If you have
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you may
have little appetite or feel too tired to prepare and eat meals. But
eating regularly and eating healthy foods is important because food:

  • Provides your body with the energy it needs to
    function, such as for breathing and digestion.
  • Provides you with
    the energy you need for daily activities.
  • Helps strengthen your
    body’s natural defense system (immune system), making it easier to
    avoid infections.

You can take simple steps to be sure you eat healthy foods
on a regular basis. But because people with COPD often have other health
problems that may restrict the foods they can eat, always talk with your doctor or a
registered dietitian before making changes in your

Tips for eating with COPD

People with COPD often
have trouble preparing foods and eating. The following tips can make eating
easier and help you get necessary nutrition. But if you have other health
problems that may restrict the foods you can eat, talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian before making changes in your

Make eating easier

  • Choose foods that are easy to
  • Eat in a relaxed atmosphere.
  • Eat with friends
    and family.
  • If you eat a main meal, try to eat it early. This way,
    you will have energy throughout more of the day.
  • Try to include a
    favorite food in your meals.

Avoid shortness of breath while eating

  • Stop smoking. It is never too late to quit
    smoking. No matter how long you have had COPD or how serious it is, quitting
    smoking will help slow the disease and improve your quality of
  • Use medicines that make breathing easier and/or clear your
    airways about 1 hour before eating.
  • Rest before eating if eating
    makes you short of breath or tired.
  • Clear your lungs beforehand. Use your bronchodilator medicine before you eat. This can help you breathe better during your meal.
  • Eat while sitting up. This
    helps remove pressure on your lungs.
  • If you use oxygen, use it
    while eating. Eating and digestion require energy, which causes your body to
    use more oxygen.
  • Eat six small meals each day instead of three
    large ones so that your stomach is never extremely full. A full stomach can
    interfere with breathing by pushing on the diaphragm.
  • Drink your
    beverage at the end of the meal. Drinking before or during the meal can fill
    you up more quickly.
  • Avoid or eat only small amounts of gas-forming
    foods (they bloat the abdomen and make breathing difficult). These include
    onions, cauliflower, broccoli, melons, peas, corn, cucumbers, cabbage, brussels
    sprouts, turnips, raw apples, and beans (except green beans). Fried and greasy
    foods can also cause gas or bloating.
  • Eat and chew slowly so you
    are less likely to become short of breath. Try putting your spoon or fork down
    between bites to slow your eating speed.
  • If you have a hard time
    breathing in the morning, do not skip breakfast. Have a liquid nutritional drink (such as Ensure) instead.

Eat healthy foods

  • Eat a varied diet. Eat fruits and vegetables,
    dairy products, cereal and grains, and meats.
  • Avoid foods that are
    difficult to chew.
  • Don’t waste energy consuming foods with little
    nutritional value, such as potato chips, candy bars, and soft drinks.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Ken Y. Yoneda, MD – Pulmonology

Current as ofMarch 25, 2017