The official blog of the Lung Institute.

Foods to Avoid With COPD

1 May 2014
| Under COPD, Lifestyle | Posted by | 41 Comments
Foods to Avoid with COPD

When someone is diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), many aspects of that person’s life change. Doctors will recommend several lifestyle modifications to help prevent symptoms flare-ups and other complications. One of the most important areas to modify is something most people do three times a day – eat. With your health in mind, here are some Foods to Avoid with COPD.

Cold Cuts and Cured Meats

Most cold cut sandwich meats contain additives, called nitrates, which help to maintain the color of cold cuts or prolong their shelf life. No matter if someone has COPD or not, it’s recommended to keep these types of food to a minimum or avoid them if possible. Types of cold cuts include:

  • Bacon (Yes, bacon. Unless it’s uncured bacon without additives.)
  • Cold Cuts
  • Ham
  • Hot Dogs

Salty Foods

A little pinch of salt may be fine every now and then, but a heavy salt diet can be a problem for someone with COPD. Salt can cause people to retain water, which can make breathing more difficult. For those looking for other ways to ditch the salt but still have flavor, check out these herbs and spices.

Dairy Products

Although milk is a great source of vitamins and minerals, milk is also known to increase mucus production. During flare-ups, people with lung disease often experience an increase in mucus. As an alternative, try almond or soy milk.

Dairy products to avoid include:

  • Yogurt
  • Ice cream
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Buttermilk

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous Vegetables are great sources of fiber and other nutrients, but they can also cause excess gas and bloating. For someone with COPD, bloating and excess gas can cause pressure and make it more difficult to breathe. Think about cutting out these vegetables if possible, or at least limit their consumption.

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels spouts
  • Radishes
  • Bok choy

Fried Foods

Like broccoli or cauliflower, fried foods can cause bloating and excess gas making it difficult to breathe. Eating too much fried food can also cause weight gain, thus putting more pressure on the diaphragm. Do your best to avoid these foods, as well as most things commonly found in a drive-through:

  • French fries
  • Onion rings
  • Jalapeño poppers
  • Fried chicken
  • Fried fish

Carbonated Beverages

It should be no surprise that carbonated beverages contribute to gas and bloating. Not only do soft drinks and other carbonated beverages cause abdominal pressure from bloating, they typically contain a lot of sugar and contribute to dehydration. If you’re thirsty, drink water. Your lungs will thank you. Avoid these beverages:

  • Carbonated soft drinks
  • Sparkling waters
  • Beer
  • Sparkling wines
  • Sparkling cider

Avoid Sulfites

Sulfites are often added to foods and drinks to help them maintain shelf life or appearance. Sulfites trigger a narrowing of bronchial tubes in people with respiratory problems. Some sulfite-containing foods include:

  • Shrimp
  • Potatoes
  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Some medications (talk to your doctor)

Avoid Heartburn and Acid Reflux

Do you know which foods to avoid with COPD that can give you acid reflux? Try to avoid or eliminate these foods from your diet. Long-term acid reflux, referred to as GERD, can increase COPD symptoms. Furthermore, COPD sufferers are already at a higher risk of developing acid reflux.

  • Citrus fruit
  • Fruit juices
  • Anything fried
  • Tomato sauce
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee

Although it sounds like a lot of foods to avoid with COPD, by implementing these dietary suggestions over time, it will become second nature. Remember to ask your doctor before you change your diet. After an adjustment period, you’ll be eating healthier and feeling better. After learning all the foods to avoid with COPD, you might be wondering, what’s left? Check out our article about COPD-friendly foods you’ll enjoy to learn about other tasty options.

For those looking for additional ways to improve quality of life, there are other treatment options, such as cellular therapy. At the Lung Institute, we specialize in innovative procedures that harvest patients’ own cells to harness the body’s natural healing ability, promoting healing from within. If you or a loved one has COPD or another lung disease, and would like to learn more, please contact us or call (800) 729-3065.


  1. Smiffy

    12 months ago

    At the top you say to avoid bacon unless it is uncured – it cannot be bacon until it is cured – uncured bacon is called Pork.

  2. Matt

    1 year ago

    Hello Joan,
    Thank you for your comment. Fortunately, there are alternatives to your favorite foods you can enjoy which are COPD friendly. Click here to learn more. Thanks again and have a great day.

