Breathe in and breathe out. Repeat. Easy, isn’t it?
That is unless you have breathing problems due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD). Then every breath can be a challenge. COPD is a group of diseases including emphysema and chronic bronchitis that block airflow and create breathing problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 16 million Americans have COPD. Millions more have it but are not diagnosed.
People with COPD have a hard time breathing due to swollen or blocked airways. They can also be malnourished, meaning they don’t get enough – or they get too much -- of the nutrients their bodies need. So, anything that can help them breathe easier is important. Many people with COPD are surprised to learn that the right nutrition can improve breathing.
Why is nutrition so important to breathing easier for people living with COPD?
- Our bodies convert the food we eat and the oxygen we breathe into two things: energy to fuel our bodily functions and carbon dioxide, a waste product which we exhale. If you have too much carbon dioxide in your system, you may feel weak. Our bodies create more carbon dioxide (the waste product) when metabolizing carbohydrates. Metabolizing fats creates the least carbon dioxide. That’s why people living with COPD may need to eat fewer carbohydrates and more fat to ease their breathing.
- Breathing is harder for people with COPD because the muscles they use to breathe can require up to ten times more calories to function than someone without COPD.
- Finally, when a person with a chronic condition like COPD is malnourished, they don’t have enough energy to heal, support heart and lung function, and fight off infections that can lead to hospitalization.
If you or a loved one has COPD, following these nutritional guidelines can help avoid malnourishment and support a healthier body. (Remember to consult with your clinician before making any dietary changes.)
Get the right balance of carbs
Choose complex carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits, and whole grain breads. Be sure to consume the right amount for your health condition as carb needs vary.
Boost your fiber
Aim for 20-30 grams of fiber daily from fresh produce, nuts, and seeds.
Choose healthy fats
Opt for healthier plant-based fats without cholesterol like corn, canola, or safflower oil.
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