We all eat–some much better than others–yet those who live with the ever-looming concerns about symptom flare-ups and oxygen therapy management that accompany a COPD diagnosis need to be extra cautious about food choices.
Certain diets made up of COPD-friendly foods can help improve blood oxygen levels, yet others can cause excessive boating and compress the chest.
This makes the already difficult task of breathing with a lung disease all the more difficult.
However, a well-informed eater can actually improve blood oxygen levels with these foods.
How does food improve blood oxygen levels?
Here’s the myth: food composed of an abundance of oxygen will supply more of those O2 molecules into my blood.
The digestive system and the lungs work very differently when extracting elements and nutrients. Oxygen is not transferred into the blood through the digestive tract.
Oxygen makes its way into our blood when the air we breathe transfers the oxygen through an exchange of gasses that happens deep in the tiny alveoli of the lungs.
During this exchange, the body swaps gas waste in the form of CO2 with oxygen. The oxygen is then picked up in the red blood cells, which have a protein called hemoglobin that sucks up the oxygen molecules.
Those red blood cells then deliver the oxygen molecules to the body’s organs, allowing them to function properly.
Low blood oxygen means poor organ performance.
Certain foods can help improve blood oxygen levels for those with COPD by increasing the abundance of the hemoglobin protein the red blood cells use in the transference process.
If you think of the bloodstream as a train track, you can consider the train car’s hemoglobin and the people on the train are the oxygen molecules.
Increasing hemoglobin is like adding more cars, allowing more people or oxygen to reach the desired destination. Eating certain foods can build more trains!
5 COPD-Friendly foods that improve blood oxygen levels
Hemoglobin is composed of the building blocks found in iron, vitamin C and folic acid-rich foods. Here are our top 5 foods that have can help with hemoglobin production:
Lean seafood, Shrimp is a good low-calorie protein substitute for red meat.
Packed with nutrients like vitamin B-12, phosphorous, selenium, choline, copper, iodine, and certain antioxidants, shrimp, are also an excellent source of protein.
Packed with Vitamin C, oranges are easy to find all year and are tasty, too.
Oranges are also packed with fiber and are excellent sources of vitamins B and A and nutrients such as folate, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, and potassium.
Feeling hungry? Try an orange.
This herb contains many flavonoids and vitamins such as quercetin, vitamins B, C, and K1. It also contains calcium and magnesium.
Nettle is used in making a great tea. Try it with honey. Remember to discuss drinking nettle tea with your doctor before you try it.
Another easy-to-find, delicious fruit, apples, help increase hemoglobin production and make a great snack.
Apples are rich in antioxidants, flavanoids, and dietary fiber, including phytonutrients, B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and phosphorous.
1. Almond Milk.
This dairy-free alternative won’t cause increased mucus production like regular dairy milk.
As an added bonus, almond milk contains numerous vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, folate, riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamins C, E, and B-6.
You can find almond milk at most grocery stores, which also comes in chocolate and vanilla flavors.
Improving blood oxygen levels in other ways
Those coping with a lung disease know very well that there is little traditional medicine can do to help manage symptoms or improve lung function.
Adopting a holistic and proactive approach to your disease can help turn a symptom management plan into a disease treatment plan.
Looking for additional treatment approaches beyond traditional medicine has helped hundreds of those with COPD.
Discuss both traditional and alternative treatment plans with your doctor.
Christine Kingsley, APRN is the Health and Wellness Director at the Lung Institute where she focuses on providing helpful online resources for people looking for information on various lung diseases, breathing exercises, and healthy lifestyle choices. She advocates for holistic care that involves working with your doctor to explore all options including traditional and alternative care while focusing on diet and exercise as proactive measures.