  3. joan byrd

    1 year ago

    I guess my food will kill me …not Stage 4 COPD

  4. Pingback: Living with COPD: Foods that Help & Foods that Harm – Griswold Home Care

  5. PB

    1 year ago

    Dear Sharla,

    Thanks for your comment and for sharing some of your story with us. We’re glad to hear that you have found foods that help you feel your better. We wish you the best.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  6. Sharla

    1 year ago

    I have found with my COPD diagnosis a lot of foods I never thought I would like that are really good. It was hard for me in the beginning but got easier finding what I liked. Wild Salmon, chicken, fish…all kinds! If I fry it, I use light avacado oil or coconut organic unrefined and floured in brown rice flour with an egg batter Yummy. Coconut products; almond milk. Raw milk is best for me, but I use all the above. I wondered why I could eat raw milk but no other cows milk in the store; and it dosent dry me out or cause mucus production! Try it! Its amazing! Raw milk with pasture raised cows…grass fed, taste so good and is improving my lungs and bones! I drink one cup in the morning, it also has good bacteria in it like yogurt and enzymes that make it easy to digest! Win win. Sourdough bread from San Francisco sourdough company or Ezekiel 22 bread both no inflammation for me…. Found out it was because the ENZYMES are intact in the bread which makes it a “whole food” that works with digestion and not against it. Read the ingredients! Look for enzymes, if it has the enzymes it is easily digested. Pasture raised eggs are pricey but are great! Smoothies with plain yogurt and berries for desert sweetened with raw local honey or popcorn….the best! Now I crave these foods and wouldn’t go without them. Coconut milk Chia seed pudding, cabbage jello or whatever veggie you like. It gets so much better. When I get inflammation or bacterial infection I drink grapefruit juice and green tea or coffee, gone quickly.Ice smoothies for inflamation works too! GLUTEN FREE is the best. Millet flour, brown rice and flour, brown jasmine rice, all fruits in moderation, tons of veggies and lots of water and teas. Life is not over its truly just beginning. I was diagnosed when I was 27 I’m now 31 and feel better then I ever have in my life. Wish I could have been introduced to all this growing up.

  7. Pingback: Traditional vs. Natural COPD Treatment: Your Complete Guide | Lung Institute

  8. PB

    2 years ago

    Dear Own,

    There are many factors that go into deciding what the best diet is for you. For some people, steak is too high in fat, and they need to eat a lower fat protein such as fish, chicken or turkey instead. Because everyone is different and has different dietary needs, it’s best to discuss this with your doctor to develop the best diet for you.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  9. own

    2 years ago

    Can you be able to eat steak if you have COPD?

  10. PB

    2 years ago

    Dear Kiev,

    For many people with COPD, a healthy, lung-friendly diet, gentle exercise and sticking with a treatment plan helps them feel better and live a full life. While COPD and other chronic lung diseases are progressive, with healthy lifestyle choices and treatment, people are able to enjoy many of their favorite activities. For many people, cellular treatment has helped them regain their quality of life and improved their breathing. We’re happy to answer your questions regarding cellular treatment, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak with a patient coordinator. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  11. Kiev

    2 years ago

    Seem like the best way to get rid of COPD is to die after all a corpse cannot have COPD

  12. Lynda

    2 years ago

    Thanks for the article. i have known for a long time about nitrates in processessed mear, ham, bacon, hot dogs, nitrates cause copd and cause flare ups so I have avioded these foods. I try to keep my body well with alkaline foods. My lung Doc told me years ago that a good probiotic helps with my avid reflux. I gave up sugar a few years ago and only have raw honey straight from the bees. I love my eggs and get them straight from the egg man.I try to avoid preservatives too. I rarely buy anything much from a
    supermarket anymore. I don’t eat lollies or chips ect. My problem is trying to loseweight being on 12 years long term prednisone unfotunatly

  13. Chris

    2 years ago

    I eat yogurt and cottage cheese every day for breakfast and lunch. Doesn’t seem to bother me. Eat whatever works for you. Keeping your weight in tack also is a must. Small amounts of food. Keep active.

