Maintaining a healthy diet while living with pulmonary hypertension (PH) can be complicated. When you’re already dealing with exhaustion, cooking is the last thing you want to think about. If you are living with other coexisting diseases, it becomes even more challenging.
Nourishing your body is an issue due to the side effects of PH medications, including nausea. Working with a dietitian or a nutritionist can be beneficial. I’m fortunate that my daughter, Kayla Newnam, is a registered dietitian. Well, if you consider tofu smoothies lucky! She runs her own company, Newnam Nutrition, and I couldn’t be prouder of her.
For this column, I’ve asked her for suggestions for those of us living with PH. Following a healthy diet is typically suggested, but our daily requirements may vary. Please consult your medical team if you’re unsure about the type of diet that’s best for you.
Following is our conversation on nutrition for those living with PH and other chronic illnesses.
JC: Living with a mother who has a chronic illness like PH can be devastating. What advice do you have for those who have a parent with a chronic disease?
KN: It’s OK to feel sad, angry, helpless, or scared. Have someone to talk to and share your emotions with — whether this is a family member, friend, or therapist. It’s important to acknowledge those feelings and take care of yourself.
Focus on what you can control. I know that feeling unable to help can be very difficult. Being there for your parent is important. They appreciate this the most when they are feeling bad. Find ways to spend quality time with them, whether it’s a trip to the movies, enjoying a smoothie, or binge-watching a show on Netflix.
When living with PH, eating a full meal can be difficult, and chewing can be physically draining. What could help with this issue?
When I think of my worst stuffy nose days, I can’t imagine having this feeling most days.
I recommend foods that don’t require much chewing but pack a lot of nutrition: Think of low-sodium soups, fruit smoothies, and Greek yogurt.
If you are having a tough time, choose something that doesn’t need to be hot to eliminate the concern of the food getting cold and to allow you to take your time with a meal. For example, cut a sandwich into quarters.
Find one item as your go-to option. For example, when I notice you’re not eating much, I’ll pick up a juice at our local shop because I know you will drink that.
What can someone with PH do to improve their nutrition?
Don’t restrict yourself to one food group or follow restrictive diets unless your physician has recommended it. As you mentioned, it’s hard to eat sometimes due to breathing difficulties caused by PH. Eating smaller meals and snacks frequently throughout the day would help you to meet your nutritional needs.
At times, people with PH are too tired to cook. What is an easy and nutritious meal to make?
I love this question. Pinterest has created a great space to brainstorm for meal planning. However, we’re often confronted with a list of multiple ingredients and become frustrated with the time spent in the kitchen. Here are two options for someone with PH who is tired but wants a balanced meal:
- Grab a rotisserie chicken, steam-able vegetables, and frozen rice. You could add seasonings. I serve with pre-mixed salads and frozen potatoes that have been sautéed.
- Or here is a recipe for a tasty heart-healthy chicken shawarma.
How do you ensure that I take in the required nutrients on days when I don’t feel like eating? Tips that don’t include tofu smoothies, please.
We’ve had some very interesting times when it comes to nutrition — whether it was blending tofu into a smoothie for protein, making a saltwater blend when your sodium was low, or sneaking coconut oil into your tea for extra calories. Some things I have done as a daughter trying to help her mother and others as a dietitian. We’ve always found solutions.
I am grateful for all that you do as a daughter and a dietitian. Thank you for taking the time to share these tips.
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.