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Weight Loss

Overview of Weight Loss

Weight loss can occur for a number of reasons, but it is most often seen in people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). In some cases, a cause is not found or it can be a combination of things that are occurring. Sometimes, a diagnosis is found through completing other tests and seeing how they relate to the weight loss.

Causes of Weight Loss

There are countless causes of weight loss. Some examples include: heart failure, diabetes, COPD, cancer, medications, depression, etc. At Pulmonary Associates of Mobile, we typically see unexplained weight loss occur when someone has COPD. COPD is usually linked to depression, lack of appetite, and the inability to cook meals.

When to See a Doctor about Weight Loss

If you are losing weight and are concerned about your health, then you may want to speak with your physician. If you are an older adult, then in some cases any amount of weight loss can be significant and you may want to consult your physician.

Diagnosis of Weight Loss

Your physician will begin the diagnosis by asking you what you are experiencing. It may be helpful to keep a food log and track your exercise as well. Your physician will also go through a medical history and physical examination. In some cases, you may need to go through imaging or basic lab testing. Imaging may be helpful in checking for cancer that may be present. If these tests come back negative, then you will want to continue to watch your weight for the next six months. Your physician will sometimes recommend a certain diet so that you gain the weight back and prevent further weight loss.

Treatment of Weight Loss

The best way to treat weight loss is to find and treat the source of the problem. If your physician does not see the source of the problem, then he/she may recommend a special diet for you to keep your weight normal.

COPD and Weight Loss

COPD patients often burn up to ten times the amount of calories as regular people just by breathing alone. It is very difficult for people with COPD to breathe. Since they are burning the extra calories, they will need to be sure to eat a proper diet. It is also common in people that have COPD that they are too tired to cook. Since breathing takes up so much of their energy, they do not have any extra energy to spend on preparing a meal. Nearly 40-70% of people with COPD have experienced weight loss. People that COPD are also more likely to feel weak, feel tired, experience shortness of breath, and get infections.

There are a few steps that can be followed in an effort to eat a better diet. It is easier to eat smaller meals, so choose meals such as peanut butter, eggs, cheese, etc. These items are high in protein and also high in calories. Choosing nutrient-dense food is important. Sometimes your physician may also be able to recommend a shake or supplement that will help to give additional calories. On days that you are feeling good, try to prepare extra food for days where you do not feel as well. If you rarely feel well, then ask for help from family or friends. You can freeze these meals and warm them up another day.

There are also many medications that can change the way that food tastes for you. This can also occur if you have to breathe out of your mouth more frequently. When food no longer tastes the same, then it can be difficult to want to eat enough.

Depression is also common in people with COPD. Since this is true, many people will not want to have to eat and will also be on medications for depression. The medications that are typically prescribed to those with depression with effectively curb the appetite. This is not a good thing for people with COPD.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Weight Loss

Pulmonary Rehabilitation is the most important non-medication treatment for COPD. This program provides education and support, as well as supervised exercise. This program improves your quality of life and reduces exacerbations (flare-ups) of your COPD symptoms which reduces hospital admissions.  During this program, you will learn: a. how to stay healthy with COPD, b. different breathing techniques, c. more about your medications, d. nutrition to help your lungs, e. how to stay relaxed and manage stress, f. oxygen therapy, g. if your oxygen levels decreases during exercise and h. how to travel safely with COPD.  This outpatient program lasts four to eighteen weeks and is normally covered by your insurance.  This program should be repeated every 18 months to maintain muscle strength.

Healthy Eating Tips:

  • Ideal body weight:  Being overweight can lead to shortness of breath and fatigue when doing activities.  It also can make certain activities more difficult to do.  Being underweight can also lead to health issues as you may not have enough muscle mass to exercise.  Ask your healthcare provider what is your ideal body weight (this is based on your height, sex & bone structure).
  • Water:  The recommended daily amount of water per day is eight 8-ounce glasses (= 64 ounces a day).  You should limit sodas, tea and coffee.
  • Too much caffeine can cause:anxiety, insomnia, digestive issues (loose stools/diarrhea which can lead to dehydration and gastric reflux), muscle breakdown, addiction, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, rebound fatigue and frequent urination and urgency which can also lead to dehydration.
  • Too much soda can cause:weakened bones, rotten teeth, obesity, elevated blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia), slow digestion which blocks nutrient absorption, dehydration, and cancer risk – the caramel coloring may contain a possible carcinogen known as 4-methylimidazole.  Diet sodas contain aspartame which can cause: seizures, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, emotional disorders, metabolic syndrome and lower your good cholesterol level, high-density lipoproteins (HDL), and increase cravings.