A jar full of almond butter with a wooden spoon in it.
Protein is a recommended diet ingredient for COPD patients, which can include nut butters, chicken and eggs.

COPD Diet Plan

Your diet plays a role in your weight, energy levels and overall well-being. For people who have COPD, the foods you eat can also affect symptoms. While following a specific COPD diet plan will not cure the condition, getting proper nutrients can help manage the disease. Understanding what foods to avoid and which foods may be beneficial is one piece of the puzzle in managing COPD.

The Relationship Between Food and COPD Symptoms

Food provides your body with the energy it needs to do everyday activities, and that includes breathing. Some people with COPD work hard to breathe, which takes more energy. Eating foods that provide enough energy is essential to breathe better and perform activities of daily living.

Eating the right foods also promotes proper immune system function. If you have COPD, you are more susceptible to lung infections. Infections can also become more severe in people who have lung disease.

Choosing foods that promote a healthy weight is also vital for people with COPD. Maintaining a healthy weight is helpful for someone with COPD. Some research indicates that individuals who are underweight have a worse COPD prognosis than people at a healthy weight. The opposite can also be true. If you are overweight, it can make it harder to breathe.

Do Certain Foods Make COPD Worse?

Certain foods can make symptoms of COPD worse. Specific types of foods may increase symptoms of COPD for a few different reasons. Consider limiting the following types of foods:

  • Fried foods: Fried foods can lead to gas and bloating, which can make breathing harder. Other gassy foods to avoid include soda, beans and broccoli.
  • Salty foods: Too much salt may cause you to retain water. If water retention becomes significant, it can impact the lungs and make breathing more difficult. Limit salty foods, such as chips, crackers and added table salt.
  • Cured meats: Research in the journal Nutrients found that eating foods that contain a large number of nitrates may have an adverse effect on lung function. Nitrates are used to persevere certain types of meats. Avoid foods high in nitrates, such as bacon, deli meats and hot dogs.

Best Foods for COPD

There is no one best COPD diet, but there are some foods that provide the nutrients a person with COPD needs to help manage their condition. Below are some of the best foods to eat with COPD.

Low-Fat Dairy

Some people with COPD take steroids to decrease lung inflammation, but steroid use can zap the body of calcium. Consider adding calcium-rich foods to your diet, including:

  • Low-fat milk.
  • Yogurt.
  • Almonds.

Lean Protein

If you do not get adequate protein, it can lead to muscle loss. People who have COPD may not realize they do not get enough protein. Eat foods that contain lean protein to help you maintain your muscle mass and strength. Good choices include:

  • Eggs.
  • Chicken.
  • Nut butter.
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Fatty Fish

Fatty fish, which is high in omega 3 fatty acids, may help decrease inflammation in the body. COPD causes inflammation in the lungs, which makes it more difficult to breathe. Food high in omega 3s include:

  • Sardines.
  • Tuna.
  • Salmon.

Overall Dietary Tips for COPD

The specific diet you should follow may vary depending on your weight and whether you have any additional medical conditions. As always, talk with your doctor about the best nutritional plan.

In addition to the above, there are certain tips that may improve nutrition and decrease symptoms of COPD. Consider the following suggestions:

  • Stay well-hydrated: Unless your doctor advised you to restrict liquids due to another medical condition, drink plenty of fluids. Individuals with COPD can develop thick, sticky mucus that is hard to cough out. Staying well-hydrated may help thin the mucus, which makes it easier to get out of the lungs.
  • Eat your biggest meal early: If you have the most energy in the morning, make that your biggest meal of the day. If you get tired as the day progresses, it might interfere with eating.
  • Consider eating smaller, more frequent meals: Eating smaller meals will prevent you from feeling too full. If you feel full and bloated, it can push up on your diaphragm, which may decrease your lung’s ability to fully expand.
  • Use pursed-lip breathing: If you get short of breath when you are eating, use pursed-lip breathing between bites. Conserve your energy and chew slowly. Eating too fast will also increase bloating.
  • Avoid overeating: Even if you are underweight and trying to gain weight, eating too much can make breathing harder. A full stomach can affect your lung expansion and make breathing uncomfortable.
  • Rest before eating: Depending on the severity of your symptoms, eating can cause fatigue. Before you eat, rest up a bit to have enough energy to eat and enjoy your meal.