Wellness: Actionable steps you can take to improve your lung health right now
In the current scenario, it is very important that we keep our lung health in check with natural remedies and medicines wherever required. If we keep the lungs healthy, the side effects of disease and drugs related to the same reduces to a greater extent. One of the common lung issues that we have seen is COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) which refers to a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make breathing very difficult. And with COVID-19, this health condition starts getting even worse. COPD is mainly caused due to exposure to airborne irritants like smoking, dust, chemical fumes, air pollution or if you already have some lung issues like chronic asthmatic bronchitis (burning, inflammation and narrowing of airways leading to lungs) or even emphysema. If you have trouble breathing, then performing daily activities or even eating a meal becomes a challenge. People suffering from COPD often lose weight and become malnourished because they burn a lot of calories due to increased metabolic activity. It’s suggested to eat small and timely meals with a clear focus on chewing your food slowly, which can reduce shortness of breath caused by an extended stomach that keeps on pressing on the diaphragm. Small meals when chewed well also helps in reducing acid reflux, as well as the amount of oxygen required to chew and digest a particular meal.
We need to look at having a protein-rich meal because proteins are the building blocks of our body that will restore, repair and heal the lungs and build the lung muscle strength for breathing, plus it will also work on boosting immunity to fight against any infection. One can include organic lean chicken, whole eggs, fish, pulses and legumes with whole grains, nuts and seeds to increase daily protein intake. We have also seen that having a good amount of water is required for proper function of our body and the same applies to lungs as well. Drink around 2.5-3 litres of water (particularly warm water ), it helps thin lung secretions, clears the lungs, helps to boost immune system to fight infection and most importantly prevents dehydration. Sip on your water as gulping can lead to bloating which will put pressure on your diaphragm and make breathing difficult.
Gas forming food that increases these bloating issues can make you feel uncomfortable, so it may be best to limit the foods that may increase gas production, particularly at night. These include broccoli, cauliflower, beans, corn, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cucumbers, melons, fried or greasy foods, carbonated beverages, etc. Eat normal food, good in quality but in less quantity, particularly at night. This will help you in improving the breathing process. If you eat more food at a time, it will increase your stomach size and put pressure on your diaphragm, which will make breathing difficult. Plus, the end product of grains and pulses after digestion is carbon dioxide that is produced in the stomach but can make you feel heavy as well as breathless, so going low or avoiding grains and pulses at night can be useful for people suffering from lung issues. Strictly avoid processed sugar and junk food as it keeps the body acidic and increases inflammation; eat everything that is fresh or freshly prepared. Avoid too much salt (sodium), which leads to water retention and can increase swelling and makes breathing more difficult. Staying active is very important to improve blood circulation and also boost lung health, even doing a normal walk will be helpful to gradually build up stamina.
Along with these lifestyle changes, try using these herbs to improve your lung health:
Peppermint: Peppermint oil can be used for sniffing or while deep breathing because it has antioxidant properties and fights harmful organisms, plus relaxes muscles of the respiratory tract and promotes free breathing.
Tulsi: It’s present in every household but we don’t really use it often. This herb is considered auspicious in India and holds many medicinal properties, one of which is to reduce congestion and clear up the lungs. Many kadhas and concoctions are incomplete without it, plus tulsi oil too can be used for application on temples and deep breathing, and helps in keeping one’s lung health in check.
Turmeric: Curcumin content of turmeric adds an anti-inflammatory property that helps us to cleanse the toxins present in our body, as well as lungs. Try and drink a cup of turmeric tea (1 cup water with half tsp turmeric powder and a pinch of black pepper) once a day to reduce inflammation.
Regular steaming helps to improve the air pathway and lungs to ease out breathing, use few drops of eucalyptus oil or 1 tbsp of turmeric powder in your water for steaming purposes and take the steam before sleeping so that you can sleep better. Once your sleep improves, the body can go through a proper healing and recovery process.
The writer is the Chief Nutrition Officer, Luke Coutinho Holistic Healing Systems. She is a clinical nutritionist with a focus on healthy lifestyle choices.
Photo courtesy: Motoki Tonnon on Unsplash