Dietary Management Strategies for COPD: Optimizing Nutrition for Respiratory Health

Dietary Management Strategies for COPD: Optimizing Nutrition for Respiratory Health

In chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD for short, breathing is impaired by narrowing the bronchi. As the disease, colloquially known as smoker’s lung, progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to supply the body with sufficient oxygen. A change in diet is an essential part of COPD treatment and enables those affected to counteract the course of this lung disease actively.

Balanced diet for smokers

COPD patients need to eat a healthy and varied diet. This is not only fundamentally good for health and strengthens the immune system. Eating an appropriate diet for COPD also reduces the risk of respiratory infections and allergic reactions.

Which diet is suitable for COPD depends on the individual patient’s situation.


COPD increases energy requirements

To burn nutrients from food, the body needs oxygen. The energy released during combustion is required for the respiratory muscles, among other things. A restricted oxygen intake impairs the metabolism – and vice versa.

In addition, problematic breathing causes an energy requirement that is up to ten times higher. COPD patients must, therefore, make sure they eat high-energy foods.

When the body lacks energy, muscle protein breaks down – among other things, reducing the respiratory and diaphragm muscles. This further increases the shortness of breath and reduces the COPD patient’s general resilience.

BMI determines the ideal weight

Body weight plays a crucial role in the course of COPD disease. Ideally, the BMI value ( Body Mass Index ) should be between 21 and 25. Overweight and underweight can severely impair the health of COPD patients.

For example, being overweight can worsen breathing problems by putting more strain on the lungs and cardiovascular system. As a result, comorbidities such as diabeteshigh blood pressure and heart disease can develop.


underweight in COPD

Most COPD patients are underweight, which is often due to poor appetite and high energy needs. This makes them more susceptible to infections and muscle wasting.

If the food does not provide enough calories, protein, trace elements and vitamins, there are also deficiency symptoms, weight loss and an increased breakdown of essential amino acids. Since the latter serve to generate energy, their absence also accelerates weight loss.

Nutritional advice for COPD patients

Due to their high energy requirements, those affected by lung disease must change their diet in terms of quantity and food selection. Overweight people can also suffer from malnutrition if the diet is not correct.

Nutritional counselling can help COPD patients adjust their eating and drinking habits to meet their changing needs.

Diet tips for COPD

With COPD, the diet should be wholesome, low in fat and rich in nutrients and carbohydrates. Note the following diet tips:

  • Low-fat meat, legumes, and dairy products are good sources of protein.
  • Potatoes and cereals are high in carbohydrates.
  • Suitable combinations of protein and carbohydrates are grains or potatoes with dairy products.
  • Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and nutrients. However, avoid beans, cabbage, and acidic fruits, as these foods can cause gas to build up in the body.
  • If you are underweight, meals can be enriched with vegetable fats and nuts.
  • Food high in nitrites or salt can make breathing difficult.
  • Calcium reduces the risk of osteoporosis, which often occurs with COPD.
  • Magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids strengthen the immune system and help fight inflammation.

Daily supplementation of essential amino acids may be advisable but should be discussed with a healthcare practitioner.


The right eating habits

It is not only the choice of food that is crucial. Eating behaviour also plays a vital role in COPD:

  • Cough up phlegm before eating to avoid shortness of breath while eating.
  • Take your time eating and chew thoroughly.
  • Many small meals relieve the digestive system and the lungs.
  • Eat less, especially in the evening, and give your body enough time to digest before bed.
  • Observe how your body reacts to certain foods and adjust your diet if necessary. Some foods cause increased gas formation in the body and thus increase the pressure on the lungs and diaphragm.
  • Drink enough liquid – this helps with coughing up and thus frees the airways. Still, water, tea and juice spritzers are well suited. However, drink only after you have eaten so as not to become full too soon, and avoid alcoholic, heavily sugared and carbonated drinks.

Combine exercise and diet.

Nutritional therapy for COPD should always be accompanied by regular exercise – this strengthens the muscles, maintains mobility and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.

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