Our diets today are filled with foods that are bad for our lungs. As western society has progressed, we have adopted a diet that is filled with foods that have a negative impact on our bodies.
It’s not just that these foods have become more widely available and cheaper to buy, they have been made to be used for highlights of social interactions and often promoted for the benefits that they can provide, while leaving out the negatives.
Let’s look at some of these foods, and some others, that you can kick from your diet to help improve your lung function and keep you breathing easy.
1. White Bread
White bread has become a staple of diets. Bread broken down into its refined condition turns it into a simple carbohydrate.
Any type of grain that has been “refined” has had its nutrition stripped with some added back. Refined ,or simple, carbohydrates not only have significantly less nutritional value, they lead to an increased inflammatory response when consumed. Increased inflammation makes it more difficult for your body to move blood.
If you are unable to move oxygenated blood, the stress on your heart and lungs becomes increased. So go for whole wheat and whole grain carbs like wheat bread and brown rice.
2. Processed Meat
Processed meat really just means any alteration of the meat to prolong the shelf life or improve the taste. Hot dogs, ham, and sausages are the ones I encounter the most. Others include salami and canned meat.
These processed meats typically have nitrites added to them that help with extending the “good through” date. The problem with these meats is that they send the body into an inflammatory response.
And as we discussed with simple carbs, will stress the pulmonary system, and over a prolonged period of stress, will result in decreased function.
Burgers specifically, have been shown to increase the occurrence of wheezing in those with asthma when more than one are consumed per week. There are a couple of reasons burgers affect breathing.
First, processed meat, which we just touched on. Secondly, fast food burgers are very high in fat. Meals with high saturated fat content have been shown to exacerbate symptoms related to COPD and asthma.
4. Whole Milk
Whole milk and other dairy products have been shown to have a negative impact on those with pulmonary complications. Through the process of breaking down these dairy products, one of the results is an increased production of mucus.
Increased production means an increased chance of having build up in your lungs. This means that your lungs will not be able to supply your body with oxygen as efficiently. It also puts you at risk for lung infections, which would be the worst case. If you’re looking for an alternative to whole milk, try almond or coconut milk.
5. Alcoholic Beverages
Having a nightly drink is a ritual in some places. A beer or a glass of wine to help relax from the day. However, consuming alcohol, especially late in the evening, is not something that is recommended if you’re trying to keep your lungs in top shape.
Alcohol, from wine to beer, can lead to having acid reflux at night. Most people only notice acid reflux when they have a noticeable burn in their chest. However, studies have shown that consumption of alcohol too close to going to bed is related to a more subtle heartburn that may not feel bad, but may exacerbate any pulmonary issues you may have resulting strained lungs as well as less rest.
Broccoli in and of itself, is not an unhealthy food. In fact it just happens to give you gas. Broccoli along with other vegetables like cauliflower and brussel sprouts generate excess gas during their breakdown.
Excess gas is not going to lead to over working your lungs like some of the other foods we have mentioned. It’s primary effect is limiting the space your lungs have to expand resulting in being able to take smaller breaths. Beans are another food you don’t want to overeat on for the same reason.
Salt is found in almost all foods. It’s not inherently bad, in fact in the right dose, it serves the body well.
However, if you’re experiencing difficulty breathing or have a condition or illness that affects the respiratory system, you should monitor your intake and keep it limited. Salt in high doses dehydrates your body, and in turn leads to inflammation posing increased stress on the respiratory system.
Sodas, especially ones containing caffeine, are certainly among the top of the list of things to avoid consuming. Carbonated beverages will lead to excess gas and can lead to heartburn, which we have already discussed.
Caffeine is another reason to avoid these drinks as it increases heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure. These effects together can exacerbate any breathing difficulty you may already have, so do your best to stay away from them.
9. Fried Foods
Fried foods are such a common part of many diets these days, because let’s face it, fried food tastes great. That great taste comes at a high cost, though.
To start with, most fried foods are breaded, typically with a simple refined carb. Second, it is going to be fried in oil that is going to give it an increase in mostly saturated fats and that is going to increase the chances of having heart burn. Finally, these foods are typically very high in calories and are directly linked to weight gain.
In today’s world if you don’t drink coffee you stand out more than if you do, even for younger populations. While coffee in moderation has been shown to overall have a positive effect on the body, over consumption has been linked to lung cancer in both smoking and non-smoking individuals.
Try to limit your coffee to two cups a day or less, to make sure you get the benefits you want, without any of the problems later on.
Hopefully this list gave you some insight to foods that are bad for your lungs. It is important to always make healthy choices for your diet, but if you don’t, you definitely need to understand the effects the foods or drinks you choose could have on your body.
The western diet has made processed foods, alcohol and deep fried foods a staple of many individual’s diets. Not only can these foods affect your body in the short term, but, because they also tend to be calorie dense, over consumption over time will lead to increased weight gain.
This is the final and most important consideration due to the fact that being overweight tends to lead to increased stress on all organs in the body, especially your lungs. Thanks for reading, eat healthy, and as always, breathe easy my friend.
The following are the sources that were used while doing research for this article:
- Nicholls, Carol. “Providing Nutritional Information to People with Lung Disease.” PubMed, 7 Oct. 2020, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15000032.
- Askanazi, J. “Respiratory Distress Secondary to a High Carbohydrate Load: A Case Report.” PubMed, May 1980, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6768147.
- Askanazi, J. “Nutrition for the Patient with Respiratory Failure: Glucose vs. Fat.” PubMed, May 1981, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6784608.
- “Nutrition and Respiratory Health—Feature Review.” PubMed Central (PMC), 1 Mar. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4377870.