With the abrupt weather changes from indoors to outdoors in winter and rainy weather, it is important to be strong, especially on the eve of the end of the year events and parties.
In these circumstances, the most vulnerable part of the body is the lungs, so today, I would like to pass on some tips to put into practice in order to strengthen your respiratory system and at the same time help you to strengthen your immune system and your body in general.
Learn about habits that will help you keep your lungs in good shape in all weathers.
Lungs, heart, joints and other parts of the body deteriorate over time. The lungs, for their part, lose their flexibility and strength, making it difficult to maintain an efficient breathing cycle. The following practices, when performed on a regular basis, will enable you to maintain the health of your respiratory system, allowing it to function effectively in times of vulnerability such as cold and wet seasons, during colds and flus, as well as in old age.
- Don't smoke or quit smoking.
You probably already know that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer. But it is not the only disease this habit can cause. Smoking is linked to most lung diseases such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, asthma, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). It also makes the above diseases more severe.
Every time you smoke a cigarette, you inhale a myriad of chemicals such as nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar, as well as the fungus aspergillus niger, which go straight to your lungs.
These toxins HARM the lungs by increasing the formation of phlegm or mucus, making it difficult for the lungs to cleanse themselves. The respiratory system is one of the body's important cleansing pathways, and these toxins cause irritation and inflammation of the tissues. Eventually, the airways shrink in size, making breathing difficult.
No matter your age or how long you have smoked, quitting smoking TODAY helps immediately. The ALA (American Lung Association) notes that, with just 12 hours of abstinence, the CO2 level in the blood drops to normal levels. Within a few months, lung function begins to improve. Within a year, the risk of heart disease is halved compared to that of a smoker. And it gets better and better, the longer you abstain from smoking.
Quitting smoking sometimes takes several attempts. It is not easy, but it is worth it.
- Your environment
Although you may be conscious of avoiding contamination of your lungs from cigarette and other smokers' smoke, there are more ways in which your lungs can become contaminated.
Exposure to air pollutants deteriorates the lungs and accelerates ageing.
Also, pollution levels in big cities are very high and inside office buildings, shopping centres and certain workplaces such as construction sites, mining or waste management can be of the same toxic calibre as a pollutant.
Here are some tips for avoiding indoor pollution:
- Make your home a smoke-free zone.
- Dust furniture and vacuum at least once a week.
- Open windows frequently to increase indoor ventilation.
- Avoid synthetic car scents and scented candles that can expose you to more chemicals such as formaldehyde and benzene. Instead, use essential oil diffusers which work very well and are good for your health.
- Keep your home as clean as possible. Dust, mould, and cat hairs can be inhaled and cause lung irritation.
- Use natural cleaning products.
- Make sure you have proper ventilation methods throughout your home.
- For environments with a need for cleaner air, I recommend the Nikken air purifier here.
Regular exercise is perhaps the most significant activity for improving your lung health. Just as exercise keeps your body fit, so does your lungs.
When you do aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling or swimming, you are increasing your cardiopulmonary capacity, i.e. your heart beats faster and your lungs need to take in more air and breathe it out forcefully and rhythmically. Here the function of the lungs is indispensable as it takes in a good amount of oxygen for the body and expels more CO2.
Achieving healthy and strong lungs through exercise allows you to better cope with age-related deterioration and possible diseases.
Specific exercises for the lungs (apart from sport).
Experts at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, USA, point out that routine breathing is not enough to allow oxygen to flow throughout the body at maximum levels.
Specific exercises to increase lung capacity:
- Diaphragmatic breathing. These techniques can be used by people experiencing lung problems related to asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis, as well as by healthy individuals.
- Simple deep breathing. As you inhale slowly, focus your attention on expanding your belly as you lower your diaphragm. Then expand your ribs, allowing the floating ribs to expand like wings.
- Watch your posture. Because the lungs are soft organs, they can only occupy as much space as you give them. Occasionally you can sit upright and reach up with your head to allow more space for your lungs.
A simple technique to give your lungs even more space is to lean back slightly in an upright chair, lift your chest and open the front of your body as you breathe deeply.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking enough water is as important for the lungs as it is for the rest of the body. Staying well hydrated by drinking fluids throughout the day forces the mucous lining of the lungs to stay thin. The thinner the mucus lining, the better the lungs can function.
