There’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning to symptoms like fatigue, stiffness, chest pain, or grogginess. However, this is a reality that many Americans face, especially those with pulmonary illnesses like COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, and asthma. According to Dispatch Health, fatigue is the second most common symptom of COPD behind dyspnea (shortness of breath). This study found that the amount of COPD patients with clinically significant fatigue is around 50%, in contrast to 10% in elderly people without COPD.
Although there are many factors that contribute to tiredness, fatigue, and grogginess in COPD patients, the most significant cause is decreased lung function. According to WebMD, it can take up to 10 times as much energy for someone with COPD to breathe as it does for their healthy counterparts. As you can imagine, over time, this can become quite exhausting. Additionally, if labored breathing leads to reduced oxygen levels in the blood (hypoxemia), this can lead to further fatigue.
While we could sit here and rattle off all of the causes of fatigue in COPD patients, you’re probably a lot more interested in the solutions. That’s why, in this post, we’re going to be discussing some of the proven ways for COPD patients to improve their energy levels. Whether you have mild, moderate, or severe COPD, these tips will help you take back control and start feeling more motivated in your daily life. As always, if you have any questions for us, please leave them in the comments below or speak with an oxygen concentrator representative.
Quit Smoking Immediately
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung disease in the world. A burning cigarette emits more the 7,000 chemicals, and when they enter the body, they quickly damage the air passages, air sacs (alveoli), and your lungs’ natural immune functions. Years of smoking almost inevitably leads to some of the most common lung diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and more. But lung damage is not the only thing that you have to worry about when you light up a cigarette. The way smoking affects the brain is of equal concern.
One of the most concerning chemicals found in cigarette smoke is nicotine. You probably know this as the chemical that makes cigarettes “addictive”. While this is true, it has far worse effects on the body than this. Like coffee, nicotine is a stimulant. Smoking a cigarette or two will give you a sort of “high” where you feel like you have a lot of energy and alertness. However, when the effects of nicotine begin to wear off, you’ll start to experience a crash and eventual withdrawals, causing you to start the whole process over again. Over time, this can mess with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle causing you to lose sleep at night.
Another way that smoking can lead to reduced energy levels in COPD patients is through the development of mood disorders. We talk about mental health a lot here at LPT Medical because, no matter how physically healthy you are, you can’t be happy if your mental health isn’t in check. Studies have found that, contrary to popular belief, cigarette smoking leads to increased anxiety, and smokers are more likely to develop depression and other mental illnesses than their non-smoking counterparts. According to Hopkins Medicine, about 75% of people with depression have trouble getting to sleep at night.
Manage Your Diet Carefully
If there’s one thing that everyone should be taught from a young age, it’s the importance of a healthy, well-balanced diet. While you can go through all of the foods you eat and pick out the “unhealthy” from the “healthy”, it makes more sense to think of what your individualized needs are and then tailor your diet to that. For example, COPD patients often have trouble maintaining their weight because they have a higher energy expenditure than healthy people due to their reduced lung function. This means that COPD patients oftentimes need to increase their protein intake. Loss of muscle mass (muscle atrophy) not only leads to fatigue but can also lead to osteoporosis and other bone disorders.
Another thing you should do is replace simple carbohydrates in your diet (glucose, fructose, and sucrose) with complex carbohydrates (whole grains, vegetables, and fruits). The problem with simple carbs is that they are broken down and digested very quickly by the body. This leads to a quick spike in blood glucose and thus immediate energy. However, consuming simple carbs also means that you will experience a “crash” later on, which will leave you feeling exhausted and unmotivated. According to the Lung Institute, carbohydrates produce the most carbon dioxide in the body in relation to the amount of oxygen that’s used to break it down while fat produces the least. So eating too many carbs as a COPD patient can lead to increased breathlessness and fatigue.
One last modification you can do to your diet to have more energy throughout the day is to eat more frequently. While you’ve probably been told before that “snacking” is a bad thing, it can be incredibly beneficial if you do it the correct way. Many store-bought snacks like granola bars, candy bars, or yogurt are filled with sugar and other additives but if you create your own snacks, you can be sure that they’re healthy and won’t sap your energy. For example, a piece of fruit, some veggies, and hummus, or unsalted nuts will provide you with lots of energy to make it through the day. One of the best benefits of healthy snacking is that you won’t be so hungry once mealtime comes around, meaning you’ll eat less and won’t feel so bloated and exhausted afterward.
As a whole, the human body is around 60% water, the lungs are about 83% water, and the brain is 73% water. Water plays a pivotal role in some of the most basic functions of the body including circulation, digestion, and temperature regulation. And according to Healthline, being dehydrated can make you feel tired even when you’re fully rested. This is likely due to low blood pressure that results from having insufficient water intake. While there are many drinks you could consume to stay hydrated, water is always the best choice. The Lung Institute recommends that COPD patients drink between 64 to 96 ounces per day.
In addition to drinking enough water, it’s important to avoid things like sugary, caffeinated, or alcoholic beverages. Although sugar and caffeine are great for a quick pick-me-up, they are not a good long-term solution to your fatigue and sleepiness. Alcohol, on the other hand, is a central nervous system depressant that causes feelings of sleepiness and relaxation. Overconsumption of alcohol has been shown to delay the onset of sleep and many people even experience sleep disruptions or poor quality of sleep.
