Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a term that categorizes a few chronic lung conditions: chronic bronchitis, refractory asthma, and emphysema all of these conditions restrict airflow in some way.
There are about 15.7 million people in the United States who have reported that they have been diagnosed with COPD. This is a progressive disease that gets worse overtime especially if the patient does not treat it properly.
Treating COPD is a lifelong journey comprised of doctors visits, respiratory tests, exercise, oxygen therapy, changing eating and drinking habits, and taking vitamins and supplements.
In this article we are going to focus on how COPD patients can develop a healthy eating habits and take vitamins and supplements in order to help ease the symptoms of COPD.
If you have COPD, it is likely that you find it increasingly difficult to breathe, and this can impact so many aspects of your life. The other symptoms you may experience are coughing, wheezing, excess mucus production, feeling of tightness in your chest, and fatigue.
COPD does not only affect your ability to breathe, but can cause a lot of other problems due to the lack of oxygen in your blood. Many COPD patients need supplemental oxygen therapy, and these patients have to use a device called a portable oxygen concentrator or an oxygen tank in order to get the right amount of oxygen. Oxygen will be prescribed to you if you need it.
In conjunction with your oxygen therapy, you can do a number of things to treat your respiratory condition, one of those treatments is eating healthy and getting the right amount of nutrition. If your diet doesn't give you the vitamins and nutrients you need, it could be helpful to take supplements and vitamins that would support any deficiencies you may have.
Nutrition and Eating Healthy for COPD
Nutrition is a crucial part of treating COPD, and oftentimes one of the hardest things to keep up with, vitamins and supplements can help you get the nutrients your diet is lacking or important vitamins that your body is craving.
Vitamins and minerals give you energy and stamina, and you get vitamins form food and water, if you are not eating the right foods, you may have vitamin deficiencies. If you have COPD, it is likely that you require 430–720 more calories per day than healthy people.
Calories are the fuel that gives your body energy to function. You can get healthy calories from grains, vegetables, fruits, proteins, and fats you eat. COPD patients often require these extra calories because of the added effort they need to breathe. Therefore, malnutrition is also something many people with COPD struggle with. Malnutrition can affect you for a long time, and can negatively impact your disease progression.
It is recommended that eating a high fat, low carbohydrate diet can help people with breathing problems.
Best Eating Habits for People with COPD
Building healthy eating habits is an essential part of treating your COPD. Many people with COPD do not have an appetite or have a hard time finding the energy to cook and eat, and therefore suffer from malnutrition. Follow these following tips to make eating easier.
- Try making food easier to chew, you can do this in a number of ways. When you are cooking vegetables, cook them fully until they are soft. You can mince or grind the meat down and make bowl styled dishes. You can also focus on eating foods that are already easy to chew like pasta, mashed potatoes, thick soups, creamed soups, and casseroles fruit smoothies.
- If you feel short of breath while you are eating you should try to rest 30 minutes before meals. Start practicing pursed-lips breathing and other breathing exercises daily that will improve your breathing endurance.
- While you eat, make sure your body is in a position to expand your lungs, try sitting upright and lean forward with your elbows on the table and keep your feet on the floor.
- Ask your healthcare provider, if you are using a pulse flow oxygen device or a continuous oxygen device, if you should increase your flow rate during meals but do not adjust your oxygen flow without talking with your doctor first.
- Eating and cooking can be exhausting for lung patients, to avoid fatigue, try the “Meals on Wheels” in your community or a similar service that will provide you with nutritious, low-cost meals. By using a service like this, you won’t have to prepare meals.
- Eating too much too often will make you feel tired, instead try eating six small meals each day instead of three big ones. This will also keep your metabolism from slowing you down. The key to maintaining energy throughout the day is to conserve oxygen, and digestion takes up your energy and therefore takes up your valuable oxygen. If you eat smaller meals, you use less oxygen.
- If you enjoy cooking, try to find easy-to-make recipes, and if you don’t enjoy cooking as much, ask family or friends to help with making meals. Even though sugar can sometimes give you a small burst of energy, sweets, cookies, cakes, and other deserts, also known as simple carbohydrates will hold carbon dioxide inside of you causing tiredness.
- Bloating is extremely uncomfortable for lung patients because your stomach is pushing on your diaphragm making it even more difficult to breathe. To avoid this bloating feeling, do not rush your meals, and no not eat when you are short of breath, by doing so, you can simultaneously swallow air making your bloating worse.
