No matter what the time of year, healthy respiratory function is crucial to living your life to the fullest. But with winter coming to an end, soon the grass will turn green, the trees will regain their leaves and the flowers will be blooming.
It’s a time of year many can’t wait for … unless you suffer from respiratory struggles. Then, the abundance of new growth – and with it, pollen, grass and other respiratory irritants – can make it a time of year when respiratory health is often compromised.
In the spring, if you find it difficult to stop and smell the roses (or if you find it hard to catch your breath at any time of the year) try some of the tips that follow to naturally promote your respiratory health.
8 Top Natural Tips for Your Respiratory Health
1. Stop Smoking
Smoking causes not only lung cancer but also lung diseases including emphysema, bronchitis and chronic airway obstruction. Smoking also damages the airways and the small air sacs in your lungs,1 making it nearly impossible to enjoy optimal respiratory health if you’re a smoker.
2. Test Your Home’s Radon Levels
Radon, an odorless radioactive gas released from decaying uranium that exists naturally in soil, is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States (and the leading cause among non-smokers). It can leak into your home from cracks or holes in the foundation, where it can accumulate in your indoor air.
Radon test kits are inexpensive and available in most hardware stores, as well as online. If the radon level in your home is 4 pCi/L or higher you should consult a qualified radon removal contractor to fix the problem.
3. Filter Your Home’s Air Americans spend an average of 90 percent of their time indoors, where air quality is often far more polluted than fresh outdoor air. Aside from radon gas, discussed above, common sources of indoor air pollutants include:
- Building materials
- Asbestos-containing insulation
- Pressed-wood cabinets and furniture
- Tobacco products
- Household cleaning and personal care products
- Air fresheners
In the short term, air pollutants can contribute to asthma and respiratory irritation, and in the long term they’re linked to respiratory diseases. Along with eliminating the sources of air pollution and increasing ventilation, purifying your home’s air with an effective air cleaner is a smart way to support your respiratory health.
When you exercise, your respiratory system gets a workout. As your breathing rate and depth increases, your lungs absorb more oxygen, which means more oxygen-rich blood is sent to your muscles. Aerobic activities, like kickboxing, jogging and bicycling, along with yoga (which focuses on deep breathing) are particularly beneficial for your respiratory health.
5. Eat Your Vegetables and Fruits
You know a healthy diet is good for your weight, your heart, your skin … and it’s good for your lungs, too. As you might suspect, a diet rich in antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables is particularly healthy for your lungs. Further, eating cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, kale) has been linked to a lowered lung cancer risk.2
Fruits rich in the antioxidant vitamin C, such as strawberries, kiwi, oranges and papaya, will help protect your cells from free radical damage. Vitamin C is known to help protect the lungs and support respiratory function.
6. Don’t Skip Your Morning Coffee or Tea
Caffeine is a bronchodilator, which means it helps to open the airways in your lungs, allowing you to breathe easier. One study found that even small amounts of caffeine, such as that found in your morning coffee or black tea, may improve lung function for up to four hours.3
7. Eat More Fish (or Take Fish Oil)
The omega-3 fats found in fish oil and fish have powerful anti-inflammatory balancing effects and research shows they may boost lung function both during and after exercise.4
8. Try Supplements to Nutritionally Support Respiratory Health
In addition to a healthy diet, certain supplements may be helpful for your respiratory health:
- Quercetin: The most common flavonoid in the human diet, quercetin is a potent antioxidant that helps protect your body from free radicals and support your immune system. It’s known to help support normal sinus and respiratory function.
- Bromelain: A proteolytic enzyme from the stem of the pineapple plant, bromelain promotes healthy respiratory function along with healthy inflammatory balance.
- Astragalus: Well-known for its antioxidant-like properties, astragalus helps to protect your body from free radicals and supports your body’s immune system as well as healthy functioning of your lungs.
- Grape Seed Extract: Grape seed is a traditional herb used primarily for its high proanthocyanidin content (OPCs). OPCs are flavonoid-rich compounds with very potent antioxidant properties, which help maintain capillary strength, and have been found to inhibit the production of free radicals.
- Green Tea Extract: Green tea is most popular as a supplement in helping support the immune system and to protect the body against oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
You Take More Than 20,000 Breaths a Day!
And this is precisely why it’s so important to pay attention to your respiratory health. With each breath you take, air pollutants, smoke and irritants can enter your lungs and cause damage. By consuming antioxidant-rich foods and avoiding pollutants, you can help keep your lung health strong. Likewise, it’s important to keep your immune system healthy, as this is your body’s best defense to keep your lungs healthy and functioning optimally.
In addition to the 8 tips above, these 5 natural tips for a strong immune system will work double-time to support your lung health as well.
1. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Fact Sheet, Smoking & Tobacco Use
2. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev January 2009 18; 184
3. Cochrane Summaries August 15, 2012
4. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport Volume 13, Issue 2, Pages 281-286, March 2010