COPD Guest Blog by Eden Coleman
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, better known as COPD, is the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States. Despite being the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S., most people are simply unaware of the disease and the sheer impact it creates for COPD patients. In 2011, an estimated 12.7 million adults were diagnosed with COPD. What we find even more disturbing are the projected 24 million people who are thought to have been under diagnosed and struggle through each day not knowing they have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This progressive lung disease has no cure, but through education and treatment patients can vastly improve their overall quality of life.
COPD patients are faced everyday with significant breathing problems due to their obstructed airways that make it increasingly difficult for air to enter and exit their lungs. Imagine trying to breathe though a straw? Once your oxygen supply becomes restricted the delivery of oxygen to the rest of the body’s vital organs starts to deplete. This is the result of extended exposure to environmental polluants, cigarette use, and for a small portion of patients, family genetics.
Though COPD is a lung disease, you may be surprised to learn that the type of diet you eat has a direct impact on your breathing and the overall respiratory disease. After a COPD diagnosis patients often maintain the diet they’ve always had, consisting of either highly processed foods or fast-food that have no nutritional value. But with COPD you need additional calories (up to 10 times of that of a non-COPD patient) and nutrients that your disease ridden body depends on to cope with COPD. Choosing not to stick to a COPD friendly diet will greatly impact your overall well-being. Specifically due to the development of new and worsening COPD symptoms.
The Correlation Between Heightened COPD Symptoms and Poor Diet
Unwanted Weight Gain: What You Can Do Right Now to Stop It
Did you know that COPD patients require up to 10 times the regular daily caloric intake of non-COPD patients? This is due to lowered lung function that forces the lungs to work harder to keep up with demand. Everyone knows that eating greasy fast food or processed foods that are loaded in calories, fat, and sodium provides little to no nutritional value which will lead to excessive weight gain. If you are a COPD patient excessive weight gain makes your day-to-day life downright miserable. Just think of it like this, the more excess weight you carry the harder your lungs and heart have to work to support it. Which results in an increased occurrence of dyspnea, also known as shortness of breath. If you are currently suffering with COPD imagine carrying 40 extra pounds all day long. Sounds terrible right? By making one simple adjustment to your diet you can help prevent unwanted weight gain, stop eating processed foods. Instead of eating processed foods, substitute fresh and healthy options such as fruits, vegetables, poultry, lean-meats and foods high in whole-grains. Doing so will help you maintain a healthy weight and help to improve your COPD symptoms.
Increased Fatigue: Goodbye Caffeine, Hello–
When we feel tired a lot of people turn to sugar, coffee, or soda for assistance even though we know that drinking highly caffeinated beverages will hinder our ability to function properly in the long run. In fact, caffeinated beverages will decrease your overall energy levels and result in COPD patients experiencing even more fatigue. Counter-productive right? Constant fatigue is extremely detrimental for COPD patients because it limits your ability to exercise, resulting in further loss of lung function and muscle strength which will make your COPD Symptoms worse.
Eating fast-food or high caloric meals also decreases your energy levels due to bloating, causing you to feel fatigued. If you continue to stay on the unhealthy path, fatigue will continue and severely limit your ability to do simple daily tasks or things you enjoy most in life.
Looking for a Health Energy Boost? Try These:
- Magnesium Rich Foods Such as Beans, Cheese and Spinach
- Reach for Some Vitamin D from Sources Such as The Sun, Tuna, Salmon, Low-Fat Milk
- Whole Grain Foods Including Oatmeal, Wholegrain Bread, Quinoa
- Cup of Fresh Fruit or Vegetables
Weakened Immune System
Food is the bodies’ energy and nutrition source, so when eating fruits, veggies, lean-meats and whole-grain foods the supply of nutrients to the body are plentiful. On the other hand, eating fast food, sugary foods or processed foods provide the body with no nutritional benefits. A lack of nutrients means your immune system isn’t getting the help it needs to fight off potential viruses and respiratory infections. Viruses and respiratory infections such as influenza and pneumonia can cause an increase in wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing that are already present in COPD. Making them worse and more severe for you.
Foods That Boost Immune Health:
- Nuts; Especially Almonds (High in Vitamin E)
- Red or Pink Grapefruit (Packed with Vitamin C)
- Cinnamon (Antiviral, Anti-Fungal, and Antibacterial Benefits)
- Kale (Vitamin C)
- Watermelon (Lycopene Reduces Respiratory Inflammation)
We can’t say just how important receiving proper nutrition is to managing your COPD symptoms. But, opting for multiple servings of your favorite pizza or avoiding eating at all due to a lack of appetite certainly won’t cut it. Instead, you need to be eating foods that are high in whole-grains, potassium, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, protein and magnesium to nourish your body and to vastly improve your symptoms with COPD.
Malnutrition can lead to countless complications that impact your health with COPD. Such as muscle deterioration from lack of exercise, unwanted weight loss, a weakened immune system that leaves you susceptible to disease worsening viruses and infections, and an increase of fatigue. Dyspnea (shortness of breath) can also further increase malnutrition because it can make it difficult to finish a full meal, or make you lack an appetite at all.
Not to mention, malnourished COPD patients have an increased risk of being admitted into the hospital, experience increased hospital stays, and have a poorer prognosis than nourished patients.
Important COPD Nutrients to Include in Your Diet:
- Magnesium (Raw Spinach, Beans, Tempeh)
- Fruits and Vegetables (Apples, Oranges, Bananas)
- Protein (Fish, Poultry, Lean-Meats)
- Calcium & Vitamin D (Salmon, Tuna, Low-Fat Milk)
- Whole-Grains (Bran Cereal, Wild Rice, Whole Wheat)
- Fiber (Oatmeal, Apples, Almonds)
- Potassium (Squash, Salmon, Low-Fat Yogurt)
When eating regular servings of greasy burgers and large sodium rich French Fries from your favorite fast-food restaurant, they may be tasty- but they are causing more harm than good. What I mean by this is the sheer amounts of sodium that are present in each meal can cause your body to keep or retain too much water. Causing an increase in breathing difficulty due to the retained water putting extra pressure on your lungs. Kick the salt shaker off your table in exchange for herbs or non-salt spices.
Foods That Prevent Water Retention:
- Potassium Rich Foods (Melons, Citrus, Kiwi, Banana, Milk, Nuts) Help Balance Sodium Levels
- Salmon, Tuna, and Herring (Foods High in Omega-3s)
- Cabbage, Cucumber, Parsley, and Pineapple are Natural Diuretics
Lacking the energy to do things that you enjoy most due to a poor diet can also have a direct impact on the mental state of a COPD patient. Many COPD patients experience depression and anxiety at some point or another. When you lack the energy to do tasks or activities you once enjoyed, it leaves you with feelings of hopelessness that eventually lead to depression.
Feeling tired now? If you suffer from depression and COPD your energy levels plummet significantly! When you are exhausted the last thing you feel like doing is exercising. If you don’t exercise you will gain more weight, more weight will amplify your COPD symptoms and worse COPD symptoms will make anyone depressed. You need to break the cycle.
Nothing is more anxiety-provoking than not being able to successfully catch your breath. The occurrence of anxiety can also be attributed to an unhealthy diet, as increased weight gain increases the workload of your COPD ridden lungs. To add insult to injury each occurrence of breathlessness triggers an internal alarm, making you feel panicked and anxious. Resulting in an increased heart rate and thus the need for more oxygen, further increasing your difficulty to breathe.
About the Author:
Eden Coleman is an author and content marketer for COPDStore.com. He provides informational and actionable tips to help COPD patients live the highest quality of life possible with an often restrictive disease.