COPD makes it difficult to eat | PostIndependent.com

COPD makes it difficult to eat

Jim Nelson

Like starting an exercise program, any changes in diet should be cleared by your physician.

Healthy people use about 5 percent of their calories in breathing. COPD patients can use up to 50 percent of their available calories just in trying to breathe. With normal lungs, the work of breathing is in the inhaling. The diaphragm drops, the chest expands and we draw air into our lungs. Then we get to relax, and the elasticity in our healthy alveoli (the microscopic little air sacs where the oxygen is absorbed into our blood stream), help to push the air back out.

With compromised breathing, we lose that elasticity and air becomes trapped in the weakened lungs. We are then forced to work during both inhaling and exhaling. No wonder we’re tired.

If a COPD patient is overweight, the excess fat also restricts movement, leading to even more difficulty in breathing. Surplus weight makes exercise more difficult, leading to an aversion to the movement necessary to build up muscles and endurance and to lose that weight.

Many COPD sufferers tend toward the other end of the scale (pun intended). I, prior to my lung transplant, was one of those. I could not eat much at a time, so I was forced to eat several meals a day just to gain the calories that I lost every day from breathing and exercising.

On the plus side, I was the envy of most of my contemporaries because of my ability to eat anything anytime and never gain weight. That was, of course, a mixed blessing. Since the transplant, the eating problems have all but disappeared. Naturally, I now carry a few extra pounds. Never satisfied …

Here is a link to a PDF file of an article in the US News and World Report online for this month: http://bit.ly/1wdqmwa on this topic that features my story. I am proud to report that the monthly readership of the US News site is in excess of 20 million people.

Jim Nelson is a former Glenwood Springs resident and double lung transplant recipient who works with regional and national cardiovascular and lung organizations.


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