Pump Up Your Lungs

Get ready for the Cold and Flu Season…and COVID 

Since breathing just happens without thinking about it, we can take it for granted.  You may not realize the importance of lung health until you have experienced a hard time breathing or get conditions such as, asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), or lung cancer.  Your lungs provide you oxygen as you breathe in, and, just as important, remove carbon dioxide from your body as you breathe out.  This is called gas exchange and is essential to life.  Genetics, disease and the environment can have a negative impact on your lung function, leading to respiratory conditions and a shorter lifespan. 

With the continuous threat of COVID, and the upcoming cold and flu season, now is a good time to get your lungs in good shape.  Below are some guidelines, exercises and foods that can help you on this journey toward lung health. 

Healthy lung guidelines: 

  • Remember to breathe deeply as much as you can 
  • Avoid exposure to pollutants, inside and outside 
  • Don’t smoke 
  • Move and stay active 
  • Pay attention to your posture 
  • Simply laugh 
  • Prevent infection  
  • Stay hydrated 
  • Get flu and COVID vaccine 

Exercising your lungs: 

As you walk up the stairs and get to the top, you will feel your breath becoming shallow and rapid. You have to either slow down or stop to catch your breath. Improving your lung function by better breathing increases oxygen to your muscles, including your muscles used for breathing.  

  1. Patterned breathing exercise can help you coordinate your inhales and exhales, for example, a 2-2 pattern: Breathe in, then step left, right; Breathe out, then step left, right; Breathe in.  
  1. Standing or sitting straight:  Breathe in, with palms facing out and up, raise your arms out and up, so that your palms are facing each other. Breathe out, then lower your arms back down to your sides. 

If you have trouble walking or losing your balance, there are exercises that you can do lying on your back. 

Nutrient-rich foods for your lungs: 

The right combinations of nutrients can help you breathe easier. Oxygen and the food you eat or drink become fuel for your body, producing energy, which we need and use, and carbon dioxide, which is a waste product that we exhale.  Carbohydrates produce the most carbon dioxide and fat produces the least. For some people with COPD, eating a diet with fewer carbohydrates and more fat helps them breathe easier. 

Nutritional Guidelines 

  • Choose complex carbohydrates and limit simple carbohydrates. 
  • Eat 20 to 30 grams of fiber each day 
  • Eat a good source of protein at least twice a day to help maintain strong respiratory muscles. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids.  

Studies have shown that foods rich in flavonoids, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, certain vitamins and minerals, fiber, Omega 3, promote lung health. Below are some nutrient-rich foods that may support lung health: 

Vegetables. Beets, Peppers, Pumpkin, Red cabbage, Swiss chard 

Fruits. Apples, Pears, Tomato/Tomato-based products, Blueberries  

Others. Yogurt, Brazil nuts, Sardines, Barley, Lentils , Olive oil, Green tea, Turmeric, Dark Chocolate 

Keeping your lungs healthy is essential to feeling your best.  Be mindful of your exposure to environmental toxins and inflammatory foods. Studies have shown that a nutritious diet and lifestyle modification can have a positive impact on your lung health, even if you suffer from lung conditions, such as, asthma, COPD, and lung cancer. 

Let’s all breathe better, and make our lungs stronger to fight these viruses that are creeping into our neighborhoods. Yes, it’s time to get vaccinated against the flu and COVID. 

Now, take a deep breath, relax, and smile…