Seven Steps for Healthier Lungs

October is National Healthy Lung Month and October 26th is Healthy Lung Day in USA.  On a normal day we breathe about 25,000 times, breathing in about 13 pints of air every minute.  Our lungs are a delicate network of tiny air sacs called alveoli that are wrapped in capillaries that deliver oxygen from the air we breath into the blood stream, and pull out carbon dioxide from from the blood to release into the air.  

Breathing is vitally important to life, and the health of your lungs impacts every aspect of your body.  Most respiratory diseases are preventable, but it’s up to individuals to be vigilant.  The presence of many micro-particles in the air pose risks for our lungs and contribute to developing or worsening our lung conditions.  According to the CDC, while cancer deaths over the first 20 years of this century have declined by 27%, death from lung cancer continues to be one of the top reasons for death in USA. 

What Can We Do To Keep Our Lungs Healthy?  

1. Reduce exposure to smoke. If you smoke or vape, consider quitting. When there is smoke from fires in the air, avoid outside exercise. Stay indoors and keep the windows closed. Seek the advice of a licensed naturopathic physician about lung protection and support if you have had toxic lung exposure and especially if you have any lung symptoms, like a cough,  wheeze or shortness of breath. For example, a licensed Naturopathic physicians can provide a prescription for a compounded glutathione solution for nebulizing directly into the lungs to support and detoxify the lungs, reducing the irritation and stress on the lungs.

2. Avoid mold and mycotoxin exposure. With leaves falling and the rains returning, allergies can get kicked up especially to mold.  The spores float in the air looking for a good place to colonize.  Inhaling these spores and the mycotoxin particles can trigger respiratory reactions. The most common species are aspergillus (black mold) and penicillin.  Living in the Northwest in the moist weather poses a high risk for homes to have mold issues, and worse if there has been a history of water leaks.  It is best to have the home checked for mold especially if you are suffering from a respiratory condition. Keeping the home clean, dust free and dry, including the basement, helps keep the mold particles low and the lungs healthier. Air conditioners, front loading washing machines, and the condensation trays of fridges should be checked as well for mold and leakage. Dehumidifiers can be helpful if the home tends to be more damp than dry. 

3. Minimize chemical exposures. Aside from mold, the indoor air can be quite polluted.  Generally, we spend around 85-90% of our lives indoors. Indoor air can be 2-5x more polluted than outdoors.  Everything from VOC’s (what we refer to as “off-gassing) in paint, furniture, carpet, wallpaper, plastics and solvents, to appliances, fireplaces, animal hair/dander, hairsprays, colognes/perfumes and even the chemicals we use to “freshen” our air can cause ill-effects to our precious lungs, not to mention viruses and bacteria from human respirations.  Use VOC-free paints, purchase hardwood or metal furniture instead of particle board furniture, switch from carpet to a hard surface flooring (like wood or bamboo or tile), and try to use electric appliances vs gas appliances to reduce toxic exposure in the home.

4. Air the house. Provide daily fresh air into the house and/or use an air purifier with HEPA filter. Opening doors and windows will help with air flow as long as there is clean air outside.  

5. Use indoor plants. Using indoor plants, especially with large leaves, improves the indoor air quality and provides more oxygen. Plants in the home absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.  Research has also shown that up to 50-60% bacteria and mold spores are reduced in rooms with house plants because of the phytochemical released from the plants.  Plants with larger leaf surface areas tend to absorb more. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, English ivy is particularly good at purifying mold in the air.  

6. Get outside daily. In honor of Healthy Lung Month, get outside perhaps into the mountains, go for an extra walk, focus on meditative breathing, or ride on a sunny day.

7. Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides pressurized oxygen to the cells, allowing for cellular regeneration and healing. Consider seeing one of the Holistique physicians for a quick lung evaluation and a prescription for hyperbaric oxygen therapy session to keep the lungs healing and healthy, and to increase the uptake of oxygen into your cells.

Marit Zimmerman, ND

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