If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis (PF), you want to know everything you can do to stay healthy and find relief from your symptoms. Even those who are on medication and treatments like bronchodilators or supplemental oxygen still experience a drop in their quality of life due to PF. While getting on the right medical treatment plan that’s designed specifically for you and your condition is essential, there are things you can do right now to support your respiratory health and improve your quality of life.
One way to boost your overall health and help your body better deal with pulmonary fibrosis is to eat a healthy diet. A balanced diet is crucial for everyone to feel their best and stay healthy, but it is especially important for those with chronic lung conditions. With proper nutrition, you can improve your body’s ability to intake oxygen and deliver it throughout the body, which can help lessen the severity of your symptoms. The right amount of vitamins and nutrients are critical for proper bodily function and to help you feel your best during your pulmonary fibrosis journey.
Along with getting the right nutrients, it is essential for people with pulmonary fibrosis to maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, shedding some pounds should be a priority because it can improve symptoms like shortness of breath. A healthy weight can also help people with PF to exercise more vigorously, which can help the lungs function better and lessen the severity of symptoms. One of the best ways for people with PF to lose weight is to stick to a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet. If you are curious about ways to improve your diet and reduce your PF symptoms, consider these tips when preparing your meals.
Food Prep Tips for Pulmonary Fibrosis
Carbohydrates are the foods that give us the energy we need to work, exercise, move and function throughout the day. While many carbohydrates are healthy, some of them should not be a part of your daily diet. Whole grains are a much better choice than processed and refined carbohydrates which are void of protein and fiber and can cause blood sugar to rise and fall quickly. Whole grains like bread and cereals, whole quinoa, brown rice and popcorn are packed with nutrition and fiber and are excellent choices when planning your meals.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables should be at the top of the list on any nutrient-dense diet. They contain antioxidants that help your body fight infection and disease while supporting your immune system and helping you feel energetic. People with pulmonary fibrosis often suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, and antioxidants can help reduce those symptoms. Fruits and vegetables also contain a lot of essential vitamins and minerals that keep our bodies working at their best. The fiber you get from fruits and veggies helps your digestive system and cardiovascular system, as well as promotes fullness and healthy weight management. Try adding things like berries, leafy greens, broccoli, squash and carrots to your meals for optimal amounts of antioxidants and other essential nutrients.
Healthy Dairy Products
Low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt are an excellent source of essential nutrients like protein, calcium and vitamin D. If you include dairy in your diet, it’s a good idea to choose low-fat options because whole milk products are rich in saturated fats that aren’t as healthy for people with pulmonary fibrosis. With low-fat or skim choices, you get the health benefits of dairy without the adverse side effects of saturated fat. If your digestive system can’t tolerate dairy, there’s no need to worry. There are delicious alternatives like nut and soy milk that are full of healthy nutrients and can replace dairy in most recipes.
Protein acts as the building blocks of your body and is a crucial nutrient for everyone. Choose lean protein options like chicken, fish and turkey for a healthy dose of protein without the extra fat. Experiment with some different grilling recipes rather than frying to keep your protein from being too calorie-dense. Nuts and seeds are a delicious meat-free source of protein that are full of essential nutrients and fiber. Nuts can help you feel fuller, promote healthy weight maintenance and provide an excellent alternative to processed chips.
Sticking to a Healthy Diet
Maintaining healthy eating habits doesn’t have to be difficult. It will get easier the longer you practice and happens when you start slow and make small changes consistently. Starting a new way of eating can sometimes feel overwhelming, so don’t get discouraged if you fall off track or splurge over the holidays. Just relax and know that you can start again tomorrow.
Planning ahead is essential to healthy eating. Make sure you go grocery shopping regularly with a list, so you’ll always have on hand what you need for a healthy meal. When you plan ahead, you will always be prepared, and you’ll be less tempted to grab something quick from a convenience store or fast food restaurant.
The key to nutrient-dense meal prep when living with pulmonary fibrosis is to include a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy dairy products and lean proteins. Remember that a healthy diet is low in added sodium, processed sugars, refined carbohydrates and trans-fat. The less your food has been processed, the more nutrients it retains and the better it can help you manage pulmonary fibrosis. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring. Experiment with a variety of whole foods and don’t be afraid to try new things. You’ll be surprised at how rewarding that can be.
People with pulmonary fibrosis might also benefit from eating smaller, more frequent meals. Three large meals a day can cause you to have a full belly which sometimes makes it harder to breathe. Always remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Staying hydrated can help fight cravings for unhealthy foods and help to thin the mucus in your lungs and ward off infection. By developing a few simple healthy eating habits, you can improve the function of your lungs and your body’s ability to work better in the face of pulmonary fibrosis.