Eating Right: Tips for the COPD Patient

For people suffering with a lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, eating should not be taken for granted.

According to the American Association for Respiratory Care, a well-nourished body helps fight off infections and may help prevent illness, thus cutting down on hospitalizations.

A proper diet will not cure your disease, but it will make you feel better. You will have more energy, and your body will be able to fight infection better. Good nutrition and a balanced diet are essential to everyone`s health, but patients with lung disease must be even more careful than most about following good nutrition guidelines.

Food is fuel and the body needs fuel for activities, including breathing. Because the COPD uses a lot of energy just breathing, ventilatory muscles can require up to ten times the calories required by a healthy person`s muscles. This is why it is so important for someone with COPD to eat properly. Good nutritional support helps maintain the ventilatory functions of the lungs, while lack of proper nutrition can cause wasting of the diaphragm and other pulmonary muscles.

The American Association for Respiratory Care offers nutrition tips for persons with COPD. These are general guidelines only. Your doctor is your best source of information on diet and other information about your lung disease.

  • Select foods from each of the basic food groups to include fruits & vegetables, dairy products, cereal & grains, and proteins.
  • Limit salt intake. Too much sodium can cause fluid retention that could interfere with breathing.
  • Limit drinks that contain Caffeine. Caffeine might interfere with some of your medications and may cause nervousness.
  • Avoid gas-producing foods that make you feel bloated.
  • Eat your main meal early to provide lots of energy to carry you through the day.
  • Choose easy preparation foods. Rest before eating so that you can enjoy your meal.
  • Avoid foods that provide little or no nutritional value.
  • Try eating six smaller meals a day instead of three big ones. This will keep you from filling up your stomach and causing shortness of breath.
  • Eating and digestion require energy, and this causes your body to use more oxygen. Be sure to wear your cannula while eating – and after meals, too.
  • Eat in a relaxed atmosphere. Try making meals attractive and enjoyable.

If meal preparation becomes a burden, there are agencies in many states that will provide meals for people for a small fee or at no charge. Seek local church organizations or government agencies to see what is available in your area.

Source: American Association for Respiratory Care