The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that affects so much more than just your breathing. As symptoms worsen over time, COPD can majorly impact your daily life. You become fatigued more quickly, and small things like showering start to take a long time. You may not be able to move around quite as well, and need to take more breaks when walking around. But what about your eating habits? Is there a connection between weight loss and COPD?
Connection between Weight Loss and COPD
Eating enough, and eating healthily are vital when you have COPD. Why? COPD patients require more energy just to breathe. In fact, people with COPD burn 10 times more calories just breathing than people without lung disease.
When we breathe, many muscles are expanding and contracting, and for people with COPD these muscles are working harder. This burns more calories, and can lead to weight loss, which is not good when you have COPD. So it is important for people with COPD to get enough calories, and eat healthy.
However, the fatigue of COPD can make you too tired to cook. Certain medications can affect your appetite. Constantly breathing through your mouth can affect your taste sensations. Loneliness or depression, which can unfortunately affect people with COPD, can make sufferers less interested in eating.
An estimated 40 to 70 percent of COPD patients experience unplanned weight loss. Though many of us want to lose pounds, weight loss with COPD is a major concern. Without sufficient calories, COPD patients are more likely to:
- Get an infection
- Feel more tired
- Feel weak
- Experience a weakening of the muscles that control breathing – causing more shortness of breath
The above symptoms happen because caloric intake is not meeting your body’s energy needs. Hence, your body starts to break down fat and muscle tissue. This gives your body the energy it needs, but it makes you feel weak, and feel worse overall. It is extremely important that people with COPD eat enough calories to keep their strength up.
Tips for Eating Healthy and Enough
The following are some tips to follow to eat healthy and enough when you have COPD:
- Choose high-protein, high-calorie foods like raw nuts, peanut butter, eggs, cheese, milk and yogurt.
- Ask your doctor about nutritional supplements, such as shakes, that they can recommend for weight gain and nutrition.
- Choose foods that are easier to prepare, or have a family member make food for you.
- Make extra, and freeze the leftovers for when you’re too tired to cook.
We know that living with COPD is not easy, whether it’s you or a loved one. But eating healthy is one proactive step you can take to maintain your strength. Just try to make it a priority.