Lung Disease

8 Healthy Eating Tips for COPD Patients

Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (or COPD) understand how difficulty breathing can interfere with everyday life. According to statistics from the American Lung Association, COPD is a common lung condition that mixes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and affects roughly 24-million americans. Not only that, but the chronic condition can cause malnutrition (and massive weight loss), due to the calories required for the effort to breathe (breathing demands roughly 10 times more calories for COPD patients).

This is why it’s vital to eat and remain as healthy as possible while managing COPD. And while a healthy diet won’t cure your COPD, it can make life easier, strengthen your immunity, and help your body ward off chest infections and frequent hospital visits…


1. Sit Up Straight

Experts from recommend sitting up straight while eating to avoid placing undue pressure on the lungs. Do so with the aid of a high back dining room chair.

Reclining, or sitting slouched over, during meals can compress the lungs, compromising your breathing because of the extra pressure on your chest and lungs.

dinner party

2. Don’t Eat Too Fast

There can be many positive things said about mindful eating. However, for patients with COPD, eating too fast can literally take their breath away.

Dr. Norman H. Edelman, senior scientific advisor at the American Lung Association, explains that taking time with meals by chewing thoroughly and putting utensils down between bites, will prevent shortness of breath.

couple eating

3. Eat a Big Breakfast

Mom did always tell us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, health scientists at the University of Pittsburgh agree that your biggest meal of the day should be early in the day: meaning breakfast.

Not only will a full breakfast provide much-needed energy to power your day—eating a large meal at the day’s end will only expend excess energy when you’re already struggling with fatigue.


4. Watch What you Drink with Meals

Many of us have noticed difficulty breathing following a large meal. For those with COPD, eating or drinking too much leads to stomach expansion, lung compression, and labored breathing.

So avoid gas-inducing beverages (i.e., soda or seltzer) with meals, and if you can, avoid drinking anything until your meal is finished.  This will ensure you don’t fill up too much, too fast.

fizzy water

5. Nap Before Meals

Many COPD patients find that they don’t have enough energy to do activities many of us take for granted, including eating meals. The lung health educators at recommend beating the pre-lunch and dinner fatigue by taking a nap prior to meals.

A short nap can help you top up your energy stores and have the energy required to eat a healthy and nutritious meal.

wake up

6. Skip the Excess Salt

You’re likely aware that eating salty foods inevitably leads to bloating, due to excess sodium intake and fluid retention. But for patients with COPD eating salty foods and experiencing the resulting bloat can make breathing very difficult.

So rather that sprinkling extra salt into sauces, soups, and snacks, try using fresh and dried herbs and spices (minus the sodium) to take your dishes to next level tasty.

Sprinkle of Salt

7. Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals

We’ve already established that eating too much can lead to a too-full belly and breathing discomfort. However, doctors from the American Lung Association explain that many “emphysema [patients] eat several small meals a day because they really can’t fill up their stomachs.”

Spreading smaller, more frequent meals throughout your day will also prevent bloating (aka: the diaphragm pressing on the stomach) which makes breathing really uncomfortable.

healthy snack

8. Forgo Gas-Causing Foods

Akin to gas-inducing drinks (i.e., sodas and sparkling waters) certain foods can also lead to bloating and lung compression.

Of course many COPD patients will differ, but if you notice the common culprits (i.e., beans, broccoli, greasy foods, spicy foods, and cabbage) cause belly bloat and make breathing labored, steer clear of these foods.


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