Weight Loss and COPD

November 30th, 2011 | Author: COPD Coach

Dear COPD Coach,

How exactly does my diet help in the management of my COPD? I have never really watched what I eat, but lately I find that when I eat certain meals I have a hard time breathing afterward. Since being diagnosed, I tend to lose weight very quickly if I don’t eat or if I get sick, and have a real hard time gaining it back.

–Weight Loss and COPD

Dear Weight Loss,

Diet is very important with COPD, but it is also important to note that it is not only what you eat, but how much you eat and how often you eat that will make a difference! I guess the best way to start is to explain the mechanics of eating with COPD.

As COPD progresses, your lungs tend to get larger and take up more space in your chest. When you eat too much, your stomach expands and pushes against your lungs which will in turn make breathing more difficult. Because breathing with damaged lungs takes more energy (up to ten times more in some people!), it is important to increase your calorie intake to give your body the energy it needs to function.

A very common reality for many COPD patients is what is called “COPD Wasting“. This is where your body, trying to get enough oxygen, burns more calories than it takes in. The result is your weight drops. Since you continue to burn large numbers of calories, it is hard to gain the weight back.

While there are a few studies underway as to how to treat COPD wasting, there are some things that you can do to minimize its effects and give your body the nutrients it needs to function.

  1. Rather than eating a few large meals each day, try eating several (about six) smaller meals throughout the day. Eat slowly, using pursed-lips breathing in between bites. The habit of gulping air with your mouth open can also add to bloating.
  2. Always eat breakfast! Eating a nutritious breakfast gives you more energy to start your day at a critical time when you body needs it most.
  3. Don’t eat too much salt! Salt will cause your body to retain fluids, and stress your heart, making it harder to breathe!
  4. If you use supplemental oxygen, make sure you use it while you eat. Since your body requires extra oxygen to eat and digest your food, using supplemental oxygen will make the process of eating much easier.
  5. Avoid foods that can cause gas. The bloating that occurs with gas producing foods can cause you to have difficulty breathing and also make you feel like your stomach is full when it really isn’t.

    from ifood.tv

  6. If you have low body weight, be sure to eat foods high in calories. This would include things like whole milk products and premium ice cream. If somebody who lives in your house is on a low-fat diet, don’t share their low-fat foods. You need all the calories you can get!
  7. If you have chronic weight loss, talk with your doctor or a registered dietician about nutritional supplements (like Ensure).
  8. Eat plenty of fiber, as this aids the digestion process and will cause you to burn less calories trying to digest your food. Also try and eat foods that don’t require a great deal of chewing as this takes more energy.
  9. Always eat balanced meals in order to get the vitamins and nutrients you require. Talk with your doctor about what supplements you may need!
  10. Drink plenty of clear fluids (preferably non-carbonated drinks which you guessed it, cause more bloating!) such as water and clear juices and non-caffeinated tea, to help thin out the mucous and make it easier to eat. However, don’t drink as much while you eat, as liquids will tend to fill up your stomach instead of the food.
  11. Lastly, check out the internet for diets specific to COPD that are designed to provide you with the largest numbers of calories without wasting excess calories trying to eat or digest. Check out our Big Fat Reference Guide for more helpful hints at www.copdbfrg.org

Hope this helps!

The COPD Coach

Ask the Expert is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice.

If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us atcoachescorner@copdfoundation.org. We would love to hear your questions and comments. You can address your emails to any of the following: COPD Coach, Caregiver Coach, COPD Doctor or COPD RT.

6 comments

  1. Terry says:

    I need to loose 60lbs and i have copd, everything i reed is telling me how to gain wheight, how do i loose wheight with copd? Terry

    • COPD Coach says:

      This is certainly something you should talk to your doctor about. Since you require more calories just to breathe, many diets just won’t work for you and could in fact be dangerous. If you are not involved in an exercise program through a pulmonary rehabilitation program, this might well be a good first step.

      As for why some people gain weight with COPD while others loose weight, there are really no answers. There are some studies under way to answer this question. When we hear more about the results of these studies, we will be sure to post them

    • Katelyn Harding says:

      Hi Terry,

      There are many ways individuals with COPD can lose weight. I’d suggest you start by calling our C.O.P.D. Information Line, and they can give you helpful tips and pointers to start you out. 866-316-2673.

  2. LOUIE says:

    QUESTION, WHEN YOU HAVE COPD. IS IT A NORMAL THING TO DWELL ON IT 24/7. PLUS, HOW CAN YOU MAKE A PERSON WITH COPD SEE THAT THERE’S A LIFE TO LIVE BEYOND THE ILLNESS. I HAVE THREE FRIENDS WITH THIS COPD. TWO LOVE LIFE AND THE THIRD ONE DWELLS ON IT EVERY MINUTE OF HER LIFE. I GAVE UP ON THE FRIENDSHIP BECAUSE THAT’S ALL SHE TALKED ABOUT WHEN WE CHATTED. I JUST GOT SO TIRED OF TALKING ILLNESS AND NOTHING UPLIFTING. I LOVED HER AS A FRIEND BUT I HAD TO MAKE A BREAK. I HAVE HEALTH PROBLEMS BUT I TAKE TIME TO FIND HUMOR IN THINGS THAT PAST ME BY.

    • COPD Coach says:

      It is our experience that if you dwell on your COPD, often times the symptoms will seem much worse than they are. When an illness consumes your whole life, it doesn’t leave much room to enjoy other things in life.Someone who’s whole life revolves around their illness might well be suffering from depression and would probably benefit from seeing a professional. There is certainly life after a COPD diagnosis, and by doing things a little differently, and viewing life as new challenges to solve, there are still many golden moments to experience and treasure.

    • Katelyn Harding says:

      Hi Louie, glad you’ve stopped by our page. For answers to your questions you should call our associates at the C.O.P.D. Information Line. They are all extremely knowledgeable and helpful and can answer your questions and help you out. 866-316-2673 is their number.

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