Eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight are important parts of managing COPD. While it can be difficult to focus on this aspect of your life, eating well plays a big role in feeling good and staying healthy.
If you are underweight, focus on gaining weight. The average person requires approximately 50 calories per day for breathing. Individuals with COPD may expend 750 calories per day on breathing alone. This increases daily calorie requirements making it difficult to maintain weight.
If you are overweight, focus on losing weight. There are many benefits of weight loss including reducing shortness of breath by decreasing pressure on the diaphragm and respiratory muscles. A good weight loss program should include a variety of foods and physical activity.
There is no magic formula to maintaining your optimal weight. To lose weight you need to consume fewer calories than you expend, but many of us know that this is easier said than done. Some small, but not insignificant, first steps may include:
- Try to eat small, frequent meals. Eating smaller, more frequent meals can help to reduce the shortness of breath caused by crowding of the diaphragm from overfeeding. Small, frequent meals also reduce incidents of reflux which can lead to heartburn, indigestion, and discomfort with eating. Try one of these healthy recipes.
- Eat a balanced diet. COPD can increase your requirements for calories and some nutrients. Proper nutrition helps your body's immune response and aids its ability to metabolize medication properly. A balanced diet which includes every food group is essential.
- Include fresh vegetables or fruit with every meal.
- Increase physical activity. Exercise improves general fitness and the body's ability to carry oxygen. Combined with a healthy diet, exercise helps restore muscle mass lost from inactivity or steroid medications. Learn more about exercises for COPD.
- Ask your doctor about meeting with a nutritionist to create a nutrition plan designed just for you. Not only will they help with meal planning, but you'll also have someone supporting and monitoring your progress.
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