3 Simple Tips for Eating and Feeling Better with COPD

It’s no secret that proper nutrition is a vital element in the charge towards a vibrant and healthy life. Certain foods and the compounds found within them have the ability to contribute to health and well-being. Likewise, the wrong foods at the wrong time, or simply too much of a particular food, can be problematic. Today we’ll consider 3 simple dietary considerations that can be helpful to those living with COPD. Please remember that COPD is a medical condition and requires medical treatment. Dietary changes are not sufficient to treat COPD, and any and all changes should be discussed with your medical team, including your physician, registered dietician, and any others involved in your medical care.

Watch your sodium (salt) intake. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume less than 2,300mg of sodium per day, and for those over the age of 51, recommendations call for a further reduction to 1,500mg or less. That may sound like quite a bit of salt, but sodium is typically present in large amounts in the processed and ready-made foods that account for a large portion of many Americans’ diet. Sodium is linked to more than just blood pressure and heart health. Because sodium causes our bodies to hold more water, it can make breathing more difficult. There are many unsalted spice and herb mixes that you can add to your food, and you might be surprised at the amount of flavor that these pre-mixed products can add. Consuming less processed foods and more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help reduce sodium intake as well.

Be aware of bloat. Gas and/or bloating can be uncomfortable for everyone, but if your breathing is already challenged by COPD, you may want to make an even stronger effort to avoid gassy foods. Gas and bloating can contribute to an overly full abdomen, and this can make breathing feel more labored and uncomfortable. Different foods are problematic for different individuals, so it is important to keep track of which foods may be an issue for you. Whenever you experience gas or bloating after eating, try writing down what you ate. Some problem foods are obvious, but over time you will begin to recognize those which you may not have suspected.

Avoid overeating. You’ve heard this one before, but probably for a different reason. Smaller, more frequent meals rather than fewer large meals have been recommended for weight loss, but in the case of COPD, they are helpful for another reason. Smaller meals ensure we don’t eat too much food, which could cause an overly full stomach. Much like bloating, this can make breathing feel more labored and uncomfortable.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with COPD, consider keeping a close watch on these aspects of your (or their) diet. Doing so is one additional element through which we can help ensure we are feeling our best.

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