate or severe flare-ups. Vitamin C: Low levels of vitamin C may lead to increased shortness of breath, mucus and wheezing in those with COPD. Vitamin A: According to a study, individuals with the highest intake of vitamin A had a 52% lower risk of developing COPD. Vitamin E: People experiencing a flare-up of COPD symptoms appear to have lower levels of vitamin E than people whose COPD is stable[vii]. Long-term use of vitamin E supplements may help prevent COPD [viii].
Magnesium: supports lung function, however, some COPD medications may interfere with the body’s ability to absorb it. Please consult your doctor prior to taking magnesium supplements as it can interfere with some drugs and cause side effects.
Try: Magnesium Glycinate
Calcium can help the lungs function, but some COPD medications may cause people to lose calcium. Therefore it is imperative to consider increasing calcium-rich foods in your diet. If it’s not possible to reach calcium needs through diet, it may be necessary to take a calcium supplement.
Try: Calcium Magnesium (Citrate/Malate) (180 Caps)
Essential oils may be effective in treating upper respiratory infections.
Upper respiratory infections usually only a short period, typically a few weeks.
By contrast, COPD is a chronic, lifelong condition. However, both conditions involve inflammation of your bronchiole tubes. This way, treatment by inhalation of essential oils could help some people find relief in their COPD symptoms.
Eucalyptus oil utilised for centuries as a home remedy for respiratory conditions. Cineole is the active ingredient responsible for its anti-inflammatory benefits and stimulation of the immune system.
Lavender oil is known for its soothing qualities and antimicrobial properties.
A study on mice found that lavender oil might suppress inflammation of mucous in the respiratory system, as well as help with bronchial asthma. Therefore there are implications that lavender oil might be a good option for COPD also.
These two essential oils have a long history as remedies for respiratory conditions. These oils have anti-inflammatory effects, and they have many other properties that may boost health.
Eat small meals:
Eating smaller meals may help you avoid filling up your stomach too much and give your lungs enough room to expand, making breathing easier.
Eat your main meal early:
Try to eat your main meal early in the day. This will boost your energy levels for the whole day and reduce the weight on the digestive system overnight.
Sit up comfortably in a high-backed chair when eating to avoid putting too much pressure on your lungs.
[i] "COPD causes - occupations and substances". www.hse.gov.uk. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
[ii] Ignatavicius, Donna D., Workman, M. Linda., Rebar, Cherie R. (2022-04-02). Heimgartner, Nicole (ed.). Medical-Surgical Nursing: Concepts for Interprofessional Collaborative Care (9thed.). Elsevier. p.574.
[iii] Gold Report 2021, pp. 20–27, Chapter 2: Diagnosis and initial assessment.
[iv] Scoditti, E,. Massaro, M,. Garbarino, S,. et al. (2019) 'Role of Diet in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Prevention and Treatment'. Nutrients. 11(6):1357.
[v] European Cardiology Review 2019;14(2):117–22
[vi] Gross, D., Krieger, D,. & Efrat, R., (1995) 'Ginseng extract G115® for the treatment of chronic respiratory diseases'. Scweiz Z Ganzheits Med. 1995;1:29–33.
[vii] Tsiligianni, IG,. & van der Molen, T., (2010) 'A systematic review of the role of vitamin insufficiencies and supplementation in COPD'. Respir Res. 2010 Dec 6;11(1):171.
[viii] Annemie, M,. Schols, Ivone, M,. Ferreira, Frits, M,. et al. (2014) European Respiratory Journal 44: 1504-1520;
[ix] Oh, C.M., Oh, I.H., Choe, B.K., et al. (2018) 'Consuming Green Tea at Least Twice Each Day Is Associated with Reduced Odds of Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease in Middle-Aged and Older Korean Adults'. J Nutr. 2018 Jan 1;148(1):70-76. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxx016.
Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.