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COPD and beer…

Posted Mar 25 2010 12:00am

From my search engine slush pile “COPD and beer”. Presumably the question is whether or not the two are compatible.

1. No.

2. I’m going to the pub later today.

You should only drink cask beer, never keg. Lager is quite obviously gassy, but other keg beers, like stouts and bitters, contain higher levels of dissolved gas than is good for you. The gas will inflate your stomach, causing it to push up your diaphragm and constrict your lungs, impairing your breathing. You really don’t need that, and avoiding lager, at least, is a no-brainer.

Being, to whatever degree, drunk, is likely to screw with your meds, in that you’re likely to forget them. Bear that in mind.

If you are taking Theophylline-based drugs, don’t wear suede shoes –puking is likely to be a feature of your time in the pub (for much of my life I merely borrowed beer, until my meds were changed). For that reason, if you eat while you’re out, I recommend egg mayo or tuna mayo sandwiches, as they’re exactly the same coming and going. ;)

In my experience, as my COPD worsens, the effects of alcohol are amplified – put simply, where before I was simply a little blurred around the edges, I can often be blind drunk on the same amount of beer. This is bad news, obviously. It’s also unpredictable.

For that reason, I always check the ABV (percentage of alcohol by volume), of my beer, the idea being that with stronger beers, I’ll drink less. Oddly, that never seems to work out!

No point in trying to work out your units. 1 unit is half a pint of 3.5% ABV beer. When did you last see 3.5% beer? Quite. So unless you want to spend your time with a calculator, instead of enjoying yourself, forget units.

Two things to remember. Firstly, you are likely to get much more drunk than the average well person for the same amount of booze (well friends can often be too dumb to understand that), and second,  the next day you are likely to regret it more.

This is because the fluid intake boosts the amount of crap in your lungs, so if you don’t normally keep a sputum pot by your bed, you should think about doing so. That does wear off, by the way.

Oh, and it will worsen your GERD for that night, but sleeping on your left side will minimise that (the oesophagus enters your stomach on the right, so sleeping on your left minimises the risk of reflux), as will a bed wedge, PPI drugs and a good antacid. All of which your should have anyway. Take your PPIs before going out.

By the way, when it comes to antacids, the best you can buy is Altacite Plus, at around £3.50 for 500ml. Your pharmacy may have to order it for you, so plan ahaed. Avoid anything with Gaviscon on the label – it’s insanely expensive (someone has to pay for all that TV advertising), and no more effective than Altacite Plus (less so, in fact, in my experience).

If, on the other hand, you’re one of those annoying people who thinks 2 pints is having a good time, then none of the above is likely to apply.

Either way, enjoy.

PS: No, I’m not supposed to drink. About 50% of my drugs say not to, as do my doctors. Screw ’em. Life with COPD is incredibly shitty, and we deserve one vice.

Just don’t ’kin smoke!

PS: Drinking while taking antibiotics will harm you not at all. Just bear in mind that some will affect your sense of taste – in my experience, confirmed by a GP who likes his beer, this means it will taste more bitter than it actually is, so you may want to avoid beers that are naturally very bitter (and if you’re not sure, ask for a taste).

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