How To Eat With COPD

Heart shaped cherry berries
If you have trouble breathing, daily activities—even eating a meal—can be a challenge.

Healthy eating is particularly important if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a common lung condition that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. About 24 million people in the U.S. have COPD.

Follow these healthy eating tips for people with COPD.

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1. Take your meds

If you use medication to improve your breathing, try to take them before eating; if you use oxygen, continue to use it during a meal. Eating can increase the body’s demand for oxygen, so you’ll need it.

2. Get some rest

If you usually have trouble breathing during a meal, plan ahead. Take a short nap or rest before eating; it may help.

3. Sit up

Whenever possible, don’t recline when eating a meal. Lying down just compromises breathing more because it places extra pressure on the lungs.

4. Eat more often

People who have emphysema do best if they eat several small meals a day, because the diaphragm is pressing on their stomach and they really can’t fill up their stomach. Plus, a full belly can press back against the diaphragm, making breathing harder. Get the nutrients and fuel you need in smaller doses by spreading your day’s eating out over six small meals.

5. Eat your biggest meal early

If you like to have a main meal during the day, eat it earlier in the day. The food will give you energy for the rest of the day, and you won’t have to expend extra energy to eat a larger meal at the end of the day when you are already tired.

6. Don’t drink while eating

Try to hold off on drinking until the end of the meal, so you won’t get full too fast. A beverage before or during a meal can fill you up more quickly. It’s not a bad idea to get your liquids from nutritional supplement shakes consumed between meals.

7. Slow down

Take your time while eating; it’ll prevent you from becoming short of breath. The best trick? Put your spoon or fork down between each bite. It’s a matter of being slow and deliberate. Take some food, chew it, swallow it, then rest, then breathe, then take some food again.

8. Cut down on salt

Salty foods are also guilty of causing bloat; too much salt can cause you to retain fluids and hamper your breathing. Plenty of natural herbs and spices add flavor to your food without upping the sodium content. If you are buying packaged or pre-made foods, look for low-sodium options.