Lung health matters so much more than many of us realize. Did you know that you take more than 6 million breaths per year?
Or that your lungs play many roles besides ‘just’ helping you breathe?
And were you aware that there are several all-natural actions that can help improve lung health?
In this article, I’ll discuss lifestyle and dietary tips that are worth implementing if you want to keep your lungs strong and healthy. You’ll also discover what a true and healthy lung cleans is really about.
Fun facts about the lungs
- The lungs exist as a pair but they’re not identical. The left lung weighs slightly less and has a smaller capacity than the right lung which is shorter to make room for the liver below.
- The heart and other structures separate the lungs and each lung is enclosed in its own pleural sac. This is why one lung can keep working even if the other one is punctured or collapses (such as in a collision).
- Each lung is enclosed within two membranes which are separated by pleural fluid. This pleural fluid decreases friction between the membranes thus helping them slide easily over one another during breathing. Inflammation of the pleural fluid is painful and can lead to fluid accumulation between the membranes.
- The lungs don’t have any muscles to pump air in and out. They rely mainly on the muscle below the lungs (the diaphragm) to move.
As you can see above, the respiratory system consists of the trachea (the windpipe) which branches out, at the carina, into two bronchi that lead to each lung. The bronchi continue to branch forming smaller bronchi that divide into bronchioles.
Bronchioles have tiny air sacs also known as alveoli. The alveoli have many capillaries (very thin blood vessels) in their walls. The oxygen we breathe in passes through the alveoli, into the capillaries and then into the blood.
- We have about 480 million alveoli. Together, these alveoli provide a surface area that is about half the area of a tennis court!
What do the lungs do? (Number 3 will surprise you)
Yes, the lungs help us breathe. (That is, the lungs expand and suck in air when the diaphragm contracts. They then compress to expel carbon dioxide as the diaphragm relaxes.)
But that’s not all the lungs do.
Healthy lungs also help:
- Keep blood pressure within a healthy range – angiotensin I is converted to angiotensin II in the lungs. This triggers the production of aldosterone by the adrenal cortex and eventually increases blood volume and blood pressure back to normal.
- Protect the heart against shocks by acting as a shock absorber.
- Reduce risks of infections – When exposed to a pathogen (harmful bacteria), the lungs can create an antibody response. The antibodies produced then work together to eliminate the pathogen and decrease its ability to colonize the respiratory tract.
- Clear the mucus that lines the respiratory tract – This mucus traps bacteria and dust particles.
- Remove small air bubbles that can occur in the blood.
- Communication – Without lungs, we wouldn’t be able to talk.
- Maintain a healthy blood pH – The lungs increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the body if the blood’s pH isn’t acidic enough. Conversely, if the blood is too acidic, the lungs will decrease carbon dioxide levels in the body.
Do you need a ‘lungs cleanse or detox’ for optimal lung health?
Tobacco smoke contains over 7000 toxic chemicals, 60 of which are known to cause cancer. So, if you’re a smoker, you really want to help your body get rid of these toxins.
However, even if you don’t smoke, you’re still exposed to various pollutants such as car exhaust, detergents, dirt, and dust. As such, anyone who lives in the modern world would benefit from a lung ‘cleanse’.
But don’t worry: you won’t need to go on a juice fast or prepare some crazy concotions to improve your lung health. You see, a true and healthy lung detox or cleanse simply implies supporting your lungs’ innate detox mechanisms as discussed below.
Tips to improve lung health and cleanse your lungs
Take out the bad stuff which prevent your lungs from working at full capacity.
1. Remove food triggers
Your doctor or nutritionist said that wheat, dairy, soy, vegetable oils etc. pose no threat to your health?
Before you take this as a fact, why not try eliminating these foods for at least a month to see whether your lung health (and overall health) improve or not?
This is what is called an ‘n=1’ experiment. And this is the best way to find out what works for YOU and what doesn’t.
· Wheat, grains, sugar, and High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
Wondering what wheat, grains, sugar, and HFCS have in common?
Well, by damaging the lining of the small intestine, these foods can cause inflammation in the respiratory tract.
Inflammation in the lungs could result in swelling of the bronchial tubes as well as increased mucus production. The excess mucus can cause cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
If left untreated, inflammation may even cause scarring within the lungs – this would cause a serious decline in lung health.
· Food Additives
Sulfites (present in dried fruits, wine, beer, many processed foods), monosodium glutamate (MSG), food colorings, salicylates, benzoates and yeast can adversely impact lung health. It appears that, in some individuals, these food additives can trigger respiratory symptoms by irritating the respiratory tract.
Note: If you often cough, wheeze, or feel your throat ‘tightening’ after eating certain foods, you may want to check this article about histamine intolerance.
· Industrial seed oils and trans fats
If you want healthy lungs, you need to ditch industrial seed oils such as oils of canola, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, and corn.
You also want to steer clear of margarines and any form of hydrogenated fats.
Wondering what dietary fat has to do with lung health?
Do you remember the alveoli, the tiny sacs that allow oxygen from the air we breathe in to diffuse in the blood? Well, these tiny sacs produce a fatty substance known as ‘lung surfactant’.
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