  14. PB

    2 years ago

    Dear Patt,

    Thanks for your comment. While foods like broccoli and grapefruit are healthy choices for most people, they may cause problems for people with COPD. For example, broccoli can cause gas and bloating. For people with COPD, extra gas and bloating can make breathing more difficult, so broccoli might not be the best choice for them. Grapefruit can interact with certain medications, so it’s best to ask your doctor if it’s okay to eat grapefruit based on your medication list. Carrots, oranges and sweet potatoes are excellent choices for people with COPD. For more COPD-friendly foods you’ll enjoy, check out our article by clicking here. Again, it’s important to discuss your diet and which foods are good choices for you with your doctor before changing your diet. We wish you the best.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  15. Patt

    2 years ago

    Ends up we don’t know what to believe. My brother sent me an article about foods that help COPD. Vitamin A Was high on list like broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots and others. It also said citrus fruits like orange, grapefruit, and others. I don’t know how we are to get help if you doctors and research people cannot agree.

  16. PB

    2 years ago

    Dear Carol,

    Thanks for your question. Having the time and energy to cook a meal can be challenging, especially for people with COPD. Some frozen meals have a lot of sodium in them, and for people with COPD, too much sodium could cause problems. Keep an eye on the sodium levels in your frozen dinners and choose frozen meals that have less sodium. If you are interested in easy meal ideas that don’t require a lot of time or energy, try some crock pot recipes. Crock pots are great because you put your ingredients in and cook your meal slowly during the day. Click here to read some COPD-friendly crock pot recipes. You can also talk to your doctor about what he or she recommends as well. We hope this is helpful, and we wish you the best.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  17. Carol

    2 years ago

    I have copd. My question is I eat a lot of TV dinners for that works best with my schedule. Are lean quizine ok for me to eat. If not, what other dinners would you recommend. I just don’t have time or energy to cook. I live alone and frozen dinners have always been a life saver.

  18. Pingback: Could Your Diet Affect Your Risk For Lung Disease?

  19. Pingback: Lung Institute| Top 3 Christmas Desserts for COPD

  20. PB

    2 years ago

    Dear Jo,

    Thanks for your comment. We understand how frustrating it can be to live with COPD. While certain foods can aggravate COPD symptoms, there are tasty alternatives to those foods. For example, because dairy can cause an increase in mucus production, eating non-dairy cheese and non-dairy milk alternatives (almond cheese or soy milk) could help you enjoy those foods without the discomfort of increased mucus. Also, we wrote an article about COPD-friendly foods, and we hope it’s helpful for you. Before changing your current diet though, it’s important to talk with your doctor.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  21. Jo

    2 years ago

    These food suggestions to help COPD are nuts !! If your a person with COPD, plus several other problems, what is left to live on ? Doctors are freakin’ crazy over diets. I really think they are trying to kill us. Cause why not be dead if we can’t eat or drink anything but water !! You call this LIFE ?

  22. PB

    2 years ago

    Hello SJ,

    Thanks for your question. While there are several foods that could aggravate COPD symptoms, there are also some good alternatives to try. For example, if eating dairy products causes your mucus production to increase, consider non-dairy food alternatives, such as almond milk and soy cheese. For more information, check out our article COPD-Friendly Foods You’ll Enjoy.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  23. Sj

    2 years ago

    Gee, after reviewing this list of foods to avoid,what’s left?W

  24. PB

    2 years ago

    Dear Syeda,

    Thanks for your comment. We’re sorry to hear that your mom has been going through such a difficult time with interstitial lung disease. For many people with chronic lung disease, certain foods can aggravate symptoms, such as fatty, fried foods, carbonated drinks, too much salt and cruciferous vegetables. However, there are alternatives to these foods that many people find tasty and don’t irritate symptoms, such as using herbs instead of salt, staying hydrated with water and eating dairy alternatives like almond milk or soy cheese. We recommend talking with your mom’s doctor about these options before changing your mom’s diet. Because your mom’s doctor knows her and her health very well, he or she will be able to guide you. We would be happy to answer any questions you have about cellular treatment, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 today. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  25. Syeda

    2 years ago

    Can anyone tell what can I do to make my mom lungs healthy she is having advanced interstitial lungs disease n what food to be given n avoid

  26. sh

    2 years ago

    Hello, Joe.
    We’re sorry to hear about your COPD diagnosis. It’s always nice to look forward to a cold drink after a long day, but moderation is key, if not abstinence, for people with chronic lung disease. Click on this sentence for a short blog that you might find interesting.

