Eat right to breathe better

A few tweaks to your diet can help you better handle your COPD

Health Monitor Staff
More Sharing +

If you have COPD, your diet may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about breathing easier. Yet “what you eat can affect how you feel each day,” says Norman Edelman, MD, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. These smart strategies can really make a difference. 

Graze. Consuming four to six small meals every few hours will prevent your stomach from becoming too full, which can restrict the movement of your diaphragm, the muscle that helps you breathe. When your diaphragm moves freely, it’s easier for your lungs to function. What’s more, eating smaller meals is less exhausting. 

Choose complex carbs. Your body produces more carbon dioxide when it metabolizes carbohydrates. That extra carbon dioxide must be exhaled, so eating carbs can make breathing more difficult. You can’t cut out carbs altogether, so the best strategy is to focus on complex carbs—such as whole-wheat bread and pasta—which contain important vitamins, minerals and fiber. 

Whip up easy meals. If you’re tired after preparing a meal, you may not have enough energy to eat it. So aim for quick and simple meals, such as an omelet, a crockpot stew, a stir-fry or even a grilled cheese sandwich. Still breathless? Rest before you eat.

Don’t scrimp on fat. Your body produces the least amount of carbon dioxide when it metabolizes fat. So if you need to put on weight, add a little more fat to your diet. Milk shakes, full-fat cheeses and buttered breads are good choices.

Pack in protein. “We want to keep the breathing muscles strong and healthy,” says Dr. Edelman. Consuming protein at least twice a day can do just that. Women should aim for 46 grams of protein daily; men should eat 56 grams daily. Good protein sources include eggs, dairy, meat, poultry, fish, nuts and legumes. 

January 2015