- Laugh. Laughing is a great exercise for strengthening abdominal muscles and increasing lung capacity. It helps to decongest the lungs by forcing stagnant air out and allowing fresh air into more areas of the lungs.
- Respiratory detoxification
In principle, the lungs are self-purifying organs that heal themselves once they are no longer exposed to pollutants such as when a person stops smoking.
After exposure to pollution such as cigarette smoke, the lungs become congested and swelling, pressure and heaviness are felt in the chest. Phlegm accumulates in the lungs to trap microbes and pathogens, hence the heavy feeling in the chest.
Some of the following techniques can help clear the airways and lungs of mucus and irritation to give way to a feeling of relief and other undesirable symptoms.
In a small study of 16 people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), steam therapy helped relieve symptoms of airway congestion and discomfort without being a definitive medicine.
The old way of steaming was to heat a pot of water and eucalyptus leaves on the cooker. When it comes to the boil, the temperature is lowered a little and the person comes to breathe in the steam with their head covered with a towel to keep the steam close to their face and chest.
- Controlled coughing
Coughing is the body's natural way of expelling toxins trapped in phlegm. Controlled coughing loosens excess phlegm from the lungs by sending it up through the airways.
Sit in a chair with your shoulders relaxed and the soles of your feet flat on the floor.
Cross your arms over your stomach
Gently inhale air through your nose
Slowly exhale as you lean forward, pushing your arms against your stomach.
Cough 2-3 times as you exhale, keeping your mouth slightly open
Slowly inhale through your nose
Rest and repeat as many times as necessary
- Percussion on the chest
This is another effective way to remove excess phlegm from the lungs. A lung therapist would use cupped hands to gently tap the chest wall (the back is also used) to loosen phlegm that is stuck in the lungs.
The foods known to be most beneficial to lung health fall into the flavonoid group.
A group of polyphenols, phytonutrients found in most fruits and vegetables. There are many, many flavonoids, but they are particularly recognised for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Anthocyanins, specifically, those found in plants whose pigments give a bluish-red hue to their fruits such as berries and other foods.
Diet also plays an important role. Processed foods in general and processed meats have long been linked to the rapid deterioration of lung function.
A study by the Johns Hopkins School of Nutrition concluded that the general population could benefit from flavonoid-rich berries, especially people who have quit smoking or never smoked. However, for smokers, abstention remains the best thing they can do to improve their health. (study)
To naturally increase the intake of flavonoids in your nutrition, try eating more of the following foods:
Flavonols: onions, apples, kale, broccoli, chickpeas, sweet potato almonds and quinoa.
Flavan-3-ols: apples, tea (black, green, white), blueberries, peaches, pears, strawberries, and cocoa.
Flavones: parsley, bell peppers, celery, apples, oranges, watermelon, chilli, melon, and thyme.
Flavanones: oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and tomatoes.
Anthocyanins: strawberries, cherries, red cabbage, cranberries, plums, raspberries, blueberries, blueberries, black grapes, purple potatoes.
Quercetin: garlic, apples, plums, red grapes, citrus fruits, black cherries and red fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, capers, olive oil. Small amounts are found in parsley, sage, elderberry.
Apigenin: celery, parsley, thyme, basil, oregano, coriander, chamomile, broccoli, leeks.
Epicatechin: cocoa, dark chocolate, apples, black grapes, blackberries, black tea, cherries.
Foods to avoid
If you want healthy lungs, you should abstain from fried and processed foods, as well as harmful fats such as those found in processed meats or oils. Any food that promotes inflammation must be harmful to the lungs.
It is therefore recommended for good lung health to avoid foods containing trans fats, such as margarine and bacon/lard, and to keep sodium levels in the body low to prevent oedema (fluid retention) which can lead to an increase in blood pressure. (article)
Why do some people never get sick? What is their secret? Perhaps the answer lies in one or more of these tips:
- Wash your hands regularly, especially after being in a public place.
- Avoid touching your face to prevent germs from entering your body.
- Eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals.
- Try to get at least seven (7) hours of sleep at night.
- Exercise routinely
- Meditate, pray, or at least find a few minutes to reflect each day to reduce anxiety and stress levels.