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How What You Eat Affects Your Breathing

July 25, 2018
How What You Eat Affects Your Breathing

A healthy diet is especially important for those with COPD. Here’s what you should and should not be eating.

You know that secondhand smoke and pollen can aggravate your COPD, but you may not realize that the foods you eat also play a role in how well (or not) you breathe. Take a look at how much and what you consume each day can help you feel better.

Calories Count

Breathing requires energy. That’s where calories come into action. When breathing is compromised, as with COPD, your breathing muscles may need up to 10 times more calories than those of your peers who don’t have COPD. Shortchange yourself at mealtime and you put yourself at risk of becoming underweight, which can leave you feeling more weak and tired. At the other end of the spectrum, being overweight can push your heart and lungs into overdrive delivering oxygen and nutrients. Talk to your doctor about your weight goals and how to achieve them safely. You might find it helpful to meet with a registered dietitian.

Keep an Eye on Carbs

The body uses oxygen to break down food into fuel. In the process, the body gives off carbon dioxide as a waste product during breathing. And much more carbon dioxide is created when the body breaks down carbohydrates compared with fats. Your doctor or a registered dietitian can help you find the right balance of carbs and fats to make it easier for you to breathe.

The Bloat Factor

Eating big meals does more than leave you feeling sluggish — it can make it harder to breathe. Think about it: A full stomach doesn’t give your lungs much room to expand. Some people with COPD find it helpful to eat five or six small meals each day. You may also want to go easy on foods that have given you gas or bloating in the past — beans and carbonated beverages are two common culprits. Too much salt can also tilt the body’s fluid balance and cause you to retain water. Cutting back on sodium by even 1,000 mg per day can have a big impact.