6 Ways to Keep Your Lungs Healthy
The lungs play an essential role in keeping the body healthy. The lungs absorb and filter through everything that you breathe in, the good and the bad. The toxins from fires and increasing pollution may impact many individuals, particularly those who are genetically predisposed - some may not develop symptoms until months later. The lungs are gradually forced to work harder now due to companies releasing more and more toxins into the environment, but adding the wildfires on top of that adds another layer of stress to the lungs. It is true the lungs are self-cleansing, but the more exposed to pollutants they are, the higher likelihood they will become congested and inflamed. Long term exposure to pollution and smoke can put you at a higher risk of developing chronic lung-related issues later in life. Which is why it is crucial to support the lungs as best we can. Below are a couple of ways to keep your lungs functioning strong during this time.
1. Be Mindful of the Air Quality
The West Coast has been under the terrible attack of wildfires over the last couple of weeks. As the skies get darker and darker, it is essential to keep your lungs in mind. While these fires are burning, they are burning more than just forest. They are burning houses and stores and belongings. Meaning more plastics, chemicals, and other household items are being burned and released into the air. It is essential to be mindful of the air quality because we are exposed to more toxins through the air than we think. So being mindful and only subjecting yourself to the outdoors if extremely necessary and wearing a mask at all times while outside.
2. Anti inflammatory foods
Inflammation is a natural part of your body's immune response to something foreign in the body. But when the inflammation occurs too often, it becomes detrimental. There are a variety of foods that can help fight inflammation and promote lung longevity. An anti-inflammatory diet
Lycopene, found in tomatoes, helps to lessen inflammation in the lungs.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their inflammation-fighting properties. The three primary fatty acids (EPA, ALA, and DHA) work together to lower inflammation by preventing the plaque build up in arteries and reduce the production of harmful substances released during an inflammatory response. Flaxseeds are high in ALA, where Fish, is a source rich in EPA and DHA, the primary fatty acids that combat inflammation. Getting a variety of foods that contain omega 3's is an integral part of keeping your lungs happy.
Vitamin C plays a crucial role in the proper functioning of the immune system. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps the body fight free radicals and other toxins and helps to flush everything out. When vitamin C removes these toxins, it reduces the risk of any lung tissue damage and gives your body a moment to repair. Citrus, berries, leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables all contain vitamin C. Broccoli contains over 100% of your suggested daily vitamin C intake. Broccoli also contains sulforaphane, a phytochemical found in cruciferous vegetables, which can be anti-inflammatory to chronic lung conditions.
Magnesium: is involved in over 400 chemical reactions throughout the body. Magnesium relaxes the airways, soothes muscles, and diabetes the lungs. It also plays a role in lowering airway inflammation and reduces the chance of spasms. Pumpkin seeds, spinach, and Fish are excellent sources of magnesium.
3. Exercise and Deep Breathing
Without the presence of an underlying lung condition, regular exercise is a great way to strengthen both the lungs and the heart. By adding regular exercise into your daily routine, your lung function will increase and become more efficient. Exercise will also improve your overall physical and psychological well-being. It can lower the risk of developing other chronic health conditions. There are also a variety of breathing exercises that can help improve lung capacity.
Breathing Exercise: Box Breath
Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, and then hold again for 4 seconds. Repeat this 5-10 times and gradually increase the 4 seconds to 5, then 6, and so on as your lung capacity increases.
4. Drink Plenty of Water
Water makes up about 60% of the human body, and proper hydration is critical to the health of the lungs and the rest of the body. Drinking adequate water keeps the mucosal lining of the lungs thin, which will help open up airways and make it easier to breathe. Dehydration can allow mucous to build up and thicken, which slows down/make it more difficult to breathe. Dry airways and lungs promote uncomfortable irritation. Water is also one of the main methods of filtration for the body, and when there is not enough water, the toxins will not get filtered out efficiently.
5. Keep Indoor Air Clean
One might not have the ability to control the air outside, but we can control how clean the indoor air is. If it is smokey out, keep windows shut and invest in a good air purifier. A good air purifier will be good to have around even once the fires pass, because of the increasing pollution that occurs in todays world. A HEPA air filter will filter out 99% of the toxins in the air, getting even the smallest of particles. These tend to be a little more expensive, but are far more efficient compared to other filtration systems.
One might not have the ability to control the air outside, but we can control how clean the indoor air is. If it is smokey out, keep windows shut and invest in a good air purifier. Another important tip is to keep the home clean. Large amounts of dust particles can be irritating to the lungs, eyes, and throat. Lastly, bring in some useful air-purifying plants. According to NASA's clean air study, some indoor plant species successfully remove common air pollutants such as ammonia, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, benzene, and toluene.
Clean Air plants:
Peace Lily (pictured to the right)
6. Herbal Help: Mullein
Mullein is known for its demulcent, expectorant, and astringent properties. The leaves are rich in saponins, the reason behind the potent respiratory effects. The leaves have mucilage, which coats and soothes irritated mucous membranes in the lungs. At the same time, the expectorant qualities help to propel congestion out. The saponins also have anti-viral properties making mullein even more potent against foreign invaders to the lungs. For smokers, mullein can again break up and clear out old tar build-up, in addition to helping soothe and strengthen the lungs. Mullein is helpful for those wanting to detoxify their lungs after quitting smoking
Breathing Exercises. (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/wellness/breathing-exercises
Dean, C. (n.d.). Effect of Oral Magnesium Supplementation on Asthma. Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2010-05/effect-oral-magnesium-supplementation-asthma
Mullein Benefits & Information. (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://www.indigo-herbs.co.uk/natural-health-guide/benefits/mullein
NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS). (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/19930073077
Patino. (2017). Foods that Fight Lung Inflammation. Retrieved from https://lunginstitute.com/blog/lung-inflammation/
Your lungs and exercise. (2016, March). Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4818249/