Posted on Hello Wellness on Oct 24 2010 11:17AM
Rarely do you think about your lungs. You worry about your liver and spine, your stomach and bladder, your kidneys and of course, your heart. But lungs, no. Not unless you're a smoker. While with every gasp of breath a smoker realises the abuse his/her lungs have undergone, so-called healthy people don't get such reminders. Lungs don’t make headlines. Lungs don’t even make conversations!
Years of smoking and breathing in pollution can take a toll on the lungs, causing symptoms such as lung irritation, smoker's cough, bronchitis and shortness of breath. While giving up smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke is the first step to improving lung health, it’s not enough.
Keep those lungs in shape!
Exercise can go a long way in giving you clean and healthy lungs, and in turn, a healthier body. Here's how:
- Pranayama: The process of breathing chiefly involves inhalation and exhalation. In normal breathing you use only one fourth of your lung capacity. The deep and systematic breathing in Pranayama (the ancient yogic practice of breath control) strengthens your lungs, improves blood circulation and relaxes the mind.
- On the run: Aerobic exercises such as jogging, walking and cycling can dramatically increase the functions of your lungs by allowing them to be stronger and cleaner than they may have ever been otherwise.
- Swimming: During lap swimming, you typically breathe every few strokes. Between the strokes, you hold your breath underwater. This lung exercise helps to increases in lung capacity over time and can be very beneficial for older adults as lung capacity begins to diminish with age. Additionally, swimming in less-chlorinated pools can help children and adults with asthma.
Watch what you eat
You don't necessarily have to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to have difficulties breathing after a large meal. As the amount of food in your stomach increases, it often pushes against the diaphragm, making breathing difficult. Eat in moderation and avoid gassy foods e.g. cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, which also have the same effect.
Help your lungs by reducing the amount of sugar you consume. Sugar has a negative effect on the body's immune system, lowering its efficiency. If you want to keep not only your lungs healthy, but also the rest of your body, reduce your intake of sugar and sugary products.
Whether you already have a problem with your lungs or simply want to live healthier, cut down on your intake of saturated fats and salty foods. Sodium causes you to retain fluids and people with lung problems find that makes it more difficult to breathe. Fats clog your arteries resulting in fluid building up in your lungs. Keep them to a minimum and you’ll be just fine.
Pack in those vitamins
Eat colourful fruits and vegetables such as apricots, carrots, tomatoes and watermelon which contain high amounts of vitamin A that can actually help heal the lungs. Getting more vitamin C from citrus fruits, vegetables and supplements into your diet can help enhance the antioxidant action of vitamin E to protect your lung cells from damage from free radicals. Vitamin D is also crucial for lung health. Research shows that vitamin D helps to slow declining lung function in people with asthma. Scientists tested cell cultures from both asthmatics and non-asthmatics and found that calcitriol, a type of vitamin D, slowed muscle proliferation in airways. Muscle proliferation reduces lung function. Calcitriol, is also anti-inflammatory. You can get vitamin D from exposure to the sun, but also from fish and supplements.
Just a simple thing like washing your hands can keep away germs that cause coughs and colds. Avoid air-conditoner lungs (characterised by episodes of fever, chills, cough, and shortness of breath) by cleaning the humidifiers and the piping of air conditioner ducts that contain spores and germs that may cause infections and allergies.
When breathing becomes a task, life loses its purpose. Lungs carry out a variety of important functions. The more you look after them, the better they will be in bringing oxygen into your system and getting rid of carbon dioxide and guard against harmful substances that can ruin your body. Take care today, for a better tomorrow.