Healthy living doesn’t start and end with doctor visits and taking medication on time. Maintaining your health is a whole-body endeavor, including everything from your sleeping environment to the way you move to how you fuel your body.
Not sure what you should be eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Keep reading to find out what kind of pulmonary fibrosis diet is right for you.
The Mediterranean Diet
The MedDiet has been a popular choice since a 1960s-era observation that people living along the Mediterranean seemed to live longer and experience less cardiovascular disease than other individuals. Earlier, its focus on fresh produce, whole grains and fish rather than simple sugars and red meat was thought to give it the edge. Now, many studies recognize it’s built-in emphasis on antioxidants.
If it comes out of the soil or the sea, it’s fair game! The Mediterranean Diet is big on fresh and cooked veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds, and legumes. It directs consumers to eat oily fish, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, about twice a week. Poultry, eggs, and dairy are okay, too, but should be eaten in moderation. When it comes to cooking, reach for extra virgin olive oil instead of butter or more processed oils and choose herbs and spices such as oregano, basil, cinnamon and turmeric instead of salt, for flavoring.
Red meat, salt and refined grains should be eaten infrequently on the Mediterranean Diet, while processed foods, trans fats and products with added sugar (think: soda and candy) should be avoided.
Why it’s great for IPF
The antioxidants and other nutrients you gain from fresh produce, olive oil, spices and oily fish can help your body prevent the progression of fibrotic diseases. They decrease inflammation at a cellular level throughout your body. Not only will it help your lungs, but it’ll help you fight off other illnesses, too.
Plus, the Mediterranean Diet’s mode of healthy eating encourages weight maintenance and balanced blood sugar. That should ensure that you don’t experience energy spikes throughout the day, which is important as you try to keep up with as normal of a daily routine as possible.
The Low FODMAP Diet
For more than half a century, patients with gastrointestinal diseases have observed that certain foods trigger symptoms of irritable bowel disease and other GI conditions. It wasn’t until 2004, however, that researchers at Monash University in Australia put all these observations together and built a dietary plan around it. That dietary plan is the low FODMAP Diet.
The pulmonary fibrosis diet is very specific about what you can and cannot eat. It’s all based on the molecular makeup of different foods and how your body digests them.
You can eat whatever proteins you like, including eggs. Soybean products like tofu are fine, but whole soybeans themselves are not. Lactose is axed, but lactose-free cheeses, yogurts and milk are A-OK. Look for wheat-free grains, including rice, oats, quinoa and corn.
Produce is where the low FODMAP Diet can get confusing. When it comes to veggies, stock your kitchen with bell peppers, carrots, green beans, cucumbers, olives, potatoes and zucchini. For fruits, grab oranges, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, lemons and limes and cantaloupe.
Ready for the strange list of what you can’t have? Buckle up: It starts with wheat, rye, beans and lentils. You should also avoid stone fruit (think: cherries, peaches, plums), and pears. Sweeteners and artificial sweeteners are out, too, and so is alcohol.
Why it’s great for IPF
“FODMAP” is an acronym that describes the foods that trigger gut symptoms, namely fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. What does this have to do with lung health? Everything, it turns out.
Scientists have recently discovered a connection between gastrointestinal symptoms and lung disease. An unbalanced ecosystem in the gut can cause both GI distress and respiratory inflammation. This is known as the gut-lung axis.
The low FODMAP Diet has been shown to decrease symptoms like gas, diarrhea, bloating and cramping in patients with and without irritable bowel syndrome. An improvement in GI symptoms means healthier intestines, which, thanks to the connection between the GI tract and the respiratory system, could mean healthier lungs, too.
Low Glycemic Diet
If you’ve heard of the glycemic index, you’ve likely heard it in relation to diabetes. That makes sense, considering that the GI was developed to help people with diabetes manage their disease by controlling their blood sugar levels through diet. For patients with lung disease, however, weight loss and low energy levels are common symptoms. If you’re struggling with these problems, adopting this pulmonary fibrosis diet can help you maintain your weight and activity level.
Load up on veggies and most fruits, as well as legumes, nuts and seeds and whole grains. Swap in rolled or old-fashioned oats for standard cereals, and sweet potatoes in for white potatoes.
Carbohydrate-free foods, like meat, poultry, fish and nuts, are fair game. That doesn’t mean you should go hog-wild, though! Look for lean meats and try to increase the amount of oily fish you eat each week to get those good-for-you omega-3s.
You’ll want to avoid foods that your body digests quickly, like white bread, sugar and starchy white vegetables. Limit cereals and opt for whole grains when you have a craving bread or pasta.
Note: A diet of foods that are low on the glycemic index doesn’t mean that you can’t eat your favorite candy. You totally can! With low GI, the focus is more on moderation than restriction, especially if your condition isn’t directly related to your blood sugar.
Why it’s great for IPF
A low glycemic diet is easily adaptable to both your wants and your needs, making it easier to stick with other eating plans. This diet is about the whole daily picture—how your GI stacks up over 24 hours—rather than how “low” every bite you take is on the glycemic index. It might be helpful to use a tool, like a smartphone app or a paper planner, that helps you log what you eat according to glycemic index each day.
By further restricting the low-GI foods you eat, you can also turn a weight maintenance diet into a weight loss diet. Because being overweight further stresses your lungs, this flexibility can be an asset for patients and healthcare professionals alike. However, since carbohydrates aren’t the entire story when it comes to losing weight, you’ll want to work with a nutritionist to make sure you’re eating a balanced diet that will get you where you need to be.
These three diets are our top picks for patients living with lung disease. Before you change your diet plan, though, you should always talk to the doctor overseeing your care. A nutritionist can also help you build the ideal pulmonary fibrosis diet for your situation.