It’s National Healthy Lung Month, and a good time to remember that hard-working organ, the lungs! Lungs play a major role in keeping our bodies moving. Our respiratory system enables us to breathe and supply oxygen to all parts of the body. As we breathe in air through our nose and mouth, it then travels down the windpipe, through our bronchial tubes and into the lungs. Our bodies use the oxygen we breathe in, and we exhale carbon monoxide.
In addition to getting exercise, eating a good balance of nutrient-rich foods is vital to keeping your lungs healthy. Some types of nutrient-rich foods, especially those rich in antioxidants, are known to help our lungs perform best.
Antioxidants are important to maintaining optimal health. Antioxidants help fight oxidation, which is a normal chemical process. When outside factors like stress, alcohol and cigarette smoke are introduced, it can cause disruptions in the natural process, creating free radicals, which are highly unstable and potential cancer-causing molecules. Antioxidant-rich foods contribute to the neutralization of those free radicals that destroy lung cells. The damage to lung cells caused by free radicals can lead to cancer and poor lung health.
While our body creates antioxidants naturally, some don’t occur unless obtained through an outside food or supplement source. Foods that contain the highest levels of antioxidants are typically plant-based, and those with Vitamins C and E are known to help with overall lung health.
Here are multiple fruits and vegetables containing high levels of antioxidants!
- apples & pears (with peel)
- bell peppers
- red cabbage
Here are several lung conditions that foods rich in antioxidants can help.
Asthma is a condition in which the airways narrow and create an increase in mucus that makes breathing difficult to those affected. In some cases, symptoms may be minor while, in others, they can be life threatening. Because asthma cannot be reversed, it is important to work with your respiratory therapist to create a plan that works for you.
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is one of the most common forms of lung disease. The two primary conditions of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Both of which are progressive diseases, which means they get worse over time.
According to the American Lung Association, a diet lower in carbohydrates and higher in fats can help individuals with COPD to breathe easier.
Bronchitis is a condition where the lining of the bronchial tubes becomes inflamed. Thick, discolored mucus is often coughed up by individuals with bronchitis. Bronchitis can either be acute or chronic. Other than foods rich in antioxidants, one of the best things you can ingest to help lungs affected with bronchitis is water. Simply drinking water as well as breathing in water vapor is also beneficial in the treatment of bronchitis. Breathing in water vapor helps to loosen the thickened mucus and to ease breathing.
Emphysema is most typically found in individuals who have smoked for many years. A chronic condition, emphysema cannot be cured, but its progression can be slowed through treatments. Emphysema causes the inner walls of your lungs to weaken and rupture. Air is then trapped in the lungs preventing fresh air from entering and in turn reducing the spread of oxygen in our blood.
Sleep apnea is a serious disorder where one's breathing stops repeatedly throughout sleeping. There are two forms of sleep apnea:
- Central sleep apnea - when our brain fails to send proper signals to the brain to control breathing.
- Obstructive sleep apnea - caused when the throat muscles relax resulting in an obstruction in the throat making it difficult to breath.
UnityPoint at Home Respiratory Therapy
The respiratory therapists at UnityPoint at Home provide comprehensive care for patients ranging from infants to elderly individuals with lung-related diseases. Contact the experts for any questions regarding your overall lung health.
This article was originally published on March 5, 2015.
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