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Is Asthma Changing Your Appetite or Weight?

Poorly controlled asthma can affect your weight.
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Asthma May Also Cause Poor Appetite continued...

Some patients with uncontrolled and under-treated asthma are so breathless that they have a hard time eating their meals. “The best thing to do for that is small, frequent meals,” Gleeksman says. “If it just takes that much energy to eat -- and for some people, it really does -- the best thing they can do is to eat smaller amounts throughout the day.”

Asthma can also leave some people too fatigued to cook, Gleeksman says. “They know the energy that it’s going to take them, not only to eat, but to prepare food. It almost ends up being a negative feedback mechanism, where they know how exhausted they’re going to be from thinking about getting out, preparing, cooking and then eating food. They don’t want to do it at all.”

Although long-term oral steroids can cause increased appetite and weight gain, asthma drugs can also cause stomach upset or mouth lesions, making eating more difficult. For example, higher doses of inhaled steroid doses to control asthma can cause fungal thrush infections in the mouth. But using a spacer or holding chamber with the inhaler can lessen the amount of medicine deposited in the mouth or throat, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Rinsing the mouth with water after each inhaler use also helps to prevent thrush.

Living With Asthma: Tips for Better Nutrition

For people who have poor appetite from asthma symptoms or medications, Gleeksman and the National Jewish Health web site offer several tips: 

  • Take a multivitamin and calcium supplement daily. “If somebody is not eating properly or has that decreased appetite,” Gleeksman says, supplementing with a multivitamin can provide nutrients. She also recommends a calcium supplement, especially for people on long-term, high doses of oral steroids, because those drugs can decrease calcium absorption and lead to bone loss.
  • Breathe evenly while you are chewing and eating. Try to relax during meals and stop eating if you need to catch your breath.
  • Double or triple your favorite recipes and freeze the extra portions. Turn to these homemade frozen entrees when you don’t feel like cooking.  
  •  Use prepared foods to save time and energy in the kitchen. Frozen meals, prepared foods or take-out meals can make your life easier. But don’t overdo it. The sugar, salt or fat in these foods may be higher than in homemade meals.
  • For tasks that require the most effort, do them when you have the most energy. Grocery shopping can be tiring if you have asthma, so do it when you feel the freshest, for example, in the morning or after a rest. Or enlist a friend or family member to buy your groceries.
  • Don't stand in the kitchen when you can sit. Keep a barstool by the kitchen counter, or do your chopping, cutting and mixing at the kitchen table.

 

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Reviewed on June 22, 2009

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