- Spread out the amount of fluids you drink, and try drinking one hour before and one hour after a meal in order to decrease the amount of stuff in the stomach at one time.
- Onions, cabbage, sauerkraut, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and beer all cause bloating, so try to avoid these foods when you can. Fried, fatty food and other high-fat foods are hard to digest and can only be processed in your body very slowly slowly, causing a feeling of bloating.
- Lactose may cause bloating, if you feel bloated after eating or drinking milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, or other dairy products, try avoiding dairy.
- By adding lots of fiber and fluid to your diet you can avoid constipation and bloating.
Supplements and Vitamins
Beyond developing a healthy respiratory diet that works to mitigate your COPD symptoms and helps give you energy, there are also many different supplements and vitamins that you can try to support your medical treatment and help manage your symptoms.
Various vitamins (vitamin C, D, E, A, beta and alpha carotene) can help improve COPD symptoms, exacerbations and pulmonary function and high vitamin intake would probably reduce the annual decline of FEV1.
Vitamins you Need if you Have COPD
COPD flares or exacerbations are episodes of escalated symptoms. When you experience a flare up, you may need to use your rescue inhaler or medication, increase the oxygen output on your portable oxygen concentrator if your doctor recommends it, and in some cases seek emergency medical attention.
In order to avoid COPD exacerbations all together you can do a number of things:
- Take your oxygen as prescribed everyday
- Practice breathing exercises to increase your endurance
- Avoid allergens
- Avoid chemicals and harsh cleaning product
- Avoid bad air quality, and get a home air purifier
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a respiratory friendly diet as mentioned in the beginning on this blog
- Take supplements and vitamins that are good for your health
LPT medical has a COPD resource center on our website where you can go to find information regarding all of these actions you can take to avoid COPD exacerbations and how to take the best care of your condition.
Continue reading this blog for information about how certain supplements can help improve your condition.
Research shows that many people with COPD also have very low vitamin D, therefore taking vitamin D supplements can help your lungs function better.
The main reason people with COPD can have Vitamin D deficiencies is due to the lack of sun contact, resulting in lack of vitamin D production in skin.
Taking vitamin D-3 supplements for COPD can help protect you from experiencing moderate or severe flare-ups.
Research shows that having low levels of vitamin C can lead to symptoms like shortness of breath, mucus, and wheezing, all of which are already symptoms of COPD, and avoiding excess
Vitamin E is important for your vision, reproduction, your blood, brain and skin.
Studies have shown that long-term use of Vitamin E can help prevent COPD because it has antioxidant properties, which may protect your cells against the effects molecules that are produced when your body is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation.
If you experience consistent flare-ups of COPD, it is likely that you have lower levels of vitamin E than normal. Taking a vitamin E supplement can help your body get back to normal vitamin E levels.
Vitamin A is crucial to the functioning of your immune system and plays a vital role in your cells to growth. Taking Vitamin A supplements may help you lungs function at a high capacity if you have a vitamin A deficiency.
Some COPD medications can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb magnesium, this can be harmful for COPD patients because magnesium supports lung function. Taking a magnesium supplement could cause side effects. If you do take magnesium supplements be sure to monitor yourself carefully.
There are some COPD medications that may cause you to lose calcium and calcium can help your lungs function. You should try to intake more calcium-rich foods in your diet and if you are still unable to reach your calcium requirements, it may be necessary to take a calcium supplement.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the inflammation in your lungs from COPD. You can eat more fish, seeds, and nuts, to get Omega-3 fatty acids, but you can also take fish oil supplements to make sure that you are getting enough.
COPD is a chronic illness, and there is no cure, however you can treat your disease. If you maintain a strict COPD treatment regimen you can regulate you symptoms. By taking your medication, adhering to your oxygen prescription, eating healthy and getting the nutrients you body needs you can slow down the progression of your COPD.
If you have issues eating, and find it hard to maintain a healthy diet, we hope that you found some of the ideas listed in this article that will help you get the nutrients you need in order to help relieve your COPD symptoms.
If you have COPD it is likely that your body is lacking in vitamins you needs, and if you are experiencing certain signs of vitamin deficiencies, you should speak with your doctor about taking specific supplements.
Getting the right amount of nutrients and taking supplements can help you better manage you COPD symptoms and helps you body function optimally.
If you learned anything in this blog, or feel as though someone in you life could benefit from any of this information, please leave a comment or share this blog with your friends and family!