Eat to Breathe Better with COPD-Part II

  • In this sharepost
    •    Feeling tired and over-full when eating
    •    Water drinking and retaining fluids
    •    Dairy products and mucous
    •    Fiber
    •    Vitamins and supplements

    Here, in Part II of Eat to Breathe Better with COPD, we look at eight more commonly asked questions. For further information, ask your doctor about referring you to a registered dietitian (RD) for nutrition guidance and a personal action plan.

    1. Why do I get so tired when I eat?
    If you become exhausted while eating here are some tips that may help:
    •    Take your time, chew slowly
    •    Put your fork down after every few bites

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    •    Sit in a chair with good back support and sit up straight
    •    Use pursed-lips breathing
    •    Choose foods that are easy to prepare so you still have energy for eating
    •    Ask a family member or friend to help with meal preparations
    •    Check if you are eligible to receive Meals on Wheels
    •    Freeze extra portions so you have a quick meal when you're too tired
    •    Rest before eating so you can enjoy your meal
    •    Eat your main meal earlier in the day
    •    Wear your oxygen while eating

    2. Why do I feel so full after a meal and find it even harder to breathe?
    In COPD, lungs are often over-inflated, making them bigger, and longer, than they should be. This causes them to push down on the stomach. Likewise, a full stomach pushes up on the lungs. Eating frequent small meals – up to six per day – can help you feel more comfortable and put less stress on your system.

    3. Do dairy products cause me to produce more mucous?
    Yes and no. It does in some people, but not all. If you think that milk and other dairy products tend to either increase the amount of your mucous or make it thicker, try reducing dairy products for a while. If this results in less / and thinner mucous, then you should avoid them.

    4. What’s the best thing to drink when you have COPD?
    Even if you love your coffee, remember that good old water is the best thing you can drink for your health. If your doctor hasn’t restricted your fluids, and if you’re not underweight, try drinking at least 6 to 8 eight-ounce glasses of water a day to keep mucus thin and easier to cough up. If you tend to get up at night to urinate, drink more of your water earlier in the day to avoid extra trips to the bathroom when you need to sleep.

    5. What about salt / sodium and retaining fluid?
    We just talked about the importance of drinking fluids, but some people with COPD who also have heart problems may need to limit their fluids. If you have a problem with swollen feet and legs, it may be due to extra fluid, forcing the heart and kidneys to work harder. One way to keep from retaining fluid is to decrease your intake of sodium, or salt. It is recommended that we consume no more than 2000 mg of sodium per day. Check with your doctor about your sodium intake.

    Here are some tips for a reduced sodium diet that still tastes good:
    •    Use herbs or no-salt spices to flavor your food

  • •    Don't add salt to foods when cooking

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    •    Keep the salt shaker off your table
    •    Read food labels and avoid foods with more than 300 mg sodium per serving
    •    Use a salt substitute approved by a registered dietician. There are many   choices available.

    Keeping the right fluid balance can be tricky. It affects your breathing, your blood pressure and your electrolyte balance. Ask your doctor the following questions:
    •    Should I weigh myself every day?
    •    When should I call you? If I gain two pounds in one day? Three or more?
    •    If I’m on diuretics (water pills), should I increase my potassium intake? (foods high in potassium include oranges, bananas, potatoes, asparagus, and tomatoes)
    •    Does prednisone make me retain fluid?

    6. I’m feeling so down, I just don’t feel like eating. What can I do?
    A poor appetite may be caused by depression.  Depression can be treated, and that may help your appetite to improve. Don’t ever hesitate to talk with your doctor about this.

    7. What about Vitamins and Supplements?
    Most balanced diets contain enough vitamins to meet your basic needs. On the other hand, taking a multi-vitamin may be helpful. Be aware that diet supplements can interfere with your prescription medications – or actually cause health problems. Always check with your doctor before taking something new, even if it is a non-prescription or OTC (over-the-counter) product.

    8. What about fiber?
    Fiber helps move food along the digestive tract and control blood glucose levels. Include high-fiber foods such as vegetables, cooked dried peas and beans, whole-grain foods, bran, cereals, pasta, rice, and fresh fruit in your diet. A good goal is to consume 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day. Here’s an example: one cup of all-bran cereal for breakfast, a sandwich with two slices of whole-grain bread and one medium apple for lunch, and one cup of peas, dried beans, or lentils at dinner.

    Good food plus oxygen is the fuel we need for energy – and for living!
    Improving your eating habits will not cure COPD, but it can help you feel better and breathe a little easier.

    Source: Cleveland Clinic Nutritional Guidelines for people with COPD.

    Jane M. Martin is a licensed respiratory therapist, teacher, the founder and director of  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.

Published On: June 11, 2012