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COPD: The Nutrition Connection

For those individuals dealing with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema, difficulty breathing is an all too common daily experience. Some patients even find the ritual of eating food every day to be an exhausting and labor intensive task as difficulty breathing or wearing oxygen masks gets in the way of an enjoyable activity.

Those with emphysema or COPD who tend to have unwanted weight loss due to lack of proper nutrition intake become very thin, even cachectic looking, says Ilaria St. Florian, a clinical nutritionist at both Stamford Hospital in Connecticut and White Plains Hospital in New York. “It can start to affect your immune system, so that you’re more susceptible to infection. It affects your general strength – really, your muscles,” she says.

It is imperative that COPD and emphysema patients get the most out of every calorie consumed in order to keep up their strength and maintain the integrity of their immune system. St. Florian suggests the following to help maintain a normalized weight and diet:

  • Avoid large meals. Smaller, more frequent meals work better because you don’t have to work as hard or as long to eat.

  • Eat protein. When losing muscle due to lack of activity, dietary protein can synthesize new muscle.

  • Monosaturated fats are your friend. Canola oil, avocados and nuts are heart healthy and provide extra calories for patients who aren’t eating a lot.

  • Avoid dairy products, as these can create mucous, which can be uncomfortable and difficult to remove in COPD and emphysema patients.

  • Drink fluids between meals, not with meals, to avoid filling the stomach too quickly.

  • Eat slowly. Swallowing food quickly can increase the risk of pneumonia.

St. Florian also suggests eating more fish, grapefruits, bananas due to their abundance in antioxidants, which help to fight off damaging free radicals in the body caused by smoking. Using these tips can help COPD and emphysema patients plan condition suitable meals, that will help to maintain a healthy weight.

Click here to access the full story on U.S. News and World Report

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