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Eating and Exercising Well with COPD

separator Don’t forget that nutrition plays a role when you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Follow these tips:

  • If you generally don’t have much of an appetite (this is common with COPD), don’t wait until you feel hungry to eat.
  • Consider eating six small meals a day instead of three larger ones. This can help avoid the stomach fullness that can make it harder to breathe.
  • Drink plenty of water, unless your doctor has recommended otherwise. Water can help to keep your mucous thin and easier to get rid of when you cough.
  • Choose foods that are easy to prepare, rather than using up your energy on making complicated meals.

Avoid the following foods:

  • Extra salt. This can cause you to keep too much fluid in your body, which in turn can make it harder for you to breathe.
  • Foods that make you feel bloated: These are the foods that also make you feel “gassy.” They’re different for everybody, and trial and error is the only way to know how foods affect you personally.
  • Caffeine: This can make you feel jittery and jumpy, burning up energy you would be better off conserving. Caffeine can also interact dangerously with some drugs, so talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you do consume caffeinated drinks and are on medication.
  • Non-nutritious foods: It’s best if you focus on eating only foods that are beneficial for you, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, etc. Snacks and sweets may ruin your appetite for the healthier stuff that you really need.

Building lung capacity with COPD
If you have a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, such as emphysema or asthma, it might seem like exercising is the last thing you should do. When you’re not used to doing it, it can be a lot of work.

But if you avoid exercise because of shortness of breath, you could be starting a downward spiral—feeling afraid to exercise because it’s hard to breath, exercising even less, allowing your lungs to become even more out of shape, which makes exercise even harder.

Before starting an exercise program, talk with your doctor to make sure it’s safe. Then, make the commitment to regular activity. Don’t exercise in sudden bursts of energy—do gradually and smoothly. Take a few moments of rest if you feel like you need to, then continue. And don’t exercise on a full stomach.

American Association for Respiratory Care; American Journal of Respiratory and Clinical Care Medicine; American Lung Association;
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