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COPD Health Center

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COPD and Weight Loss: Improving Your Appetite

Shortness of Breath continued...

Many people with COPD find that chewing and swallowing causes air to be cut off from the lungs. This then adds to feeling short of breath. The following guidelines may be helpful to stop shortness of breath at meal times.

Try these Suggestions to Decrease Your Shortness of Breath:

  • Try to rest for 30 minutes before meals. If you become short of breath use deep breathing and pursed-lip breathing techniques.
  • Use good body posture to make breathing easier. Sit upright and lean forward with your elbows on the table. (Forget what your mother told you!) Put your feet on the floor to allow for the greatest expansion of the lungs.
  • Have easily prepared meals on hand. Eat foods that are easy to chew like casseroles, soups, chicken and soft-cooked vegetables.
  • If you are on continuous oxygen therapy, ask your health care provider if you should increase your oxygen flow rate during meals. Do not increase the oxygen without asking your healthcare provider first. If oxygen flow is too high it can lead to respiratory failure.
  • Relax before and while you''re eating. Anxiety about making a meal can make shortness of breath worse. You may want to explore the use of relaxation techniques prior to meal time.
  • Eat six small meals per day to keep you from over-filling your stomach.
  • If you have lost your sense of taste, consider taking a zinc supplement for 2-4 weeks. If taste does not improve, stop taking it.


Many people who have had COPD for a long time feel constantly weak. This fatigue may be due to retaining too much CO2. Or it may be from not getting enough oxygen. Not eating enough can also cause fatigue. When tired, most people say they do not feel like making food or eating. If this is true for you, try to cook foods in large amounts during your "up" times. Freeze it in single portions for serving later. These homemade "TV dinners" can be more nutritious than the store ones. And they may have less sodium.

To Reduce Fatigue

  • Ask your community agencies or senior citizen centers if they provide low cost nutritious meals.
    Check out "Meals on Wheels" (
  • Eat six small meals instead of three big ones. Digestion requires energy. And that in turn requires oxygen. So if you eat small meals it will use less oxygen.
  • Eat larger meals earlier in the day. Try making a simple breakfast the night before so it is ready to eat with little thought or work in the morning.
  • Rest before eating. Avoid lying down after meals.
  • Use recipes that are easy to make.
  • Ask relatives or close friends to assist with making meals.
  • Don''t assume that eating extra carbohydrates will give you energy. Simple carbohydrates (sweets, cookies, cakes, pies) can lead to excess total calories. This may cause increased carbon dioxide retention. Simple carbohydrates do supply many calories. However, they have few, if any, of the other nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.

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