The Ketogenic Diet for COPD Part 1

Nutrition for managing COPD is probably the most undervalued strategy, yet nutrition for many people can make a significant improvement in their pulmonary function. So, what if Hippocrates was right when he said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

There is so much information out there

Scan the internet and you will find countless articles about what types of foods COPD patients should eat. The question is how much of these articles are based on good science and how many are someone’s thought bubble. We constantly read about certain foods having an anti-inflammatory effect which is great for COPD.

However, if you eat an anti-inflammatory food such as salmon, but cook it in vegetable oil, (an inflammatory food) then you have negated the benefit of eating the salmon.1 If you are trying to reduce inflammation using nutritional strategies, it is important to know which foods are going to be the right foods to eat and which are the ones to avoid.

When it comes to COPD, we have seen studies suggesting a high fat, low carbohydrate diet can be beneficial. This 2003 study concluded that pulmonary function in COPD patients can be significantly improved with a high-fat, low-carbohydrate oral supplement as compared with the traditional high-carbohydrate diet.2

Why the ketogenic diet?

In fact, if you search the internet to find the most relevant diet for COPD patients the ketogenic diet stands out. Why?

  1. It is a diet high in quality fats and low in carbohydrates which aligns to the 2003 study mentioned earlier.
  2. When you are using a ketogenic diet, you produce a compound called beta-hydroxybutyrate. Studies have shown this compound can suppress the main inflammation driver of COPD called NLRP34.3
  3. Fat produces less carbon dioxide than protein or carbohydrates. Given many COPD patients have problems expelling carbon dioxide, it would make sense for COPD patients to eat a high-fat diet.5

Those of you who have followed my blog would know I have been using the ketogenic diet for over two years with great success, so I may be biased. However, it’s hard to argue against this diet as it ticks many boxes in respect to managing COPD through nutrition. Many of the lung associations globally recommend a mix of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates for COPD.6 Problem is, there is little science to actually support those recommendations. The ketogenic diet not only has benefits for COPD patients, but it also has long-term studies supporting its health benefits.7

Is the ketogenic diet for everyone?

No, we are all made differently, and nutrition is a highly individualized field. Some people have problems eating diets high in fat. Personally, I have trouble eating diets high in carbohydrates. The ketogenic diet can be another tool for COPD patients to use in managing their disease.

As patients, it’s important to take a holistic approach to manage our disease. Nutrition is just one part of the COPD picture, but a very important part. In part 2 of this topic, I discuss why this diet is not used by most dieticians and why your doctor will most likely warn you against using the ketogenic diet.

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