Dietary Tips for Better Breathing

Food is the fuel your body needs to perform all activities, including breathing. Your body uses food for energy as part of a process called metabolism. During metabolism, food and oxygen are changed into energy and carbon dioxide. You use energy for all of your activities – from sleeping to exercising.

food and oxygen——–> energy + carbon dioxide

Food provides your body with nutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein) that affect how much energy you will have and how much carbon dioxide is produced. Carbon dioxide is a waste product that leaves your body when you breathe out (exhale). If there is too much carbon dioxide in your body, you might feel weak.

Breathing requires more energy for people with different types of pulmonary disease – such as chronic asthma,  IPF and  COPD. The muscles used in breathing might require 10 times more calories than those of a person without pulmonary disease.

Good nutrition helps the body fight infections. Chest infections are illnesses that often lead to hospitalization for people with pulmonary disease, so it is important to reduce your risk of infection by following a healthy diet.

To help increase nutritional intake and ensure a healthy diet, the following are some tips for better breathing:

  •  Clear your airways before you eat.  Effective airway clearance is an important part of pulmonary disease management and can be especially beneficial before meals. When done on a regular basis, airway clearance techniques can help you breath better and prevent lung infection that can lead to pulmonary disease exacerbation.
  • Eat meals when energy levels are at their highest, which is usually in the morning.
  • Eat several small, nutrient-rich meals to avoid becoming breathless while eating.
  • Eat slowly and chew foods thoroughly to avoid swallowing air while eating.
  • Choose foods that are easy to chew. Modify food consistency if mastication seems to increase fatigue while eating.
  •  Choose foods that are easy to prepare to conserve energy for eating.
  • Limit salt. Consuming too much can cause the body to retain water and can make breathing more difficult.
  • Eat calcium- and vitamin D-rich foods to support bone health.
  • Prepare meals that appear palatable and well presented.
  • Avoid foods that cause gas or bloating. A full abdomen can make breathing uncomfortable.
  • Eat while sitting up to ease lung pressure.
  • Drink liquids at the end of the meal to avoid feeling full while eating.
  • Wear a cannula while eating if continuous oxygen is prescribed. Eating and digestion require oxygen, so the body will need the extra oxygen.
  • Limit caffeinated beverages, as caffeine can interfere with some medications and cause nervousness or restlessness.
  • Make the meal more enjoyable by engaging in social interaction while dining.
  • Avoid aspiration by breathing carefully, swallowing, and sitting properly and with good posture while eating.
  • Rest before meals.
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