    Best Regards,
    The Lung Institute

  27. Joe

    2 years ago

    I worked all my life mostly in the oil and gas industry both outside and inside, I am now 71 and have COPD I can live with most of what you write but I would like a couple of beer here and there, you did not mention Vodka, is that OK. If beer is going to kill me, I hope it is tomorrow.

  28. PB

    2 years ago

    Hello Sarala,

    We’re glad that you’ve found this information useful. Keep checking in with our blog to see more articles on a variety of topics.

    Kind Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  29. Sarala Devi

    2 years ago

    Very very useful information.
    Thanks for the same.

  30. PB

    2 years ago

    Hello Francine,

    Thanks for your comment. For more food and recipe ideas, you can check out some of our recipes blogs, such as healthy recipes for lung disease or healthy COPD recipes. Keep checking back to see what other food and recipe ideas we have.

    Best Regards,

    The Lung Institute

  31. Francine

    2 years ago

    I don;t like meat much, never eat fish, live on pasta wheat or vegetable type with cheese, eggs, wheat bread, cheese and sometimes wheat crackers. Frozen spinach I keep loosing weight because I cannot eat much and when I try to eat more often it does not work at all. I do drink vit d milk and eat real butter this does not seem to bother me. My enemy is sugar and some processed foods like I love hot dogs and bacon just need to give them up will always drink my two cups of coffee in the morning with 1/2 and 1/2 do not crave sweets except for occasionally then I can eat a coffee cake myself..

  32. Cameron Kennerly

    2 years ago

    Hello Paul,

    Thanks for your comment! In response to your question, a squeeze of lemon would be just fine on your salad. Our “Foods to Avoid with COPD” article is more so a helpful guidepost to foods that have the capacity to exacerbate symptoms of COPD if eaten exclusively or in excess. Of course, all of the items on the list are subject to the natural response of your body. If your respiratory health remains unaffected by an extra squeeze of lemon, or tomato and lettuce in your salad then feel free to indulge. However, if these foods do seem to aggravate your symptoms, it may be wise to reduce your intake.

    Hope this helps Paul,

    -The Lung Institute

  33. Paul Edwards

    2 years ago

    Am I not supposed to even drink fruit/vegetable drinks with my COPD ? Surely,just a squeeze of lemon on my salad isn’t too much. And what about tomato and lettuce salads for example ?

  34. Pingback: Lung Institute| Thanksgiving COPD Desserts

  35. Pingback: Lung Institute| Maintaining Cognitive Function

  36. Pingback: Lung Institute | Avoid These Foods with Lung Disease

  37. Maren Auxier

    3 years ago

    Hi Hiroko,

    Thanks for your comment. We list general guidelines that may help you to breathe easier. Here is another blog on foods that you can eat to promote better lung function: http://lunginstitute.com/blog/nutritional-guidelines-for-better-breathing/

    Hope this helps!



  38. Hiroko

    3 years ago

    Must avoid all those nutrients?
    Tell me what I should eat to maintain my health generally. Hiroko

  39. janet

    3 years ago

    I think eating small portions is a healthy way to maintain c.oh.p.d.

  40. Taz

    3 years ago

    I hear ya Donna. What’s left? Gave up my beer too.

  41. Donna

    3 years ago

    that leaves nothing for me to eat. now i will lose weight. no way will i ever give up all of this.
    already gave up my beer and cigarettes. that is enough.

All claims made regarding the efficacy of Lung Institute's treatments as they pertain to pulmonary conditions are based solely on anecdotal support collected by Lung Institute. Individual conditions, treatment and outcomes may vary and are not necessarily indicative of future results. Testimonial participation is voluntary. Lung Institute does not pay for or script patient testimonials.

As required by Texas state law, the Lung Institute Dallas Clinic has received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval from MaGil IRB, now Chesapeake IRB, which is fully accredited by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Program (AAHRPP), for research protocols and procedures. The Lung Institute has implemented these IRB approved standards at all of its clinics nationwide. Approval indicates that we follow rigorous standards for ethics, quality, and protections for human research.