While there is no specific diet for emphysema patients, certain nutrition changes can make a world of difference in providing energy to strengthen, build and repair healthy lung tissue. Eat well, live well!
What is emphysema?
It is a disease of the respiratory system characterised by abnormal swelling and destruction of tiny air sacs (called alveoli) in the lungs. As this condition progresses, breathing becomes more difficult, which means you need more energy. Luckily, you can top up your energy levels through a nutrient-rich diet.
Eat right to breathe right
What you eat and how much you eat not only has an impact on your weight, but can affect how you breathe and feel. Kick bad eating habits and try to eat smaller amounts of food more often. Your stomach will be less full and your lungs will have more room expand. Also, chew your food slowly and with your mouth closed to avoid swallowing air.
To ease the eating process, clear your airways at least an hour before you eat.
Fruit and vegetables are life-giving foods, and should make up a large part of your diet:
• They provide your body with all the nutrients it needs to fight infection and inflammation.
• They are high in fibre. Fibre helps your body to use the nutrients taken in from other foods by moving the foods through the digestive system.
• They are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules known as free radicals. Adding more antioxidant-rich foods to your diet can help keep your body working at a healthy level.
• They take the least amount of energy to digest and give the body the most energy to function at its best.
Just be wary of gas-forming fruits and vegetables such as apples, broccoli, cabbage, corn, onions and peppers. While these foods do provide essential nutrients, they should be consumed with caution, especially if you have shortness of breath as they can cause bloating and make breathing difficult.
Struggling to incorporate more green stuff in your diet?
Try juicing. It is a great way to get a concentrated form of vitamins and minerals in your diet.
Try a watercress, turnip and carrot combination. Watercress releases a compound called phenethyl isothicyanate which helps block lung cancer progression. It also helps soothe swollen breathing passages and lubricates the lungs, helping to ease coughs, sore throats and upper respiratory inflammation.
1 bunch watercress
3 large carrots
1 clove garlic
Juice the ingredients together. Enjoy!
Increase your potassium intake
Your body loses potassium as it gets rid of excess fluid. This can be replaced by eating more potassium-rich foods such as bananas, salmon, and dark, leafy greens like kale and spinach. If this isn’t enough, a daily potassium supplement may be necessary, especially if you are taking diuretics. This is also an incentive to ensure you drink lots of water during the day to keep mucus thin and easier to bring up.
The bad stuff
• Juices and nectars are a great source of vitamins and minerals and should be consumed, but in moderation as they tend to be high in sugar. Sugar is known to cause inflammation, which weakens lung function and can lead to breathing difficulties.
• Soft drinks are high in sugar, and full of carbon, which is the waste of our breathing process. When you drink these drinks, waste is absorbed back into your body. This can negatively impact your ability to breathe, and more so if you already have trouble breathing.
• Limit your consumption of alcohol and caffeinated beverages as they are dehydrating.
Watch your weight
• Your weight has much to do with managing the symptoms of emphysema.
• Being underweight can decrease your energy, lead to the breakdown of fat and muscle in the body, and impair absorption of nutrients – all of which make you more prone to infection. Whereas, being overweight increases shortness of breath.
• Maintain a healthy weight by following a balanced diet and ensure that your eating habits meet your body’s nutritional requirements. Don’t know where to start? Consult a dietician. He can help you select foods you enjoy eating and develop a meal plan that’s right for you.
• Livestrong.com. Diets for People With Emphysema
• HSSA. COPD
• National Emphysema Foundation. The Importance of Good Nutrition for Chronic Lung Condition Patients