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As a registered dietician and nutritionist, I’ve seen firsthand how diet can affect the development and progression of a chronic disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Maintaining a healthy weight is a necessary part of your lung disease treatment plan. A well-balanced diet with whole, fresh foods can improve your lung function, ability to exercise and overall health. 

Unfortunately, weight loss and muscle wasting is a common complication of COPD, especially when the disease is in an advanced stage. Here, I’ll discuss the dangers of being underweight if you have COPD, as well as how Lung Health Institute’s wellness plan can promote healthy weight gain.

What Causes COPD Patients to Lose Weight?

If you have chronic lung disease, your lungs are working harder than normal to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Increased respiratory demand requires more energy, which your body gets through food. COPD patients need to eat adequate calories and protein to meet this demand. 

With lung disease, you may feel too fatigued to prepare meals and eat regularly during the day. Symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath can hinder your ability to chew and swallow, and mouth breathing and mucus production can change the taste of food. Additionally, medication side effects, anxiety and depression can cause a loss in appetite.

Research  has shown that diet is a risk factor for determining the progression and prognosis of chronic lung disease. Malnutrition and decreased body weight in COPD patients are associated with decreased energy, lower exercise tolerance, higher risk for infections, higher risk for exacerbations and poor long-term prognosis. 

How AI² Can Help Underweight Patients

AI² is an excellent dietary plan for COPD patients who need to gain weight. It involves eating a high-fat, low-carb diet to adapt your body to burn fat as fuel. AI² eliminates added sugars and refined carbohydrates from your diet and replaces them with protein, healthy fats and fresh vegetables. A recent study has shown that diets high in plant-based foods and healthy fats can help lower inflammation levels in the body and preserve lung function. 

A high-fat, low-carb meal plan also decreases the respiratory demand on your lungs, which are already working harder to expel carbon dioxide. Of the macronutrients, fats produce the least amount of carbon dioxide when the body converts food to energy.

Eating the majority of your daily calories as healthy fats can help malnourished COPD patients gain weight. That’s because high-fat foods contain more calories and nutrients in smaller amounts. Even if eating big meals is difficult for you, small portions of fat-rich foods — like avocados, raw nuts and fatty fish — have calories, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Fats digest slowly and provide you with a stable source of energy during the day. 

We recommend talking with your doctor before making any dietary changes, even one that focuses on reducing information like our Anti-Inflammatory Initiative. You may also benefit from working with a nutrition professional who can help you personalize your weight maintenance or weight gain program to best fit your needs.

Cellular Therapy Can Also Help Treat COPD

At Lung Health Institute, we believe in a comprehensive approach to lung disease treatment. We offer cellular therapy, a treatment that uses a patient’s own cells to potentially reduce inflammation within the lungs, which can help prevent further damage and slow the progression of your disease. In conjunction with the AI² wellness plan, cellular therapy may be able to reduce your symptoms, improve your energy levels and help you Breathe Easier™. 

If you are interested in learning more or scheduling a free consultation, contact one of our patient coordinators today.

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