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Portable Oxygen Concentrator Resource Center

How to Avoid Gaining Weight with COPD

Posted by Erin Lowry on Jun 18, 2018 2:30:02 PM


It is hard for a lot of people to maintain a healthy weight, constantly battling between too much food or too little.

Maintaining a healthy weight for COPD patients can be even harder to do, having the right amount of food, exercise, medication and sleep are all large factors.

Not only does the right amount of food matter, but so does the food itself.

Solely eating dairy or carbohydrates will not help the patient lose weight, but most likely help them gain weight.

Eating is a very common issue in losing or gaining weight, the right diet needs to have multiple food groups for it to be considered a healthy diet.

Exercise can also be a factor in weight fluctuation, as too little exercise can lead to a low amount of calories burned, and if too many calories are consumed, weight gain will most likely occur.

Certain medications can also be a factor in gaining weight, for example, steroids in higher amounts are known to cause weight gain.

Insomnia and other sleep disorders can make losing weight, or maintaining a healthy weight harder to do.

Those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may have a harder time with maintaining a healthy weight, as struggling to breathe can make exercise and eating a lot harder to do.

This disease can make it very hard for patients to get out and be active, as well as preparing and eating healthy meals.

Maintaining a healthy weight can be very challenging, it is a important to speak with a physician about a healthy plan for diet, exercise, medications and sleep.


Removing sugary soda, juice and coffee can all help those who may need to lose weight.

Carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and potatoes should be limited as well.

Carbs turn into carbon dioxide and can make it harder for patients with COPD to intake oxygen, as much of the rooms in the lungs will be filled with carbon dioxide.

By avoiding carbs, it can make it easier on patients to breathe while eating.

The idea of going hungry is abnormal to a lot of people, but just because your stomach sends signals to your brain saying it is hungry, does not mean you need to eat food.

When eating, it is important to try and stick to healthy, nutrient-rich foods.

Eating vegetables like carrots or lettuce are both filled with water and can help curb an appetite.

Though carbs are something to stay away from, if you do crave carbohydrates here and there, whole grain alternatives are a great choice.

Brown rice is better than white rice, and making that subtle switch can help keep the calorie and carb intake low.

Another key factor of eating right is avoiding sodium. Try cooking with less salt, but other seasonings.

Using a sodium substitute can have more unhealthy components that pure salt, so if salt is something required, stick to pure salt.

Drinking water can also help with weight loss, by drinking water before meals, it will fill the stomach up before food is consumed.

Staying away from fats when cooking is also key. Avoid using butter and heavy creams to add flavor, instead turn to seasonings or bake instead of frying.

Also make sure to eat the correct portions. Look on the label of foods to see its recommending serving size.


Those with COPD have a hard time exercising as it is hard for them to breathe, but if they do not exercise, it can make it harder to breathe.

Without staying in good physical shape, any additional weight can put more pressure on the lungs, making it harder to breathe.

It is very important to stay physically active with COPD. Though it may feel like you cannot breathe while you exercise, it can help strengthen the muscles around your lungs and heart, keeping them strong.

Simple exercises can make it easier on your lungs and COPD, and can also help strengthen them as well.

Going for short walks, sit ups while you are watching a movie, or leg raises while you cook dinner can all become easy, mindless exercises than can help you stay in shape and help your lungs.

If you feel unsafe doing exercises alone, see if a friend can come join you or join a group exercise program through your local park district.


A common cause of weight gain is steroids. Though it can become uncommon as the dosage lowers.

Steroids are known to cause weight gain, as well and an increase in appetite, which can make it harder on those with COPD to lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight.

Not only are steroids given in a pill form, but it is also in inhalers as well.

Steroids in inhalers are at a lower dose, and are less likely to cause weight gain compared to a pill form.

Depending on the strength and how often it is taken, steroids may not be the cause of weight gain.

Steroids can also cause insomnia, which is another common side effect to COPD.

It is important to remember that not everyone will have the same side effects, some may not have any side effects.

If your doctor recommends you try a steroid, there is no guarantee you will experience weight gain or insomnia, so it is still worth a shot to try it.


Another cause of weight gain is insomnia, or lack of sleep.

Insomnia and COPD are common together, as many with COPD struggle to breathe at night.

Sleep deprivation can cause weight gain as well, by getting even 30 minutes less of sleep, it can increase your risk for obesity and diabetes

It can be hard for COPD patients to avoid weight gain, as it is hard to sleep and the lack of sleep can over time cause obesity.

Many people accumulate a lack of sleep throughout the week, and catch back up on sleep during the weekend.

Though it is good to catch up on sleep, it can be unhealthy to catch up within a couple days.

Holding off until the weekend to catch up on sleep can lead to disruption to your metabolism.

This disruption can cause your metabolism to slow down and can over time cause diabetes (type 2).


Though it can be common to gain weight with COPD, it is important to do what you can to prevent that from happening.

It is important to eat not only the right foods, but the right amount of food, as you can eat all the healthy food you would like, but it won’t matter if you eat way too much of it.

Exercise may be the least exciting thing on this list, but it can be one of the most helpful in prevention of gaining weight.

Even small, short exercises can help keep the fat away and burn calories you intake.

Steroids can increase the amount of weight you gain, but it depends on the dosage.

Many inhalers for COPD patients do not contain a high enough dosage of steroids to cause weight gain.

Lastly, insomnia or not sleeping well can cause weight gain as well. Sleeping as little at 30 minutes less can cause a higher risk for diabetes.

It is important to find a solution to help get a successful night of sleep.

Speaking to your doctor can help find a personalized plan to help with your diet, exercise, medication and sleep.

Topics: insomnia, copd diagnosis, weight gain, sleeping

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