Good Nutrition for Chronic Lung Disease

Good nutrition helps keep you healthy. Your weight and the foods you eat relate directly to how much energy you have. But shortness of breath during meals can keep you from getting the nutrition your body needs. A dietitian or other health care provider can work with you to set up a healthy meal plan that includes foods you like.

Nurse or dietician talking to patient.

What you should eat

Try to maintain a balanced diet that includes a variety of these foods:

  • Protein, such as meat, beans, and soy products, helps build muscle mass.

  • Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, help keep bones and teeth strong. Dairy is also high in protein.

  • Fruits and vegetables give you the vitamins you need to stay healthy.

  • Breads and starches (carbs) help you sustain energy. Carbs that are also high in fiber, such as whole-grain breads, may have longer-lasting effects than other carbs.

  • Fluids keep you hydrated. Drinking fluids may also thin mucus. It’s good to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day (unless told otherwise by your health care provider).

If you’re having trouble eating

The stomach sits right under the diaphragm (a muscle that helps you breathe). A full stomach makes it harder for the diaphragm to move down. This can make breathing more difficult, causing shortness of breath during and after meals. These tips can help:

  • Eat smaller meals throughout the day. This way your stomach doesn’t get as full and your lungs have more room to expand.

  • Chew slowly with your mouth closed. This helps you avoid swallowing air.

  • Try to avoid or limit foods that cause gas. Gas makes the stomach swell and press on the diaphragm. These foods can include onions and cabbage. Not all foods have the same effects on all people. Keep track of the ones that cause problems for you.

Vitamins and supplements

If you’re not getting enough vitamins and other nutrients, you may be told to take them in pill form. Supplement drinks can also help you get the nutrients you need without getting too full. Make sure to talk to your health care provider before trying any over-the-counter vitamins or supplements.

If you have acid reflux

A lot of people with chronic lung disease have problems with acid reflux. This can cause symptoms such as coughing, heartburn, and upset stomach. Here are some things you can do:

  • Limit foods that increase acid in the stomach. These include spicy foods, caffeinated drinks, and alcohol.

  • Avoid lying flat for 2 hours after eating. At night, prop yourself up on pillows.

  • Talk to your health care provider or a dietitian about developing a special diet to avoid acid reflux. Also ask your doctor about medications that may help.