COPD Nutrition – A Patients perspective. Part 1



I read many articles about Nutrition for COPD patients and while I find some have some good basic information others seem to be a little loose with the truth. I haven’t seen too many articles by patients which prompted me to share my nutrition plan, what has worked and what has not.

I’m not telling you this is the ultimate nutrition guide for COPD Patients or that foods I eat are COPD super foods but everything you read here is fact and sourced from my own experience, what you do with it is up to you. If you’re a patient and decide to follow the path I’ve taken, please discuss with your doctor before you start. If you’re a healthcare professional how much importance do you place on your patient’s nutrition?

My past nutrition.

Since being diagnosed with COPD 5 years ago I’ve experimented with exercise and nutrition to try and find the holy grail in dealing with my disease. Exercise wise I think I’ve pretty much nailed it, and despite popular opinion that pushing yourself hard day in day out is fraught with peril, I didn’t die or acerbate my COPD symptoms. Nutrition wise I have three rules, food has to be healthy, tasty and sustain my body’s energy requirements.

A sustainable nutrition plan is critical as if it’s not then you’re wasting your time. I refrain from using the word diet as to me it means a short term eating plan to shed the pounds quickly. Many people become caught up in the latest fad diets and end up back where they started because they either don’t like the food they’re eating or it requires too much preparation, a waste of time! If you find nutritious foods that you enjoy eating you are more likely to keep eating that style of food which encompasses what I believe in, a healthy eating plan.

I’ve tried low fat, low sugar, diary free, gluten free and FUN free diets and that’s what they end up being, diets! Short term pain for no gain!

So where does the answer lie?

From my experience the answer isn’t complicated, if it’s processed don’t eat it, if it’s not processed eat it in moderation. However, that mentality isn’t sustainable for everyone and personally I see nothing wrong in building a treat or two into this type of eating plan. How do we do that in a practical sense is the trick. Given a respiratory patients ability to prepare food is dependent on the stage of their disease, simple meal preparation is important.

While I’m not about to include a receipt book in this article, I will be sharing some of my recipes in part 3 of this topic. Some of you may think ‘it’s just another article about diet and exercise”, which could be true except that I’ve decided to share with you how my body is changing and whether this sort of eating plan is sustainable.

I’m the Lab rat!

9 weeks ago I started on a new nutrition plan that may see my weight drop by as much as 10 kg’s, my starting weight was 74.4 kg’s or 160 pounds. Some people will say that’s not sensible for a COPD patient as we are told we should carry a few extra pounds rather than be at a normal or underweight range, apparently it’s good to have a bit of fat in reserve.

The reason why I’m embarking on this plan is to see if for this COPD patient, losing weight through nutrition and exercise will actually put me at my perfect weight range and improve my wellbeing. From what I’ve been able to gather, by far greater nutritional minds than mine, is that my body will cope better and be more resilient if I’m carrying minimal visceral fat and subcutaneous fat.

Subcutaneous fat is the fat found directly under your skin, think of a beer belly or flabby underarm and that’s subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat is the more dangerous of the two, it is the fat that can be found around your organs and can cause diabetes, heart attack and stroke among other diseases. In my opinion reducing these fats to the recommended level can only be of benefit.

In week two of my new eating plan I had a body scan to find out where I was carrying my excess fat and also to give me a baseline. The table above is my BMI (body mass index) result, showing that I have just clicked over to the overweight range at 26. My goal is to be in the normal range which would be 18.5- 24.9, my next scan is in 8-10 weeks.

This experiment is not just all about weight loss for me it’s about where is the perfect weight/fat range and how other patients can apply what I’m doing to their own wellbeing. So far the changes have been noticeable on a few fronts with my weight currently 66.8 kgs or 147 pounds and setting a new PB for a ½ marathon on the 20th of March. My recent race was even more pleasing as I required less nutrition throughout the race and felt stronger than previous races. My average heart rate was 159 bpm, in my last ½ marathon in September 2015 my heart rate average was 169 bpm.

On July 3rd I will be competing in the Gold Coast marathon, this is also the timing I’ve given myself to achieve my new body shape. The week before the race I will undergo Pulmonary function and exercise stress testing and compare it to the results from the same tests two weeks before last year’s New York marathon program. I am confident that this will not only confirm improvements in my exercise outputs but also my day to day life.

In Part 2 I’ll discuss my nutrition plan in detail, my progress and review my latest body scan.

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