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Eat Better, Breathe Better

The right nutrition can help relieve respiratory problems and improve your lung health.

Diets for People with COPD
Feb 3 2016

Take a deep breath. For those of us without respiratory issues, we don’t give the approximately 25,000 breaths we take each day a second thought. But for the millions of people suffering from lung health issues, it’s quite the opposite. The good news is that with the right nutrition and therapeutic nutrition interventions, people with certain lung conditions and diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), can breathe easier. 

COPD is a progressive lung disease that makes breathing difficult due to partially obstructed airflow into and out of the lungs. Proper nutrition can help strengthen muscles, reduce inflammation, help reduce carbon dioxide buildup and improve breathing.

Through global research and studies, experts have uncovered a strong connection between diet and lung health. Abbott supported research found that hospitalized COPD patients who took nutrition supplements required fewer days in the hospital and were less likely to be readmitted to the hospital following discharge than those who didn’t take supplements.

So how does nutrition impact lung health?

According to Refaat Hegazi, MD, PhD, MS, MPH, a physician scientist with Abbott, respiratory ailments strain the body, which can weaken muscles and increase the risk of inflammation.

“Proper nutrition can help strengthen muscles, reduce inflammation, help reduce carbon dioxide buildup and improve breathing,” Hegazi says.

People with lung issues should talk to a doctor about incorporating these nutrients into their diet:

  • Antioxidants: Free-radical fighters such as vitamin C, which are found in foods like citrus fruits and dark leafy green vegetables, are linked to a lower prevalence of asthma and are beneficial for lung health. Hegazi says this is because antioxidants help protect us from oxidative stress, which is a chemical imbalance in the body that can lead to tissue damage. 

  • Protein: Found in foods such as fish, poultry, milk, eggs, cheese, poultry, nuts, dried beans and peas, protein helps your body maintain strong respiratory muscles. “If you have a respiratory condition that is chronic, your muscles could become exhausted and overworked,” Hegazi says. “You need to fuel that extra effort with an increased amount of protein.”

  • Vitamin D: The sunshine vitamin is also found in fortified milk, fatty fish and egg yolks and has been linked to reduced risk of moderate or severe COPD exacerbations, or flare-ups, in which breathing gets worse.

Making minor tweaks to your daily diet, such as eating more citrus fruits, vegetables and lean meats can go a long way when it comes to the health of your lungs—and your entire body.

 Infographic: Eating Right to Breathe Better

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