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COPD and Your Diet

If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diet demands may be greater for you than for other people. Your energy may be limited, making it harder to prepare and eat meals. Or you may take medications or experience depression that can reduce your appetite.

But eating healthy foods and maintaining a healthy weight is especially important for you. Learn why -- and what you can do to stay healthier.

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3 Reasons Why a Healthy COPD Diet Is Important

Did you know that the respiratory muscles in people with COPD burn 10 times the calories of other people? That's because it takes so much energy just to breathe.

If you have COPD, a healthy diet can help manage your condition and help you feel better. Here are three reasons why:

1. If you don't get enough calories and are underweight:

  • You may be more likely to get an infection.
  • You may become weak and tired more often.
  • The muscles that control your breathing may weaken.

2. If you're overweight:

  • Your heart and lungs must work harder.
  • Your body may demand more oxygen.
  • Your breathing may become more difficult, especially if you carry weight around your middle.

3. When you have COPD, a diet full of healthy foods:

  • Helps you maintain a healthy weight
  • Provides your body the energy it needs
  • Supplies enough calories, keeping breathing and other muscles strong
  • Helps your body fight infections by strengthening your immune system

When you have COPD, you may need to make some diet changes. But always do this under the guidance of a registered dietitian or other health care provider who can prepare a nutrition action plan tailored to your exact needs.

A Diet for COPD

Here are a few COPD and diet guidelines to get you started:

Eat a variety of healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and proteins. High-fiber foods are especially important. They help with digestion, control blood sugar levels, reduce cholesterol levels, and can help control weight.

Drink plenty of water. Not only does it help prevent gas when you eat high-fiber foods, but water helps thin mucus, so you can cough it up easier. Most people need six to eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day. Check with your health care provider, though, because some health conditions require that you limit your fluids.

Choose non-caffeinated and non-carbonated beverages. Limit alcohol, which can interact with medications, can slow breathing, and may make it harder to cough up mucus.

Ask about certain foods. Certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, may help reduce inflammation and improve lung function. Ask your doctor or other health care provider if increasing your intake is appropriate for you.

Avoid salt. Salt (sodium) makes your body retain water, which increases swelling. This makes breathing more difficult. To reduce your salt intake, try to:

  • Read food labels and choose foods with fewer than 300 milligrams of sodium per serving.
  • Use no-salt spices.
  • Avoid adding salt while cooking.

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