Posted on Aug 04, 2014 by Luke James
If you take good care of your lungs they can last a lifetime, but when external pollutants abound, it can be difficult to keep them in optimal condition. With correct nutrition, you can help protect your lungs and even reverse past damage. We explore some of the best foods to incorporate into your diet for improved lung function.
The human body is a remarkably complex machine and your lungs are a critical component of the respiratory system, helping carry essential oxygen to the blood and removing harmful carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, the air we breathe can carry many toxic chemicals that cause damage to the lungs. By far the most damaging thing individuals can do to their bodies is to smoke, and the incidence of lung cancer is 20 times higher amongst smokers compared with those that have never smoked. At the same time, it is also troubling is that in our industrialized world, even those who have never smoked are beginning to show signs of damage to their lungs.
This damage is caused by a variety of forms of air pollution, including industry, transport, farming and the fuels people use to cook and clean their homes. As a result, there are few people on Earth who don’t have some form of damage to their lungs. Nano particles enter the body through the respiratory system and can wreak havoc on the lungs, the human body’s filter, and can cause a host of health issues including bronchitis, asthma, throat irritations and in the worst case scenario, lung cancer.
The good news is that this damage can be minimized and even reversed through natural means. Nature, in the same way that it offers solutions for almost any conceivable health concern associated with the modern condition, has a range of healthy and nutritious solutions to help repair respiratory system damage and promote better lung health. We take a look at some of the best foods to incorporate into your diet to help improve your lung function.
Rosemary has been used for centuries in folk herbalism and healing to help relieve shortness of breath; clearing phlegm from the lungs, supporting circulatory function and relieving chronic wheezing. It has regularly been used in traditional medicine to assist with chronic lung diseases like bronchitis and asthma.
Lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges are a great way to give your lungs a detox. The high vitamin C content of these fruits can help protect the lungs from adult asthma and free radical damage associated with smoking and air pollution. Best of all, citrus fruits can easily be incorporated into an everyday diet: squeeze their juice into water, drink it in tea or incorporate a squirt of citrus into a range of foods.
Research by Dutch scientists has found that a compound in garlic could be used to fight the nasty lung disease cystic fibrosis. This debilitating condition gradually destroys the lungs and makes breathing difficult for patients. Whilst relatively uncommon, it is incurable and a severe imposition on the quality of life of sufferers. Ajoene, a substance found in garlic, is able to break down the bacterial communication system, making cystic fibrosis easier to kill. But sufferers of this terrible affliction aren’t the only ones that can enjoy the health benefits of garlic. A study carried out in China has shown that regular consumption of raw garlic almost halves the risk of lung cancer. Remarkably, the same study found that even if people smoked, garlic reduced their risk of developing lung cancer by 30 percent.
Popular in many forms of Asian cuisine, ginger has an anti-inflammatory function which has been shown to help clear the lungs of lingering pollution that could result in future health issues. Ginger supports better circulation, reducing the production of phlegm. As it helps heal flare ups and inflamed air passages, ginger is considered beneficial for people with asthma, and has long been recommended as the perfect way to assist those suffering from chronic bronchitis.
One of the best sources of antioxidants in nature, berries help protect the lungs from disease, cancer and infection. Regular consumption of dark berries like blueberries, blackberries and raspberries has been shown to reduce the risk of developing lung cancer.
Fish contains omega 3 fatty acids that have a huge range of health benefits and act as a powerful anti-inflammatory. An American Lung Association study discovered that consuming fish regularly through dietary means or through regular consumption of fish oil tablets boosted lung function by a staggering 64 percent, whilst two studies from Australia even reported that dietary fish intake is protective against asthma prevalence in children.
Fatty fish such as tuna, salmon and sardines may sound unappealing but they are in fact amongst the tastiest and healthiest fish to consume. They have a higher concentration of omega 3 fatty acids than other fish and are the most beneficial fish to eat to improve lung function.
According to The University of Texas, pistachios may reduce the risk of lung cancer. The secret is that they’re loaded with gamma-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E which has been shown to reduce the risk of contracting a range of cancers including lung and prostate cancer. A handful of pistachios each day is also able to provide benefits to the heart by reducing cholesterol, helping prevent diabetes and improving immune function
Chillies truly are one of nature’s superfoods. Chilli peppers, especially hot chillies, are a powerful stimulant for both the digestive and respiratory systems, and their consumption has been proven to have a rejuvenating effect on the lungs. The chemical component responsible for chili's characteristic burn is called capsaicin and has been linked to killing cancer cells, reducing inflammation, preventing sinus infections and helping with gastric relief.
Loaded with vitamin C, vitamin B6 and a host of other nutrients, onions assist the body in healing itself and protect the body from illness. Quercetin, one of the naturally occurring chemicals in onions, is a powerful antioxidant that researchers have shown can help to prevent lung diseases including cancer.
Okay, it’s not strictly a food, but water is one of the best ways to promote better lung health. Next to oxygen, it is the single most essential substance for the human body, making up two-thirds of human body weight. It acts as a lubricant, regulates body temperature, transports valuable nutrients and removes toxins from the body. Drinking plenty of water is a great way to improve your lungs and overall health, and drinking tea or other warm liquids improve the function of cilia.
3 Handy Tips To Promote Healthy Lung Function
Whilst correct nutrition is a critical component in maintaining healthy lungs and a healthy lifestyle, there are a number of very simple steps that can be taken to further increase overall health.
Cardio is a great way to increase your lung capacity, and studies have shown that even those that have experienced some damage to their lungs through smoking or other pollutants can achieve significant health benefits from cardio exercise. Running, speed walking, riding a bike or enjoying other aerobic exercises moves the large muscles of the body, increasing the demand for oxygen and expanding the lungs’ ability to take in more air.
Originally practiced in India, yoga has become a global phenomenon and has millions of committed practitioners across the world. This ancient art of relaxation improves posture and flexibility, and is also one of the best ways to boost your lung function and capacity according to the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Yoga requires you to breathe deeply to fully expand the lungs, making them more flexible and increasing their ability to take in more air. So relax and strike a pose.
Allowing yourself the time to settle in and take some deep breaths can help to improve your lung capacity. Simply exhale completely and then allow the diaphragm to descend by keeping your abdominal muscles relaxed. Exhale slowly and repeat the process three or four times. Through regular practice of this exercise, you’ll train your lungs to breathe deeper and enhance lung function.
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