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Let’s Begin the Nutrition Discussion

Last updated: January 2023

We get a lot of questions about a COPD diet. So, I spent some time investigating this subject. I even talked with a dietician and a COPD educator. What I learned is there is no COPD diet, per se. However, there are some general nutritional information that may benefit some people living with COPD. Here’s what I learned.

Just breathing can require lots of energy

The main muscle used for breathing is your diaphragm. There are other muscles involved, but this is the strongest muscle that does most of the work. As you inhale, your diaphragm moves downward and your stomach moves outward. This creates room for plenty of air to enter your lungs.

For those with emphysema, lung units called alveoli tend to become floppy. They lose their ability to recoil. This makes it so they can still receive freshly oxygenated air when you inhale. But, they have a hard time releasing all the bad air when you exhale. So, air ends up becoming trapped inside your lungs.

It looks as though you are always inhaling

As the disease progresses, the lungs tend to expand outward. They may expand all the way to your ribcage. This creates what is known as a barrel chest. Your chest appears somewhat like a barrel. It looks as though you are always inhaling.

As this happens, your lungs also move downward toward your diaphragm. They push the diaphragm down so that it is no longer its usual concave shape. This makes it a less effective muscle for inhaling. When this happens, you will use other muscles for inhaling, such as your shoulder muscles

These muscles aren’t as strong as your diaphragm, so they tend to get tired out more easily. It requires the burning of lots of calories. This can make you feel tired and out of energy.

Over time, this can make it even harder to stay active. And this, over time, can cause your muscles in your arms and legs to atrophy and become weaker. So, this is the outcome we hope to prevent with good nutrition and eating habits.

Good nutrition can help you breathe easier and live better

It’s possible you are already eating a healthy diet. I know many of us make efforts to do this on a regular basis. If you’re like me your success rate is sporadic at best. Still, there are some things you can consume, or not consume, that can benefit your COPD. There are certain nutrients that can assure your body gets the “ingredients” it needs to maintain its energy needs. Such nutrients can help you to feel less fatigued. They can help you breathe easier throughout the course of the day.

The best way to find out what diet is best for you is by talking with your COPD doctor. Your doctor may have ideas of his or her own that might help you. Your doctor may have access to pamphlets or website addresses that may contain even better information. Or, your doctor may refer you to a dietician. Dieticians are specially trained to help people improve upon their diets.

Conversation with a dietician

In my recent discussion with a dietician, she had some interesting information for me. She said: “There really is no COPD diet, per se. However, there are certain tips I have that can help people with COPD eat better when they are having trouble breathing. One thing I encourage is that they eat soft food, such as apple sauce, mashed potatoes, or pudding. Soft foods like these don’t require lots of energy to chew. So they allow (COPD patients) to get the nutrients they need to maintain their energy levels.” I thought that was interesting. I thought there would be a more specific, set COPD diet.

No specific COPD diet

As the dietician I talked with notes, there is no specific COPD diet. However, there are tips that COPD experts, like dietitians, have that can help people with COPD live better and breathe easier.

In the meantime, what about you? Have you talked to your doctor or a dietician about diet tips? What did you learn? Please let us know in the comments below.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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