Staying strong with lung fibrosis

It is very important to eat well to maintain your strength and, in many cases, patients with fibrosis need to put on weight to help with this.  Dr Hazel Wallace has written this helpful article to give you tips on staying strong.

Prioritise Protein

Protein is vital for building and repairing muscle tissue.  When your body doesn’t get enough protein, it might break down muscle for the fuel it needs. This can make it take longer to recover from illness and make you more likely to pick up infections. Protein is also very important for a healthy immune system. Certain proteins, known as antibodies, help keep us healthy by defending against disease-causing bacteria and viruses. People with a chronic condition, such as lung fibrosis, often require more protein to keep their strength up to fight infection.  The best sources of protein include poultry, lean cuts of beef, fish, eggs, dairy, beans and lentils.

Drink your Calories

Smoothies are a great way to fit in extra calories, but also extra vitamins and minerals, protein and healthy fats! There are no rules when it comes to a smoothie, and really anything goes – so don’t be afraid to experiment. Start by choosing a good base, such as dairy milk or almond milk. Then add a good source of protein such as yogurt, cottage cheese, or protein powder. Next, add some healthy fats, such as half an avocado, a handful of nuts or seeds or a tablespoon of peanut butter. To finish off your smoothie, add some fresh or frozen fruit for flavour and extra nutrients. Blend it all up and add ice!

Eat Little and Often

The prospect of having to gain weight and eat a lot of extra calories can be quite daunting for some people. Fitting all those extra calories in three meals can be difficult and leave you feeling uncomfortable. Eating little and often spreads the calories out so you can get in enough calories without feeling discomfort. Aim for three meals a day with two or three snacks in between. Choose foods which are nutrient dense, but also high in calories per serving, such as avocado, nuts, peanut butter, granola and dates. Try to avoid snacking on junk food, such as sweets, cakes, crisps and chocolate bars. Although these foods are high in calories, they are low in nutrients!

Sneak in Extra Calories

If you are still having trouble meeting your calorie targets or gaining weight, try sneaking in some extra calories into your meals. Accessorise your meals with calorie boosters, such as coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil, nuts and nut butters, hummus and guacamole. Nut butters have about 90 calories per tablespoon and contain healthy monounsaturated fats, which not only provide you with lots of energy, but a diet high in monounsaturated fats which can overall reduce your risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis (plaque in the arteries), high blood pressure and stroke. Try some peanut butter as a topping for apple, banana or oatcakes as a quick healthy snack in between meals.


Our gut is home to trillions of bacteria, and although many of us consider bacteria as something which is only bad, unhealthy, and disease-causing, some bacteria are actually beneficial, and essential to good health! Friendly bacteria in our gut, such as lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, are essential for a strong immune system and overall health. However, illness, stress and certain medications can disrupt the gut flora. This disruption can cause bloating, nausea and diarrhoea. We can help to restore the balance in our gut by taking a probiotic supplement or eating probiotic rich foods, such as natural yoghurt, sauerkraut and kefir.


Most of us associate exercise with weight loss, but it is also really important for people who are looking to gain or maintain their weight.  Strength training, also called resistance training, is really important when trying to build muscle or gain strength. This is a form of exercise which involves using your muscles to contract against a weight or force. The resistance used can be anything from dumb bell weights or simply your own bodyweight.

If you are not keen to try out weight training, there are many other ways to build up your strength and fitness. Activities such as brisk walking, hiking, swimming and yoga are just a few ways we can stay active. It is important to note that exercise not only benefits you physically, but also mentally by boosting mood and reducing anxiety!

Good luck!

Article written by Dr Hazel Wallace @Thefoodmedic

One thought on "Staying strong with lung fibrosis"

  1. Thank you. I am in my 4th year with IPF  Thanks to this article I now know more about my disease and steps to take to make life a little easier, such as diet and exercise.
    I look forward to seeing more articles on the subject.
    Question: a what point does the need for oxygen arise? Does blood oxygen levels play a part?

    Thank you…..Brian.


Comments are closed.

Sign up to receive our news and updates

  • This form collects your name and email address so that we can keep you updated with news and information about Breathing Matters. Please check our Privacy Policy to see how we protect and manage your data.

Where there's research there's hope

Research into respiratory conditions accounts for just 2% of all the medical research funding in the UK.

Will you support respiratory research?