COPD & Diet: What Should You Eat?
Food is usually considered an essential treatment for most diseases with no side effects. A healthy diet is important to COPD patients. Although COPD is irreversible and cannot be cured, a proper diet can help manage symptoms, build immunity, and improve your overall health. Here are some diet tips for people with COPD:
Generally, it is recommended for people with COPD choose food high in nutrition. It is also worth mentioning that the metabolism of food consumes oxygen and produces energy and carbon dioxide. Different food is of different consumption/production rate in this procedure. For COPD patients, the best choice of food should consume less oxygen and produce less carbon dioxide while maintaining adequate energy production, because more carbon dioxide in your body means more burden to your breathing.
Carbohydrates, including grains, fruits, and vegetables, are an important part of a healthy diet for people with COPD. These types of foods provide energy and nutrients that are essential for good health. However, carbohydrates usually produce the most carbon dioxide. So it is crucial to choose the right ones. Complex carbs, such as whole grains and vegetables are rich in fiber which helps digestion. Reduce the consumption of simple carbs like white bread and sugary drinks, which produce more carbon dioxide and can cause blood sugar spikes.
The metabolism of fat produces little carbon dioxide. But it's also important to limit your intake of saturated and trans fats, which can increase your risk of heart disease and other health problems. Instead, choose healthy sources of fat with rich nutrition, such as coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, cheese, and avocados. But if you are on a diet to lose weight, fat of any type is still what you should avoid. Fried food like fried, chips, and onion rings is not good for your health. They require more effort to digest and sometimes cause bloating, worsening your breathing problems.
Protein is an essential nutrient that plays a variety of important roles in the body. It helps build and repair tissues, produces enzymes and hormones, and strengthens your immune function.
For people with COPD, it's important to get enough protein to help maintain muscle mass and support overall health. Good sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, and dairy products.
It's generally recommended to aim for about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. However, your protein needs may be different based on your age, sex, weight, and activity level, as well as the severity of your COPD. It's a good idea to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about your specific protein needs and how to incorporate protein into your diet in a healthy way.
Fruits and vegetables
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can be beneficial for people with COPD. They are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that can help maintain good health and potentially reduce inflammation in the body. Moreover, most fruits and vegetables are low in carbs so they are suitable for COPD diets. Some examples of fruits and vegetables that may be particularly helpful for people with COPD include:
- Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collard greens, are rich in antioxidants and vitamins A, C, and E
- Fruits such as berries, apples, and pears, are also high in antioxidants
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, contain compounds that may help reduce inflammation
- Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruits, are high in vitamin C and may help boost the immune system
Remember that everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. More importantly, some fruits and vegetables like apples, apricots, peaches, and broccoli may cause indigestion and bloat. Stop having them if these symptoms occur. It's always a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet.
Drinking enough water is important for people with COPD, as it can help thin and loosen mucus in the lungs, making it easier to cough up and clear. Staying hydrated may also help reduce the risk of respiratory infections because a moist airway can better filter the air. It's generally recommended that adults aim to drink at least 8 cups (64 ounces) of water per day. Water from other sources like soup, vegetables, and fruits can also be taken into account. Sugary, alcoholic, and caffeinated drinks are not suggested for water supply. They can contribute to dehydration and increase blood circulation and heart rate, making you require more oxygen.
Potassium is a key mineral for maintaining healthy lung and other body functions as well as regulating fluid balance. Some people with COPD may be at risk of low potassium levels, as certain medications and respiratory conditions can affect potassium levels in the body. Getting enough potassium is important for them. It's generally recommended that adults get at least 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium per day. Good sources of potassium include:
- Fruits and vegetables like bananas, potatoes, avocados, and leafy green vegetables
- Dairy products, such as milk and yogurt
- Meat and poultry
- Fish, such as salmon and halibut
- Legumes, such as beans and lentils
Eating a diet low in salt may be beneficial. High levels of salt in the diet can cause the body to retain fluid, leading to increased swelling and congestion in the lungs and making it harder to breathe. Limiting the amount of salt in your diet can help reduce these symptoms and lower the chance of other diseases. The following tips can give you some idea about reducing salt intake:
- Choose fresh, whole foods over processed foods, which tend to be high in salt.
- Use herbs, spices, and other flavorings instead of salt.
- Read food labels and choose products that are low in sodium.
Extra weight puts an additional burden on your lungs and heart. While being underweight usually means weaker immunity. Neither is good for COPD. So it is important to maintain a healthy weight. You can start controlling your weight by adjusting your diet. But keep in mind that losing or gaining weight too quickly can be dangerous.
How to have your meal
While a healthy diet is helpful, having your meals properly is of equal importance.
- Eat early. Usually, you feel most energetic early in the morning. So eat more for breakfast. An affluent breakfast can boost your day.
- Prepare in advance.Having enough rest before having a meal ensures a good appetite. So it is not recommended to eat right after cooking, which can be quite energy-consuming. Prepare your food in advance.
- Eat slowly.Eat slowly in a comfortable position. Also, chew your food thoroughly and don’t drink water during the meal. These can prevent bloating which aggravates breathing problems.
- Separate your meals.More meals with less volume for each help digestion. You can separate three meals into five or six smaller ones. This can also allow more room for your lung and diaphragm to move easily.
All that being said, always remember that everyone has different conditions and different needs. It's always a good idea to talk to a healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet.