10 natural ways you can take care of your lungs
The lungs are vital organs for our health. They are part of the respiratory system, responsible for delivering oxygen to our cells and removing carbon dioxide from our bodies.
For this reason, it is crucial to take good care of your lungs. And did you know that you can do this without having to use drugs or spend money on expensive medical treatments? In this article, we'll look at 10 ways to take good care of your lungs in a natural way.
How do the lungs work?
Our lungs are spongy organs that lie on both sides of our chest cavity and participate in a vital process called gas exchange (1). This process works like this:
When you inhale, air enters your lungs. The inhaled air contains oxygen that moves from your lungs to your blood. Simultaneously, the exhaled air contains carbon dioxide, a gas that moves from your blood to your lungs and then out of the body (1).
As you may have noticed, you don't have to think before you breathe. This is because the involuntary nervous system controls it, slowing or increasing breathing rate as needed (1).
We also use muscles for breathing. Fundamentally, your chest and belly muscles contract, causing airflow filling the lungs. As you breathe out, these muscles relax, and the air comes out (1).
Why are the lungs so important?
As we mentioned earlier, the lungs are essential for gas exchange. If you have problems breathing, a gas exchange may be impaired (1). And what is the problem with that?
Your body cells use oxygen for energy. During this process, they make carbon dioxide, a waste gas that your body must eliminate to avoid damage (1).
Certain conditions affect the respiratory system, such as (1):
- Sleep Apnea
- Pulmonary fibrosis
Smoking and pollution can also damage the airways, causing lung diseases or worsening existing ones (1).
How to take care of your lungs in a natural way?
You can take several measures to keep your lungs healthy, protecting them from injury or disease. And the good news is that they don't require any medication or invasive treatment (1).
Let's see 10 ways to keep your lungs healthy naturally.
- Stop smoking
It may seem like obvious advice, but many people struggle to quit smoking. But don't be discouraged. Quitting smoking is possible, and there are several strategies for it (2). There is no single treatment; each person will respond to a different approach. The most common strategies involve getting support, joining a group, undergoing therapy, or even seeking medical treatment (2).
- Maintain a healthy weight
Unhealthy eating habits and lack of physical activity can cause weight gain. Being overweight or obese increases the chances of developing several chronic conditions like heart diseases and diabetes type 2. It also increases the risk of having sleep apnea, a sleep-related respiratory problem (1). Research shows that a 10-15% weight loss can reduce sleep apnea severity by 50% in moderately obese patients (3).
Regular physical activity is essential to keep your body and mind in good health. When you exercise, your heart and lungs work harder to increase the oxygen supply for your muscles. If you do this regularly, your lungs become stronger and more efficient, and you're less likely to feel out of breath during exercise (4). Exercise also strengthens the muscles involved in breathing, reducing the risks of having sleep apnea. Before starting any physical activity, talk to a trusted healthcare professional.
- Avoid exposure to pollutants
This can be hard, especially if you live in a big city. It is best to check the air quality indices before going out and avoid doing outdoor activities if the air quality is poor. If possible, avoid spending long hours in heavy traffic (1). Ensure your house is well ventilated and regularly cleaned to prevent allergens, dust, and mold build-up (1).
- Test your home for radon gas
This colorless and odorless gas can enter buildings through cracks and increase the risk of lung cancer. Hardware stores usually sell radon gas testing kits. If the levels are hazardous, you may need to take action to reduce these levels in your home.
- Take precautions against respiratory infections
Seasonal respiratory infections like flu, pneumonia and covid-19 can damage your lungs. To avoid them, take your vaccines and adopt hygiene measures. Also, avoid crowded places and contact with sick people (1).
- Use protective gear
Wear protective gear when working in an environment subjected to dust, silica, allergens, chemical fumes, or other indoor or outdoor air pollution (1).
- Get more sleep
Most people need at least 7 hours a night to stay healthy. Lack of sleep can have serious consequences such as weight gain, mood issues, poor concentration and memory, heart diseases, and high blood sugar (5). Sleeping less than needed weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to developing respiratory infections (5). It also leads to less healthy vessels and impaired breathing control (6). If you have trouble sleeping, seek medical help. You can also try sleep hygiene to sleep better.
- Eat the right foods
Certain nutrients and foods have shown a beneficial effect on lung health. See examples below:
- Beets and beet greens – they are rich in nitrates, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and antioxidants.
- Peppers – rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant.
- Apples – rich in antioxidants.
- Pumpkin – rich in vitamin A and other compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
- Turmeric – it contains curcumin, a compound linked with good lung function.
- Tomato – it contains lycopene, an antioxidant.
- Blueberries – contain anthocyanins, a pigment with antioxidant properties.
- Green tea – for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
- Try some breathing exercises
Breathing exercises can make your lungs more efficient. They are beneficial for people with respiratory issues, but everyone can practice (7).
- Pursed lip breathing
Simply breathe in through your nose and breathe out at least twice as long through your mouse, with pursed lips (7).
- Belly breathing
Breathe through your nose paying attention to how your belly fills up with air. Then, breathe out through your mouth 2-3 times as long. While doing this, relax your neck and shoulders (7).
Taking care of your lungs doesn't have to be complicated; simply adopt some changes in your lifestyle. You will find that your overall health will improve, and you will be more willing to enjoy life with the people you love.
- National Heart, Lung and BI. How the Lungs Work [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2021 Nov 11]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/how-lungs-work
- National Heart, Lung and BI. Smoking and Your Heart [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2021 Nov 11]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/smoking-and-your-heart
- Foundation NS. How Weight Affects Sleep Apnea [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2021 Nov 11]. Available from: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-apnea/weight-loss-and-sleep-apnea
- Association AL. Exercise and Lung Health [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2021 Nov 11]. Available from: https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/wellness/exercise-and-lung-health
- NHS. Why lack of sleep is bad for your health -Sleep and tiredness [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2021 Nov 12]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/why-lack-of-sleep-is-bad-for-your-health/
- Daily S. Cutting back on sleep harms blood vessel function and breathing control [Internet]. 2013 [cited 2021 Nov 12]. Available from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130422102026.htm
- Association AL. Breathing exercises [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2021 Nov 12]. Available from: https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/wellness/breathing-exercises