Eat Right to Breathe Right, Dietary Tips for Patients with COPD

Supporting lung health isn’t only about avoiding cigarette smoke and other pollutants, it is also about eating the proper foods to keep the body, and the lungs, in working order. The Lung Institute supports Healthy Lung Month by providing the public with tips on how simple dietary changes can support pulmonary health.

Many people suffering with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have difficulty maintaining a healthy weight level. Often, COPD sufferers have difficulty putting on weight because they burn approximately 10 times as many calories just from breathing compared to a healthy person. Adversely, overweight COPD sufferers’ internal organs have to work overtime to produce oxygen. Because of this, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is especially important to lessen the symptoms of lung disease.

Dietary tips:

  • Eat Veggies: Research suggests that eating an antioxidant-rich diet is good for the lungs. Leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale are all good choices.
  • Boost Vitamin C: Eating vitamin C abundant foods such as cantaloupe, oranges, grapefruit, and kiwi is proven to support lung function.
  • Drink Water: Hydrating the lungs is important to decrease irritation and inflammation, make sure to drink six to eight glasses a day.
  • Fatty Fish: The omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish are proven to aid pulmonary health. Eat salmon, anchovies, Bluefin tuna, and sardines as a protein item for dinner once or twice a week.
  • Take Notes: The three main sources of energy that the body uses come from carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. Each one of these components uses a different amount of oxygen to metabolize and produce carbon dioxide. Carbohydrates use the most oxygen to metabolize, and create the most carbon dioxide. Adversely, fats use the least amount of oxygen, and yield the least carbon dioxide. Because of this, many COPD sufferers benefit from eating a diet lower in carbs and higher in fats.
  • Avoid Gas: Know which foods or liquids cause gas? Avoid these substances at all costs. Gas in the intestines pushes on the lungs causing difficulty breathing. If gas is unavoidable, make sure to use a gas limiting supplement such as Beano with meals.
  • Eat 5 Small Meals a Day: Eat five small meals a day. Eating smaller meals spread out across the day will keep energy levels high, and will not cause the diaphragm to push on the lungs due to excess food in the stomach.
  • Eat Slowly: Eating meals slowly will cause less oxygen to be swallowed into the stomach, and therefore cause less discomfort.
  • Control Sodium: Make sure sodium levels are lowered in the diet. Eating salt causes the body to retain water resulting in difficulty breathing. Use herbs or no-salt alternatives to spice up meals. Make sure to discuss changes like this with your dietician.
  • Eat Sitting Up: Eating in bed puts strain on the lungs. Make sure to eat meals sitting up at a table with lots of liquids.
  • Exercise: Exercising is especially important for cardiovascular and lung health. Exercise will not only help individuals maintain a healthy weight level, but will also expand their lung capacity.

For more information, visit

About The Author