Let’s continue by looking at a few commonly asked questions about nutrition for people with COPD. You may note that some foods recommended as good to eat might also be found on a list of foods to avoid. Not everybody can tolerate every food, so take note of what you eat, how it affects you and adjust your food plan accordingly.
1.) What can I eat to breathe better?
Eat a well-balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, and yes, even fats. Eat lean meats, whole grains rather than white bread and rice, and healthy fats such as olive oil. Eat the rainbow – foods with a variety of bright colors (Skittles don’t count!) such as tomatoes, dark leafy greens, carrots, broccoli, squash, red peppers and citrus. Consider trying one new fruit or vegetable each week.
2.) Are there foods I should avoid?
Avoid foods that cause gas or bloating. A full stomach or bloated abdomen will push up on your diaphragm, making breathing harder. Not all foods listed here cause everyone to have gas or bloating. Pay attention to what you eat and if something causes problems, avoid it and see if you begin to feel better. Foods that can cause gas and bloating include:
- Carbonated beverages
- Fried, greasy, or heavily spiced foods
- Beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, leeks, lentils, onions, peas, peppers, radishes, scallions, shallots, and soybeans
Don't waste your energy eating foods that provide little or no nutritional value – empty calories – such as colas, high-sugar juices and teas, potato chips, candy bars and other snack foods. Keep in mind that excess carbon dioxide in the blood can be a problem with COPD, so avoid eating more than one or two pieces of candy per day because carbon dioxide is produced when you metabolize sugar.
3.) Are there foods that will boost my energy?
Getting energy from food has to do with both “what” you eat and “how” you eat. Make sure you eat breakfast. A body that hasn’t eaten in several hours needs to be fed. In addition to that, on some days, you may be too fatigued later in the day to eat well. If you’re at or under your ideal bodyweight, eat first, then sip your beverage. Eat the healthy, higher calorie foods first.
Don’t count on coffee, other caffeinated beverages, or chocolate to pep you up – they can speed your heart up and make you jittery. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about this. Good old lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and water may not sound too exciting, but they’ll go a long way in keeping you moving – and breathing – well!
There’s so much more to talk about when it comes to nutrition and COPD – we’ve just scratched the surface. But I hope it's been helpful. I’ll see you again soon for Part II of Eat to Breathe Better with COPD!
Jane M. Martin is a licensed respiratory therapist, teacher, the founder and director of http://www.Breathingbetterlivingwell.com and the author of Live Your Life With COPD: 52 Weeks of Health, Happiness and Hope and Breathe Better, Live in Wellness: Winning Your Battle Over Shortness of Breath.