Nutritional Counseling for Lung Disease

the outline of the bronchi of a person against the background of a green forest

There are different types of lung diseases, including acute conditions and chronic illnesses. Acute lung conditions include bronchitis and pneumonia, and have a short duration, whereas chronic lung diseases are different because it is long-lasting.

Chronic lung diseases may vary from mild to severe. Many types of lung diseases can affect your overall quality of life. Luckily, there are many things you can do to decrease a worsening of symptoms, increase energy and improve your overall well-being.

Types of Lung Disease

Some types of chronic lung disease, such as asthma, may be present from a young age. Other conditions, such as COPD, typically develop later in life.

Symptoms of chronic lung disease may include shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness. Fatigue, persistent coughing, and frequent lung infections can also occur.

Common types of chronic lung disease include the following:

  • Asthma
  • COPD (Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis)
  • Pulmonary fibrosis

How Nutritional Counseling Can Help

It might be surprising to learn that what you eat may play a role in your breathing. Eating the right food and getting proper nutrition can help fuel your body and boost your immune system.

Nutritional counseling is beneficial if you have a chronic lung disease. The food you eat provide your body with energy. The better your body is fueled, the more efficiently it can work. Also, what you eat contributes to weight gain. Excessive weight makes your body work harder, including your lungs.

In some cases of lung disease, there is no special diet or restrictions that need to be followed. But for certain other chronic lung diseases, nutritional recommendations may help improve breathing. Consider the following nutritional guidelines:

Asthma: There is no diet specific for individuals with asthma, however, according to the National Institute of Health, some studies have indicated that a diet low in vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids resulted in poorer lung function in teens.

Although more research needs to be done before a definite link can be established between certain nutrients and asthma, there are some general guidelines that should be followed, such as eating a well-balanced diet high in lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. Don’t forget to eat plenty of fresh veggies and fruits. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts, salmon, and spinach should also be part of a healthy diet.

COPD: The food you eat provides your body with energy and affects the amount of carbon dioxide produced. People with COPD often have trouble exhaling all the carbon dioxide from their lungs.

Carbohydrates produce the most carbon dioxide. Consider limiting simple carbohydrates, such as white bread, baked goods, and soda. When you eat carbs, choose complex carbohydrates that provide nutrients, such as whole grains, veggies, and fruit.

Mucus production is also often a problem for people with COPD. Water helps thin the mucus, which makes it easier to cough out of the lungs. Talk to your healthcare provider about how much water you should drink as some cardiac conditions may require fluid restriction.

Pulmonary Fibrosis: Some people with pulmonary fibrosis take steroids to help with inflammation in the lungs. Long-term use of steroids can interfere with absorption of certain nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Ask your doctor if you should take a supplement.

If shortness of breath interferes with eating, consider eating smaller portions, chew slowly, and take your time. Also, stick to a diet low in trans-fat, added sugar, and salt.

Nutritional Do’s and Don’ts

When it comes to nutrition and lung disease there are several do’s and don’ts to keep in mind, such as:

  • Don’t eat food that make you gassy or bloated. When you are bloated, your stomach may push up on your diaphragm and make breathing more difficult.
  • Do talk to a nutritionist about types of food you like to eat and don’t like. Discuss your schedule and whether you exercise or not, which may require you to eat more calories.
  • Don’t overdo it. Eating too much at one time can make you feel overfull and increase shortness of breath.
  • Do rest before eating. If you have severe lung disease and get short of breath easily, resting before eating may help conserve the energy you need to eat a meal without trouble breathing.
  • Don’t forget to tell your nutritionist about any other dietary restrictions you have due to other medical conditions, such as diabetes.
  • Do try to eat your biggest meal early in the day to boost your energy levels.
  • Don’t ignore a poor appetite. Your appetite may vary. But if you frequently have no interest in eating, it can be a sign of depression or another health problem, which can be treated.
  • Do wear your nasal cannula when eating if continuous oxygen is prescribed. Eating uses energy and oxygen. If you are prescribed continuous oxygen by your doctor, use it when you’re eating to decrease shortness of breath.
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