Nutrition and Pulmonary Fibrosis

Many people with pulmonary fibrosis wonder if there is a pulmonary fibrosis diet. The best PF diet is the one that helps you maintain a healthy weight for your body and makes you feel the best.

Maintaining Your Weight

People who are overweight or underweight have a harder time managing their PF.

Exercise is key to a healthy lifestyle and can help you maintain your weight. Ask your doctor about pulmonary rehab and what other types of exercise you should be doing.

If you are overweight, it can create more pressure on your lungs which can make it even harder to breathe. It also increases your risk for other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

If you are underweight, you may have less energy, which leads to weakening of the muscles that help with breathing.  It can also put you at risk for diseases such as osteoporosis.

It's also important to know that being overweight or underweight can affect your eligibility for a lung transplant.

How do you know what is the right weight? Doctors will often refer to BMI or body mass index which is a measure of body fat based on your height and weight. You can calculate your own BMI and talk with your doctor about what your goal weight should be and how to get there.

Nutrition Tips for PF

  • Eat a diet low in sodium (salt), added sugars, saturated and trans fat.
  • Try and get most of your calories from lean meats and fish, fruits, whole grains, beans, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
  • If you are having a hard time gaining or maintaining your weight, try nutritional shakes or add healthy fats such as olive oil to your food.
  • If you have acid reflux, avoid acidic foods such as citrus, coffee and tomatoes. Do not eat within 3 hours of your bedtime. Talk with your doctor about medication that can help.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals to avoid getting too full, which can make it harder to breathe.
  • Drink lots of water, especially when you are exercising.
  • Some medications may have diarrhea as a side effect. Eating a bland diet, made up of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast (sometimes called the BRAT diet), can help.  Always talk to your doctor about any side effects you are experiencing.
  • Ask for a referral to a registered dietitian who can give you specific pointers for managing your diet.

Page last updated: March 22, 2020

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