Nutrition guidelines for patients with COPD

COPD patients experience weight loss due to poor appetite. Also, there is weakness that hinders with daily activities like cooking, chewing, swallowing which further results in weight loss and fatigue. Good nutrition plays an important role in improving quality of life of a COPD patient.

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Here are a few nutrients that need special attention in COPD patients:

Protein: Proteins help in production of antibodies to fight infections. The main sources of protein are meat, fish, eggs, poultry, legumes and dairy products.

Fluids: Lots of fluids – 8 to 12 cups of caffeine -free liquids should be consumed everyday by COPD patients to remain hydrated. FLuid helps in the thinning of the lung secretions and also clearing them out. Best fluid is water, however in those who have lost substantial weight energy dense liquids like milkshakes, fruit juices, vegetable soups are helpful .

Salt restriction : Excess salt causes water retention of fluids in the body causing increase in blood pressure and shortness of breath. Ways to decrease sodium intake need to be followed:

  • Not adding extra salt to cooked dishes
  • Avoiding processed and packaged foods, especially bakery and meat
  • Avoid papads, pickles, ketchups, sauces,etc

Calcium: The mineral calcium has an important role in lung function, muscular contraction and blood clotting. It works in tandem with magnesium. Patients suffering from respiratory disorders are often prescribed corticosteroids and these tend to expedite loss of calcium from the bones in both , men and women. Hormones associated with calcium deposition in the bones is also affected increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Although corticosteroids are used for short periods, one must be aware of its consequences and check regarding calcium and vitamin D status. Rich sources of calcium are sesame seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, dairy products, fish, etc.

Magnesium: Magnesium works along with calcium to control activity of bronchial tubes. The bronchial muscles get weak in the absence of sufficient magnesium. Hence foods such as dark green vegetable,  whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, tofu and some seafood which contain good amounts of magnesium should be included in the diet of COPD patients.

Phosphorous: Some medications given for treatment of COPD may result in low phosphorous levels . Sometimes drugs cause release of phosphorus from the kidneys.  Phosphorous has an important role to play in building and repair of tissues, bone formation, and maintaining normal lung function. Hence, special attention should be paid in increasing food sources of phosphorous  including meat, poultry, eggs and milk products

There is no direct cure for COPD yet and the damage to the airways cannot be reversed. Only that the progression of the disease can be slowed down with medical therapies and lifestyle changes.


Author: drpoojachhawcharia

Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.

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