The official blog of the Lung Institute.
You take your medication. You walk for 30 minutes every day. You follow your physician’s orders. But are you missing out on one important aspect of treatment for your chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)? You could be—and this significant factor is your COPD diet. It’s possible that you are not thinking about your COPD diet as part of treating lung disease. Nevertheless, healthy eating with COPD is important.
Why Does a Healthy COPD diet matter?
The food you eat may affect your breathing. The American Lung Association confirms this fact to be true. Take a step back and remember that food is essentially fuel for your body. The metabolic process changes food into energy—this process begins with oxygen and food, which the body converts to energy and carbon dioxide. Since your body is using food to replenish energy sources, it is best to eat nutritious foods. A balanced diet also helps you to maintain a healthy weight. For COPD sufferers, healthy weight is especially important. Many people with COPD are either overweight or underweight. COPD patients who are carrying a little extra weight could develop heart problems. The extra weight makes the vital organs work harder. Some COPD patients may be naturally thin, or have lost weight due to feeling ill, lack of appetite or side effects of medication. In addition, the American Lung Association reports that COPD sufferers burn 10 times as many calories from breathing as compared to person with healthy lungs. This is called a hypermetabolic state, or a state of increased rate of metabolic activity, and it can even lead to anorexia and malnourishment. Being overweight can force your heart and lungs to work harder. But being underweight can sap energy and make you feel ill. The key is balance, and keeping up with healthy eating in order to better manage your COPD.
4 Easy Tips for a Healthy COPD Diet
Here are our top tips for maintaining healthy eating with COPD:
1. Try Smaller Meals
The old standard is three square meals per day. However, newer research has shown that it can be beneficial to eat 4 to 6 small meals per day. A good guide is to aim for about 300 calories for each of these meals. Regular small meals may also improve your breathing as less food means less pressure on your diaphragm. In turn, this means less respiratory discomfort.
2. Aim for Balance
The three main sources of energy from food are carbohydrates, protein and fat. The metabolism of each of these is different. Metabolizing fat produces the least amount of carbon dioxide for the amount of oxygen used. What does this mean? For many COPD sufferers, a diet that is lower in carbohydrates and higher in fat can help. This usually means healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, peanut butter and avocado. Diet plans usually have a good mix of these types of foods. Also note that you should avoid sodium, which causes swelling and could increase blood pressure. Try to incorporate vitamin D, to keep your bones healthy. It is found in most dairy products.
3. Add Protein
Do not underestimate the importance of protein. And know that there is so much more to protein than just boneless, skinless chicken breast. Foods that have protein include fish, beans, peas, nuts and seeds. Protein is important because it plays an essential role in protecting the body.
4. Consult an Expert
Some medicines for COPD have side effects, and may react with nutrients. Some COPD patients are underweight, and could be experiencing malnutrition. Many find the multitude of advice about diet to be confusing, and don’t know where to begin. For these reasons, we recommend speaking with your pulmonologist or physician about diet. They may recommend that you see a registered dietitian, who can help you figure out what foods to eat, and how to create meal plans for your COPD diet. Healthy eating is not a miracle solution but it is an essential part of living healthy with COPD, and disease management.