If you’ve recently been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, you might be feeling overwhelmed by the task of managing your disease. Because, unfortunately, COPD does not have any cure, the only treatment options available are those that can alleviate symptoms. Thus, COPD is something you will have to live with and manage for the rest of your life.
We have some tips for you to make this task seem much less daunting.
Manage Your Medications.
Treatment options currently available for COPD are designed to alleviate the breathing difficulties associated with the disease. The primary medications prescribed for COPD are bronchodilators and steroids.
Bronchodilators are simply meant to dilate or widen the airway channels in your lungs. There are both fast-acting and long-lasting bronchodilators, and you might be prescribed both simultaneously.
Steroids may also be recommended to reduce the inflammation in your lungs. They work well in conjunction with bronchodilators.
It might feel a bit overwhelming to keep track of all your inhaled and oral medications, the recommended doses and dosage schedules. Here are a few tips to help you stay on top of it all:
- Make a chart. A chart is an easy, visual way to organize when and how much you are supposed to take of each medicine. Not only is it easy to reference, but eventually it might become easier for you to memorize.
- Use your phone. The built-in alarm function on your phone is useful for setting alarms and reminders for your medication.
- Line up your medication schedule with existing habits. You already have deeply ingrained daily habits, such as brushing your teeth and eating meals. Schedule your medications right before or after these to make it easier to remember. Soon, your medication schedule will also become second nature.
Tailor Your Nutrition.
Surprisingly, your diet can also play a role in how easy it is for you to breathe. You can tailor your diet and nutritional intake to reduce some of the breathing difficulties associated with COPD. Your best option is to find a registered dietitian nutritionist with expertise in COPD. But first, here’s some info to get you started.
Our body functions by utilizing oxygen and the chemical energy from the food we eat. The by-product of this process is carbon dioxide, which is expelled from the body by the process of breathing out. To optimize your diet, one thing to consider is choosing foods that maximize the efficiency of our body’s use of oxygen and minimize the carbon dioxide output.
Carbohydrate metabolism has the highest — and least efficient — ratio of carbon dioxide output to oxygen input. In contrast, fats produce the lowest ratio and therefore result in the most efficiency.
Adjusting your diet to minimize carbohydrates might help your breathing. This can be done without compromising your caloric intake by eating more complex, filling carbs instead of simple carbs.
Additionally, you can increase your fat intake in a healthy way by eating both mono- and polyunsaturated fats. These usually come from plant sources, such as plant oils. Try to avoid trans and saturated fats, which usually come from animal sources (butter, lard, fatty meats, etc.).
Long-term doses of steroids, which may be part of your medical treatment plan, can result in calcium deficiency. So it might be a good idea to take calcium and vitamin D supplements. Some studies have shown improved symptoms with the use of systemic enzymes.
Finally, staying hydrated by regularly drinking plenty of water is now more important than ever. Sufficient water intake is crucial for thinning out mucus in the respiratory airway and making it easier to breathe. Try to aim for about 64 ounces of fluid intake spread throughout each day. Food that contains fluids count towards this goal, too.
Research informational resources and talk to a health professional about the role of nutrition in your COPD.
Practice Mucus Removal Techniques.
Mucus is not a pleasant thing to talk about, but for individuals with COPD, it’s a very real part of daily life. You may regularly experience excessive mucus buildup blocking your airways and making it difficult for you to breathe. It’s useful to be aware of some techniques that are designed to be used after taking your bronchodilator inhalers to break up the mucus buildup and restore easy breathing.
- The first technique is deep coughing. Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and force out the air using your stomach muscles. Note that this is not a hacking cough, which can be tiring.
- The second technique is huffing or huff coughing. Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, then exhale slowly and steadily. This is gentler than a cough and therefore less tiring. You may need to repeat this procedure a few times or use it in conjunction with a deep cough.
There are also plenty of exercises for your lungs that can, over time, increase your lung’s air capacity.
Join a Support Group.
And last but not least, surround yourself with people who will help you through this journey. This may include friends, family and other loved ones who can help you with your medication and breathing exercises or provide emotional support. It may also be helpful to join a community of COPD patients going through the same situation you are.
Having a chronic disease can feel like an incredible burden to yourself and your family, but it’s important to remember you are loved — and you are not alone.