Eating nutritious foods is one of the ways I try to maintain my health. I’ve made a lot of changes to my diet over the past several months and it has helped tremendously. I haven’t seen any improvement in my lung function tests, but I have noticed positive changes in my energy level, the amount of congestion I wrestle with every day, and my ability to fight off infections. I only got sick once this past winter and was able to completely avoid several colds my boys brought home. That’s notable!
This study of diet came out of a frustrating situation. You see, as cystic fibrosis progresses, bacteria colonizes in the lungs. That means that even if I’m not sick, there is always bacteria present in my lungs. Sometimes it just sits there relatively quietly, contributing to inflammation but not making me acutely ill. Other times it flares up and causes acute symptoms, perhaps because I got a virus or sometimes for an unknown reason.
There are inhaled antibiotics that are used routinely to keep this colonized bacteria under control. They are helpful because they go straight to the source of the problem. Unfortunately, I have tried them all and cannot tolerate any of them due to my asthma (they cause wheezing, chest tightness, and lung irritation). Out of frustration Jaime started researching natural remedies and we found there are a lot of foods out there that can help with my specific issues: inflammation, bacteria, and the need for a strong immune system. Eating healthy was not new to me; I was raised eating all kinds of fresh and healthy foods, but the idea that I could eat certain foods to address my specific issues was new and exciting!
As I mentioned before, I cut dairy out of my diet due its links to asthma and congestion. Then we started looking for foods that would help with immunity, inflammation and bacteria and were surprised to find many great options! I won’t write about all the foods I eat in this post, but let me tell you about my breakfast.
I try to eat this dish several times a week, and here’s what’s in it: coconut oil, eggs, kale, red cabbage, mushrooms, freshly grated turmeric root, chia seeds, freshly ground black pepper, and quinoa. Here is how these foods help my body:
Eggs are high in vitamins, protein, and healthy fats. They help me keep my weight up.
Coconut oil is anti-inflammatory, helps with nutrient absorption, is anti-microbial (kills a variety of disease-causing bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites), and helps stabilize blood sugar. (According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, 43% of adults with CF over the age of 30 develop cystic fibrosis related diabetes. I don’t currently have diabetes but I did have gestational diabetes during my pregnancy and am careful to eat foods that keep my blood sugar stable).
Kale is very high in vitamins A, C, and K. Getting a lot of vitamins A and K is especially important for me because they are fat soluble, meaning they need fat in order to be soaked up by the body. CF patients tend to be deficient in them because we have trouble absorbing fats. Kale is also high in antioxidants which boost immunity. I’ve even read that it reduces the amount of mucus in the lungs!
Red cabbage boosts immunity, is anti-microbial, and antibacterial. In fact, it has been shown to kill the bacteria Staphylococcus (both regular Staph and Methicillian resistant Staph), and Pseudomonas. Both Staph and Pseudomonas common CF colonizers. Red cabbage is also effective against the fungus Aspergillus which can live in the airways of CFers. Red cabbage improves digestion and is high in vitamin C. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3171003/)
Mushrooms boost the immune system, increase white blood cell count to aid in fighting infection, have antibiotic properties, and stimulate the appetite.
Chia seeds are have high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids (to keep me smart 😉 ), are high in protein, have high levels of antioxidants to boost immunity, are easily digestible, and stabilize blood sugar.
Black pepper aids with digestion, reduces congestion, is anti-inflammatory, and has antibacterial properties.
Turmeric root is a powerful antioxidant, is antibacterial, and is anti-inflammatory.
Quinoa is high in calories and in nutrients. It has a lot of protein and a good amount of vitamins. It aids with digestion and stabilizes blood sugar.
I’ll be writing more about diet and foods in upcoming posts. I’m still reading and learning about it and adjusting my diet to meet my needs. I got a lot of personalized help from my friend Erin who is studying to be a dietician and is a wealth of information. Check out her blog here:
Jaime found a blog called “CF and Healthy,” and reading that blog was what prompted this whole study. There is a lot of CF specific diet information and links to news articles which are very interesting:
I admit, preparing these kinds of foods takes time. It’s a lot more work than pouring milk on a bowl of cereal. But I’m feeling stronger and healthier, and that makes it well worth the effort. Health, it’s what’s for breakfast!