Emphysema and diet

Step 1: Understanding the relationship between emphysema and food
There are many risk factors that predispose someone to the development of emphysema. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) incorporates chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic asthma. The following are the most common:

  • Genes (e.g. alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency)
  • Airway Hyper-responsiveness
  • Lung growth
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Occupational dusts and chemicals
  • Indoor and outdoor air pollution
  • Infections
  • Socio-economic status

People with COPD especially need a healthy eating plan in order to fight off respiratory infections. These infections are a main complication for COPD. A proper diet can stave off breathing problems. It is important for obese people suffering from COPD to shed the extra kilos. The body does not need extra weight to make living and breathing more difficult, with an extra burden on the heart and lungs.
Step 2: Adopt new healthy habits

  • 1. Understand the trigger(s) of your condition and try to avoid it.
  • 2. Treat any lung or respiratory infection as soon and as effective as possible
  • 3. Treat and control asthma very effectively
  • 4. Stop smoking
  • 5. Eat a healthy and balanced diet
  • 6. Lose weight
Step 3: Guidelines for healthy eating to prevent or help you cope with COPD

  • Don't eat large meals – they will leave you feeling short of breath.
  • Eat three small meals and three snacks every day – it is much easier for your body to deal with this.
  • Avoid food with high fat and sugar contents, as they produce extra carbon dioxide, which makes your lungs work extra hard. These include fried or heavily spiced foods and a number of green vegetables.
  • Extra weight makes your lungs work harder, which makes breathing more difficult. Lose those extra kilos.
  • Drink lots of water. You should drink six to eight glasses of beverages (not including tea and coffee) each day to keep mucus thin and easier to cough up. Limit caffeine as it may interfere with some of your medications.
  • Include high-fibre foods such as vegetables, cooked dried peas and beans (legumes), whole-grain foods, bran, cereals, pasta, rice and fresh fruit in your diet. Fibre helps move food along the digestive tract and may reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood.
  • Limit your salt intake. Eating too much salt causes the body to keep or retain too much water, causing breathing to be more difficult. Use herbs to flavour food and don't add salt while you are cooking.
  • Increase your potassium intake, especially if you are taking diuretics. Potassium is found in oranges and bananas, potatoes, asparagus and tomatoes.
  • Eat slowly. Take small bites and chew your food slowly, breathing deeply while chewing.
  • Choose foods that are easy to chew.
  • Try drinking liquids at the end of your meal. Drinking before or during the meal may make you feel full or bloated.
  • Eat while sitting up to ease the pressure on your lungs.
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