Get Tested for Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamins and minerals play a vital role in the body’s function. They are considered “essential nutrients” because they have hundreds of functions from assisting in bone development to boosting your immune system. Unfortunately, many COPD patients are deficient in vitamin D which is responsible for regulating bone health and energy levels in the body. Vitamin D assists mitochondria to use oxygen in the healthy function of muscles and various other parts of the body. In other words, when you are vitamin D deficient you’re at a higher risk for osteoporosis and low energy levels.
There are several reasons why COPD patients might be vitamin D deficient. Firstly, our primary source of vitamin D is the sun because our bodies naturally produce vitamin D when we’re exposed to sunlight. However, many COPD patients are not as active as they used to be before being diagnosed and may avoid going outside when it’s sunny because of the risk of respiratory exacerbation or heat exhaustion. Another reason COPD patients may be vitamin D deficient is their diet has changed. Fatty fish, egg yolks, and vitamin D fortified foods are some of the best sources of vitamin D.
If you have reason to believe that you are vitamin D deficient, it’s best to consult with your doctor to discuss your symptoms. Typically, vitamin deficiencies are diagnosed through a type of blood test called 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D for short. Your vitamin D levels are measured in nanomoles/liter (nmol/L) or nanograms/milliliter (ng/mL):
- Deficient: under 30 nmol/L
- Potentially deficient: 30-50 nmol/L
- Normal: 50-125 nmol/L
- Higher than normal: over 125 nmol/L
Take Oxygen as It’s Prescribed
Supplemental oxygen is a type of medical therapy designed for people with impaired lung function. In the case of emphysema, the tiny air sacs in the lungs called alveoli become damaged and swollen. Since the alveoli are responsible for transferring oxygen to the blood and carbon dioxide back into the lungs, this disease results in low blood oxygen levels. Emphysema patients need to use oxygen as it was prescribed by their doctor in order to maintain the appropriate level of oxygen in their blood.
When someone with emphysema has low blood oxygen levels for an extended period of time, this can result in hypoxia or low oxygen levels in the body’s tissues. This can cause complications like headaches, confusion, fatigue, and even organ failure. On the other hand, increasing your oxygen intake to an amount higher than what your doctor prescribed can be equally harmful. Oxygen toxicity is what happens when you ingest too much oxygen. It can result in symptoms like difficulty breathing, chest pain, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea.
One of the best ways to ensure that you have access to a reliable supply of oxygen wherever you go is to choose the right oxygen device. While oxygen tanks have been used by COPD patients for decades, they are not the best option for the majority of people. Portable oxygen concentrators tend to be a much better choice because they don’t need to be refilled like oxygen tanks do, and they’re also much lighter and smaller. What this means is that you won’t have to stop what you’re doing constantly to find a place to refill your oxygen device. Concentrators run on batteries, so you only have to carry what you need.
One of the greatest features of newer portable oxygen concentrators like the Inogen One G5 and Caire FreeStyle Comfort is their auto-adjusting flow rates. If you’re using the device while you’re sleeping, the concentrator will adjust its oxygen output based on your breathing rate and breathing depth ensuring that you always get the optimal amount of oxygen. This will prevent you from receiving too little or too much oxygen while you sleep resulting in fewer interruptions and more restful sleep. And finally, if you’re taking oxygen as it was prescribed but you still feel out of breath or fatigued, be sure to consult your doctor before increasing your flow setting.
Exercise is important for everyone, regardless of their age and health condition. However, a healthy exercise routine looks different for everyone. For example, if you’re in early-stage COPD and your symptoms are very mild, you might want to try a high-intensity exercise routine. Conversely, if you’re in stage three or four COPD, you may need to resort to moderate exercise. The important thing is that you’re consistent with your exercise routine and you don’t resort to long periods of sedentary behavior. This will keep your body’s circulation in check and ensure that you don’t overexercise.
According to WebMD, studies show that exercise is a great way to improve energy levels, even in people with chronic diseases that are associated with fatigue. By exercising, you’re improving your cardiovascular health and strengthening your lungs and muscles meaning your body, as a whole, will be more efficient and you won’t get exhausted from simple things like carrying the groceries or walking to the mailbox. Believe it or not, the stronger your muscles are, the less oxygen they need in order to function properly. If you want to start exercising but don’t know where to begin, ask your doctor about pulmonary rehabilitation. This is a course where you will learn the proper way to exercise with your disease.
Another way that consistent exercise boosts your energy is by helping you get restful sleep. If you feel restless and anxious when you go to bed, you’re not alone. According to SleepHealth.org, 70% of Americans report getting insufficient sleep at least once a month, and 11% report feeling this way every night. Sleep disorders are a major issue in the United States, especially amongst people with COPD and other chronic diseases.
Studies have shown that fatigue is one of the most commonly reported symptoms of COPD. These patients spend a significant amount of energy just getting a full breath and alterations to their diet can leave them without the nutrients they need to feel alert and full of energy. If you or your loved one has COPD and is experiencing fatigue, restlessness, or sleepiness, try some of the tips above or consult your doctor who can help you get to the root cause of the issue. Most people are surprised to find that these symptoms can be treated naturally and without having to drastically change their daily routine.
In the meantime, if you’re in the market for an easy-to-use, reliable, and affordable oxygen generator, look no further than LPT Medical. We have a wide variety of units available including but not limited to stationary oxygen concentrators, continuous flow portable oxygen concentrators, and pulse dose portable oxygen concentrators. We also sell a range of different accessories to help you make the most of your new concentrator such as backpacks, extra battery packs, external charges, oxygen tubing, and much more. If you have any questions, just give us a call or email us and ask to speak with an oxygen concentrator specialist.