COPD: The importance of lifestyle and diet

COPD: The importance of lifestyle and diet

by Neelam Ali

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a group of inflammatory diseases that obstruct airflow in the lungs and make it difficult to breathe. COPD is now the second leading cause of death in India, after heart disease. According to the Global Burden of Disease 2018 study, COPD claimed nearly 1 million lives in India in 2017. Progressive conditions such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and refractory asthma contribute the most to the burden of COPD. Long-term exposure to tobacco, indoor or outdoor air pollution, and particulate matter is associated with the development of this disease. Unfortunately, COPD is an incurable condition that worsens over time, and symptoms include shortness of breath, excessive mucus production, and wheezing.

Unlike medications that only control the symptoms, a holistic management of the condition is essential so that the condition does not worsen. A healthy lifestyle and diet help improve long-term lung function, which helps slow the progression of the disease. With the onset of winters, air quality will deteriorate and become one of the major contributors to the rising incidence of COPD in India.

Role of lifestyle modification for better management of COPD

Tobacco use is the leading cause of COPD in developed countries. COPD is most common in the developing world in people who are exposed to fumes from burning fuel for cooking and heating in poorly ventilated homes. Exposure to harmful materials like asbestos, carbon monoxide, dust, and fumes also makes you susceptible to COPD. It has been seen that only 20 to 30 percent of chronic smokers can develop COPD. Quitting smoking can slow the progression of COPD. It will also make treatments more useful. Your breathing, cough, and blocked sinuses may improve within a few weeks of quitting. Some smokers develop less common lung conditions. There are chances that they will be misdiagnosed as having COPD until further evaluation is done.

Importance of diet modification.

Did you know that the food we eat can affect our breathing pattern? Our body uses food as fuel for all its activities. Avoid simple carbohydrates such as refined flours, sweets, juices, soft drinks, sugars and sweets. Simple carbohydrates produce more carbon dioxide, which makes it harder to breathe. Fiber intake should be increased from 20 grams to 30 grams per day. Fiber regulates bowel movement, increases intestinal health, increases immunity and thus increases energy level and prevents external infections.

Eat good sources of protein like eggs, meat, fish, legumes, paneer, and soybeans twice a day to help keep your respiratory muscles strong. Incorporating ragi, barley, oats, quinoa, whole wheat, and brown rice into the diet’s meals helps reduce oxidative stress. One should include more nuts and seeds in the diet. Intrinsic fat provides more energy (9 kcal/g) than carbohydrates, and omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation.

Final note

There is no permanent cure for COPD. Once damage is done to the lungs, it is permanent. It results in shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. However, treatment and following certain precautions can relieve symptoms, prevent complications, and generally slow the progression of the disease.

(The author is Dietitian, Noida International Institute of Medical Sciences. The company produces medical devices throughout the health care process, including diagnostics, bioscience, intervention, and pharmaceuticals. The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com).

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