man eating apple

An Apple a Day Could Actually Keep the Doctor Away

About once a month I surf the net for new wisdom about COPD and asthma. I have never been disappointed in my searches, and have always come up with something interesting to write about. This month was no different as I came across an article at RT Magazine called “COPD: Fruits and Veggies Reduce Smokers’ Risk.”1-2

To be honest, as little as two months ago this article would not even have piqued my interest. If I saw it back then I would have just scrolled past it in search of something useful. But this month, we're focusing on the topic of diet & nutrition and its effects on chronic conditions like COPD.

So I did some research. It began, as most research begins, with a theory. Mine was, "It doesn't." Then I had a conversation with Dr. Google. To my surprise,  many pages of results came up. There were actual studies done showing that apples, for instance, had been extensively studied. One study showed that eating at least two apples a day can reduce your risk of asthma symptoms by as much as 32%.3

Can your diet improve lung health?

This inspired me to do some further research in this regard, which inspired an article: “Can Your Diet Improve Asthma Control?”  

Of course, it was not so much what you consume that mattered, so much as what was in what you ate. What I'm talking about here are minerals, vitamins, or other substances.  Upon finishing, I couldn't help but think these same substances should also help reduce the risk of COPD. This theory, unlike my initial one, proved true. 

For instance, coffee has caffeine, which breaks down into a small dose of theophylline once ingested. Theophylline is a mild bronchodilator that was a top-line COPD and asthma medicine during the 1970s, 80, and 90s.  

Vitamins and nutrients

For instance, apples have flavonoids. I will be honest, when I first learned this I had no idea what flavonoids were. But after doing some research I learned that flavonoids block the chemicals responsible for the allergy response, resulting in better asthma control.3 So if you have asthma with your COPD, apples may be good for you. So too would any plant-based foods such as any fruits and veggies.

But let’s take this a step further. Consider any fruits high in vitamin C, including oranges, kiwi, limes, grapefruits. You can also add in their juices. Vitamin C has been discovered to contain antioxidants. These prevent free radicals from causing oxidative stress and damaging airway cells and causing lung diseases like asthma and COPD.

I will delve into this in more detail in a future post, but from the research I have done so far in regards to what causes COPD, oxidative stress has come up quite a bit. It appears that chronic inhalation of airway chemicals and irritants causes oxidative stress, and this is just one of the reasons for the development of airway scarring and loss of lung tissue that causes the gradual development of chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Antioxidants to the rescue

This would include any foods that contain vitamin C, such as the above listed fruits, along with strawberries, brussel sprouts, broccoli, tomatoes, and potatoes. This would also include foods containing flavonoids. 

This would also include foods high in vitamin E, such as nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and green leafy vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, peas, and spinach. Interestingly, vitamin E has been shown to reduce neutrophil levels. Neutrophils are immune cells shown to be responsible for inflammation in severe asthma and COPD.

Beta-carotene is a red/ orange pigment responsible for giving fruits and vegetables their colors, such as orange carrots and orange oranges and orange pumpkins.4 When it’s consumed, your body breaks it down into vitamin A, which is a known antioxidant. It’s also been shown to keep your mucus membranes healthy, something important when you have a lung disease like COPD. Foods to eat include carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, peppers, winter squash, cantaloupe, mango, and dark green leafy vegetables.

Studies have also linked antioxidants, along with vitamins A, C, and E with fewer COPD symptoms and better asthma and COPD control.5

So, now there is some evidence why you should eat your fruits and veggies, especially if you smoke; especially if you have a lung disease like COPD. And that’s why this latest study on how fruits and veggies can prevent COPD caught my attention and gained my interest!

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

More on this topic

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.

Community Poll

Do you have an exacerbation toolkit?