Last September, Portland, Oregon, registered the poorest air quality in the world due to the raging fires in their state. Read that again… In. The. World. Anyone who spent that particular day outside in Portland had inhaled the equivalent of 15 cigarettes according to an Oregon news source. And that smoke has made its way across the country to Maine due to the jet streams. Add to that, COVID 19 which attacks the respiratory system. Add to that, seasonal allergies. Add to that, the high humidity in parts of the country, especially after the recent hurricanes. Add to that, lots of folks who try to manage their chronic asthma. Right now, more than ever, we all need to be doing all we can to protect our lungs. The good news is that we CAN! Read on.
Top 20 Best Foods for Lung Health
Here are the top 20 Best Foods for Lung Health, as published on Healthline by Jillian Kubala MS. RD as recently as June 24, 2020:
Beets and Beet Greens, Peppers*, Apples*, Pumpkin, Turmeric, Tomatoes and tomato products*, Blueberries, Green Tea, Edamame, Olive Oil, Red Cabbage, Oysters, Yogurt, Brazil nuts, Coffee, Swiss Chard, Barley, Broccoli, Lentils, Cocoa
*Highly recommended to buy organic as otherwise these foods are high in pesticide load.
Another source, NDTV Food, adds walnuts, broccoli, cayenne pepper, ginger, flaxseeds, garlic and water to the list.
Studies have shown that including a nutrient rich diet not only helps protect our lungs but can even reduce lung damage and symptoms of lung diseases, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Many of these foods listed above are loaded with antioxidants AND provide anti-inflammatory compounds. In addition, many of these listed foods also help in relieving congestion and detoxifying of pollutants in our lungs.
I don’t know about you, but the list above looks pretty good to me, it’s a nice variety and contains many foods most of us already eat and like.
Since COVID came along, I’m also boosting my lung strength with Vitamins D and C. I have also found that eating apples twice a day during my seasonal allergies, helps a LOT. There’s a compound in them called Quercetin that reduces inflammation. I’ve mentioned this to friends with asthma and they have found relief too. Who said, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away?” 🙂
What About Those with Current and Chronic Lung Issues?
In doing more research for this post, Danielle Dresden also notes that there are several supplements one can be taking that are particularly helpful to those with current breathing issues including Vitamin D, C, E, A, Magnesium, Calcium, Omega -3 fatty acids, and Ginseng. She adds eating a high fat, low carbohydrate diet can really bring relief to those suffering with breathing problems.
Herbal teas are consumed around the world in helping people with COPD. These include: Green tea, Chamomile tea, Lemon Balm Tea, Lime Tea, Linseed Tea, Sage Tea, Thyme Tea, Mallow tea, Rose hip Tea, Mint Tea
Foods to Avoid with Lung Disease
Cold cuts such as bacon, ham, hotdogs. The nitrates used to preserve these foods have been found to cause higher risk for lung disease.
- Salt-excess salt can cause breathing problems. Try herbs and other spices to enhance the flavor of your food.
- Dairy products have been known to increase mucus in both the sinuses and intestines.
- Fried Foods contain unhealthy levels of fats, increasing risk for heart disease.
- Carbonated Beverages can contribute to weight gain, increased pressure on the diaphragm and thus breathing difficulties.
- Acidic Foods can cause heartburn, which if unchecked can lead to lung disease.
For ex-smokers, a study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that a diet high in tomatoes and fruits, especially apples, could help restore lungs damaged caused by smoking due to certain components in them. “Those adults who on average ate more than two tomatoes or 3 portions of fresh fruit a day had slower decline in lung function compared to those you consumed less than one portion of fruit a day.”
High Humidity and Breathing
Since humid air has a higher water content, this density can make it harder to breathe. It requires more effort and can worsen COPD symptoms, like shortness of breath and fatigue.
Measuring Air Quality
An air quality index is used by government agencies to communicate to the public how polluted the air currently is or how polluted it is forecast to become. Public health risks increase as the AQI rises. Different countries have their own air quality indices, corresponding to different national air quality standards.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) is used for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. The AQI focuses on health affects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. To check in your area within the US, click here: https://www.weather.gov/safety/airquality-aqindex
Vaping and Breathing
For those who have taken up vaping to get wean off a cigarette habit, the studies indicate that there is a higher risk of developing asthma and COPD compared with nonsmokers. Please reconsider. You may want to talk to your doctor or consult an acupuncturist.
Food Is Medicine
Okay, so most of you have heard that saying “FOOD IS MEDICINE” right?
To me, this is the good news. As listed above, there are many foods and supplements available to us to help us keep our lungs in tip top shape. For those suffering with chronic lung diseases, these foods and supplements can provide great relief AND protection. For fruits and veggies out of season, frozen is also great. And watch for sales. We’re all trying our best to stay healthy during a pandemic that targets our respiratory systems, our lungs. Added smoke and poor air quality are challenging everyone’s lungs.
Dr. Joshua Filner, a pulmonologist for Kaiser Permanente says that these symptoms may indicate that your lungs may be struggling: Chest pain, chest tightness, dizziness, and fatigue. Anything over 300 on the Air Quality Index is considered “actively hazardous. Even healthy people can feel the effects of being outside too long when the air quality is bad.
There may a gift in the use of masks, too, during this pandemic. Think of protecting your precious lungs every time you go outside with the current bad air quality. Please stay well and safe everyone and give your lungs the gifts of protection and healing with good food!
Peace, and take care of those lungs!
Environmental Working Group: The Dirty Dozen for 2020 https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php
Everyday Health: “Vaping Increases Chance for Asthma and COPD, Study Finds” by Don Rauf, January 15, 2020
Healthline: “The 20 Best Foods for Lung Health” by Jillian Kubala MS,RD June 24, 2020/ Medically reviewed by Grant Tinsley, PhD
Healthline: “11 Supplement for COPD” by Danielle Dresden, January 3, 2020/Medically reviewed by Jillian Kubala, MS, RD
Lung Health Institute: “Avoid These Foods with Lung Disease” by mpatino, October 16, 2015
Medical News Today : “Can Humidity Cause COPD flare-ups or worsen Symptoms” Medically reviewed by J. Keith Fisher, M.D. – Written by MaryAnn De Pietro, CRT on November 12, 2018
NDTVFOOD: “Healthy Diet for Lungs
Science Daily: “Diet Rich in apples and Tomatoes may help repair lungs of ex-smokers” December 21, 2017
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