Did you know breathing may require more energy if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)? If you are living with COPD and are experiencing weight loss or are already underweight, you will need more calories to replace the energy used. When you do not consume enough calories to meet your body’s energy needs, your body breaks down stored fat and muscle. This breakdown causes both muscle loss and weight loss.
Also, if you are below a healthy weight, your immune system may be weakened. A weakened immune system puts you more at risk for lung infections. You may experience tiredness and fatigue, making it harder to complete everyday tasks. When you do not eat enough calories, it makes the muscles in your lungs work harder. This can further cause shortness of breath.
It is helpful to discuss with your healthcare provider your concerns and challenges in eating enough calories. Some suggestions include:
- The daily calories you need to maintain a healthy body weight
- Any concerns about your current weight
- Current challenges preparing and cooking the meal
- If you experience difficulty breathing or discomfort while eating
- Any other special dietary needs
Your healthcare provider may suggest you speak with a nutrition expert or attend pulmonary rehabilitation. Along with general education and exercise, pulmonary rehabilitation provides nutritional counseling.
It can be hard to meet your nutritional needs when you have difficulty preparing meals or experience shortness of breath while cooking. Choose nutritious foods that are easy to prepare. When possible, purchase fruits or vegetables that are pre-cut, precooked meats, or unprocessed frozen meals. When preparing meals, consider cooking extra, so you will have food for the next day. You can also freeze additional portions for a day that you are too tired to cook. Consider asking your family or caregiver for help with grocery shopping and cooking. You can also consider meal or grocery delivery services that meet your dietary needs.
“If you have a small appetite, feel too tired to eat, or get overly full from your meals, rethink how much and when you eat,” says Rachel Ram, CHES, Health Promotions Coordinator for the American Lung Association. “Focus on five to six small meals throughout the day rather than eating two or three large meals. Schedule yourself reminders so you remember to eat regularly and keep higher-calorie, non-perishable, healthy snacks easily accessible. Fluids, like water, are important but beware they can make you feel full quickly. Drink beverages after your meal, rather than at the beginning or during your meal.”
Blog last updated: March 21, 2022