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How COPD Medications Interact With Foods and Nutrients

WebMD Medical Reference from the COPD Foundation


Many individuals with COPD maintain near-normal breathing and an excellent quality of life. They do this by using bronchodilator medicines that relax smooth muscles and open airways. They use anti-inflammatories to reduce the inflammatory response. And they take diuretics that prevent fluid build up.

These medicines are quite effective in improving the symptoms of COPD. However, all of these drugs can increase or decrease your nutritional needs. In addition, the foods you consume can interact with the activity of these medicines and change a drug''s effectiveness.

Some drugs that affect appetite or cause nausea can seriously affect the overall nutritional intake of someone whose food intake may already be compromised. So it is important for you to read the package information. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice. This is particularly important if you are taking any medicines on a long-term basis.


Beta-adrenergic: albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin), salmeterol (Serevent): Albuterol and salmetrol can increase potassium losses from the body. This can cause low blood potassium levels. Usually this lasts a short time and may not require supplements. However, including potassium in your diet is a good idea.

Methylxanthines: theophylline (many brands), aminophylline (Phyllocontin), or oxtriphylline (Choledyl): The effects of foods on theophylline and its "chemical relatives" can vary widely. High-fat meals may increase theophylline levels in the body. High-carbohydrate meals may decrease it. The form of the drug (regular or sustained-release) affects the interaction with food as well. To stabilize the effectiveness of the drug, keep your diet constant during the period of time when you are taking it.

Foods that naturally contain caffeine, theophylline or theobromine can emphasize the effects of methylxanthine medicines. Irritability, nervousness and sleeplessness are the most common side effects. Individuals should avoid eating or drinking large amounts of products containing caffeine, and/or theobromine. These include chocolate, soft drinks, coffee or tea. Alcohol consumption also should be limited. This is particularly important if nausea, vomiting, headache and irritability occur.

Sources of caffeine   milligrams
Coffee, drip,7 ounce serving   115-175*
Coffee, espresso, 2 ounce serving 100
Coffee, brewed, 7 ounce serving 80-135*
Jolt soft-drink, 12 ounce can   71
Tea, iced, 12 ounce serving     70
Instant coffee, 7 ounce serving 65-100*
Mountain Dew (regular and diet), Mellow Yellow, Surge, Pepsi One; 12 ounce can 51-59
Nestea Earl Grey, 12 ounce serving 50
Tea, brewed, 7 ounce serving 40-60*
Tab, Shasta Cola, Mr. Pibb, Dr. Pepper, Sunkist Orange; 12 ounce canCanada Dry Cola, Diet Rite, RC Cola, Pepsi-Cola (regular and diet), 40-47
Coca-Cola; 12 ounce can         30-37
Snapple Lemon Tea, 12 ounce bottle       35
Tea, instant, 7 ounce serving   30
Nestea, 12 ounce serving 26
Coffee, decaffeinated, brewed, 7 ounce serving 3-4
7 Up, Sprite, and many others (check ingredient list) 0

*The amount of caffeine in coffee and tea varies widely, even if prepared by the same person using the same equipment and ingredients day after day.

Sources of Theobromine  milligrams
Chocolate chips, 1/4 cup 207
Dark chocolate, 1.5 ounce bar 195
Cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon 138
Milk chocolate, 1.5 ounce bar 86
Chocolate-flavored syrup, 2 tablespoons 69
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