Pulmonary Oedema and my plan to deal with it – maybe…

It’s possible that I might be able to avoid future bouts of Pulmonary Oedema. Maybe not all of them, but they do seem to all have clearly identifiable food triggers.

First, some backstory. Back in August I was hauled off to hospital barely able to breathe, coughing bloody sputum, and convinced I was dying. In fact, I was at that point but, luckily I didn’t.

Turned out I had Pulmonary Oedema (PO from here on in),with some nasty complications, like atelectasis – a partial collapse of the lung, to put it simply – and an infection.

This wasn’t new. These attacks, in a more minor form, had been happening for a year or more but I’d just put it down to COPD, but what put me in hospital was by far the worst bout I’d ever had, and remains so, and it’s also the first time anyone had put a name to it, so I set about looking for a cause. And, if possible, a remedy.

As regular readers might be aware, I’ve identified, and subsequently dismissed, several food triggers, as they are unreliable, but as time goes by, and the more the data I amass, the more certain I am the food triggers are real.

Chocolate is the worst, that’s what put me in hospital after pigging out on Jaffa Cakes (a repeat, but less severe, performance with a bar of Dairy Milk confirmed it was the chocolate, not marmalade or cake), but the only references I can find relate to PO and chocolate is in dogs), with pretty much any fatty food close on its tail. And I mean inherently fatty – fried food seems to have no discernible effect at all.

Every nocturnal bout of PO since hospital can be traced to a fatty meal the day before (for some reason, PO always strikes at or close to 03.30, never during the day, a factor which makes it more terrifying than it need be). So far, the confirmed triggers – i.e. those which have set off an attack multiple times – are Jaffa Cakes, of course, chocolate in any form, high-fat cheese of any sort, and Carr’s Melts (which have triggered most attacks).

It seem that foods with an innate fat content of 20% or more are the real dangers (which means I’m also treating butter and dairy spreads with caution), and, in addition, forgetting to take my diuretic (or just taking a break from the incessant peeing the drug causes), can seriously worsen the situation.

But let’s return to Carr’s Melts, a small, seemingly innocuous, and tasty cracker. I can’t sleep if I’m hungry and, for a few years they’ve been a frequent bedtime snack. These things are 63mm in diameter and 4mm thick on average, not a lot of scope for causing damage there, you’d think, as did I. Big mistake.

As I mentioned in my last post, despite their diminutive size these things are a staggering 83kcals each! That’s more than a slice of wholemeal bread (around 70kcals), and as my “handful” is about 10 crackers, my bedtime snack can almost double my calorie intake for the day, which explains my weight gain. And they’re 21.7% fat, too, which helps explain the calorie count and their effect on my PO. I often had them buttered, so you can imagine the consequences.

Monday night, I had a handful of Carr’s Melts at bedtime (dry). At 03.30 I was woken by a coughing fit, serious difficulty breathing, and a torrent of bloody and frothy sputum – classic PO (I have photos, in case my GP ever shows any interest but, trust me, you don’t want to see them). By 04.00 sleep was long gone and I was in the living room, mega-dosing on my inhalers to get things back under control.

Which I did, but it was still touch and go whether I’d wind up in hospital or not (I don’t want to be there at the best of times, but especially not in flu season). I’ve asked my GP, twice, for drugs more appropriate than my inhalers (especially as generic inhalers are very quickly depleted), but he’s ignored me.

I’m as certain as I can be that PO has never happened without a trigger (and when it comes to my health, especially those aspects of it that can kill me,** I tend to pay very close attention), so I wonder how many other people it happens to, as I can find no research on the subject. I can’t be the only person to have made this connection, surely?

**And yes, despite my GP’s cavalier attitude, PO could very easily kill me and – trust me – it’s not a way you’d choose to go.

So from now on all the above foods, and those with a similar fat content, are to be avoided, preferably at all times (boring!), but certainly eaten no later than lunch in the case of cheese (but as I don’t normally eat lunch that could be difficult (and I need the calcium and protein in cheese, too). The ban on chocolate is total as it doesn’t matter when I eat it the effect is the same. Fortunately, I’m not a great sweet eater so that’s no hardship. And Carr’s Melts are history – simply too much fat and too many calories.

I’ll let you know how it works out…

See also this post.

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One thought on “Pulmonary Oedema and my plan to deal with it – maybe…

  1. Despite the above I had another attack last night. Mild, but still scary (internal bleeding always is. Couldn’t figure it out until I remembered I had quiche last night – eggs and cheese = high fat content.

    I bought 2 broccoli and tomato (ate 1), and 2 cheese and onion. The former is 14.5% fat, the latter 15.7%. Clearly, then, I need to lower my fat threshold even more to, say, 10%. And/or buy smaller quiches.

    A 400g one is a meal in itself, delivers 21 grams of protein, and is usually on offer at Sainsbury’s. The answer might be to switch to the 170g size and have some beans with it – maintain the protein hit, reduce the fat.

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