When you think about it, the lungs are incredible organs. From the moment of birth, they never stop working. In adulthood, the average person takes anywhere between 12 and 20 breaths per minute. That’s over 17,000 breaths per day. Each inhale brings in precious oxygen that gets transported to almost every single cell of the body.
Despite how important the lungs are, it’s easy to take them for granted, until something goes wrong or a respiratory illness puts them at risk.
While one of the most obvious ways to take good care of your lungs is to not smoke or vape, there are many ways you can support and maintain lung function so that your lungs can support you through a long and healthy life.
1. Stay Active
Regular physical activity is one of the best strategies to keep your lungs healthy and strong. When you exercise, your cells require more oxygen to produce energy in the form of ATP. To deal with the increased demand for oxygen, you breathe faster and your heart rate increases.
Regular exercise gradually causes your lungs and cardiovascular system to adapt. The lungs get better at expanding and muscles that help you breathe get stronger (1). In turn, these changes make your lungs more efficient at taking in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide.
And you don’t have to be a top athlete to reap these benefits, any activity that gets you moving and elevates your heart rate will make a difference.
2. Get More Food-Based Antioxidants
Oxidative stress is a nemesis of good health. It plays a large role in nearly every disease, accelerates physical aging, degrades healthy cells, and it can trigger cell mutations. What does this have to do with lung health?
Unknowingly, you constantly inhale invisible environmental pollutants present in the air outside and in your home. Many of these pollutants cause oxidative damage when they come into contact with your lung cells (2).
As such, it’s essential that you keep oxidative damage under control. Getting plenty of antioxidants in your diet is one of the best ways to protect your lungs from oxidative damage. This means you should eat a wide variety of organic fruits, veggies and herbs.
If you find you have a difficult time getting 7 to 9 servings of organic vegetables every day, a green juice powder can give you a much-needed boost.
3. Practice Breathing Exercises
Similar to regular physical activity, breathing exercises can dramatically improve the efficiency of your lungs. While there are many types of breathing exercises out there, diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, is a good place to start.
This exercise specifically engages and trains the diaphragm, the primary muscle that allows you to breathe. Practicing this technique can improve how much air you move per breath (3). To get started, follow these steps:
- Relax your shoulders and sit somewhere that’s comfortable.
- Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
- Inhale deeply through your nose for 2-3 seconds. Feel the air move into your lungs and pay close attention to the expansion of your stomach. The goal here is to get your stomach to expand more than your chest.
- Breathe out for 2-3 seconds through pursed lips while pressing on your abdomen. Do a set of ten of these breaths.
For more advanced breathing exercises, especially if you are facing an infection, you can follow the recommendations of this emergency room doctor from the UK for getting more air into the base of your lungs.
4. Detoxify Your Body
Not only do toxins trigger oxidative damage as they travel through the body, toxic heavy metals can increase your risk of heart disease, impair memory and cognitive function, and damage your immune system.
But that’s not all. Researchers have found that long-term exposure to toxins in air pollution can impact lung health, increasing your risk for respiratory inflammation, asthma, chronic bronchitis and pneumonia (4).
It’s one of many reasons why it’s important to detoxify your body and remove toxins that have accumulated over the years. One of the easiest and most effective ways to detoxify the whole body is to use natural mineral zeolite.
5. Drink Plenty of Water
Most experts recommend you should drink around eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day (8 x 8). When you’re physically active or outside in hot temperatures you may need to drink even more.
Your body needs water for countless physiologic functions, including proper lung function. Drinking enough water helps encourage a moist environment in your respiratory system.
6. Consider Lung-Friendly Herbs
Studies have found that there are several herbs capable of improving respiratory health, including astragalus, peppermint and thyme.
Astragalus is used by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It may help prevent respiratory infections and act as an expectorant, meaning it can help clear mucus from the lungs (7).
Research suggests that peppermint may improve the ability of your lungs to inhale and exhale greater volumes of air. (8). And the herb thyme as been shown in animal studies to improve mucus clearance from airways and help the airways relax, which improves airflow to the lungs (9).
7. Drink Green Tea
Green tea is full of antioxidants and beneficial polyphenols. One of the polyphenols in green tea is called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which evidence suggests is protective of lung cells (10).
Green tea also contains a compound called theophylline. This compound acts as a bronchodilator, meaning it opens up the airways (11). The caffeine found in green tea is also suggested to provide a similar effect (12).
So, adding green tea to your morning ritual, or using an organic green tea supplement is a good strategy to support your respiratory health.
8. Clean Your Home’s Air
Most indoor air is saturated with toxins. That’s because furniture, upholstery, and carpeting may all contain toxic particles which degrade and break down over time. They become a part of your home’s dust and circulate in the air, irritating lung tissue and causing oxidative damage.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to take steps to improve the quality of your home’s air, including considering a home air filter. You can also place plants throughout the house. They are both decorative and cleanse the air of certain toxins such as formaldehyde (13).
If you live in an area with clean outdoor air, open up your windows from time to time and let some fresh air in. And avoid chemical air fresheners as these often contain toxic chemicals that disrupt hormones, cause oxidative damage, and damage cells (14). Instead, opt for an essential oil diffuser.