Dr. Sandra El Hajj - MSc, N-MD, DHSc
The human body is a very complex world. Everyone understands the importance of sleep, food and water for survival, and that we can actually stay alive for a while if we are lacking any of these. But, when it comes to breathing, we are dealing with one vital need that cannot be dodged for a few minutes. The entire human body, with all its organs, needs oxygen for survival. So, the moment a person stops breathing, the body collapses(1).
Every time you breathe, you bring energy to your body. Inhaling outside air brings in oxygen that gets distributed to your cells, which need a continuous supply of energy. Also, breathing can help excrete waste products and toxins created in the body. This happens when we exhale. If these toxins do not get expelled, they would accumulate in the body and create vital dysfunction.
A very strange process that does not need any thinking from your brain, breathing is involuntary. It happens unconsciously, just like the blood flowing in your veins or your heart beating. But, unlike the others, you can control breathing. Any person has the ability to change the rhythm of his or her breathing habits(2).
There are many different types of breathing. You may be breathing into your chest or into your stomach. The truth is your breathing patterns change throughout your life. These patterns are highly linked to external factors like fear, anger, sorrow and other emotions. Some certain circumstances, sometimes, cause your breathing to spontaneously change. An example would be how you start breathing when you see a spider.
While breathing is of prime importance, you may be in the majority of people who use only one-third of their lung capacity. Knowing how well you are breathing can help you improve it. There are many signs and symptoms that are associated with poor breathing: Feeling short of breath, feeling the need to take deep, long breaths, running out of breath easily or taking many short breaths. This will immensely impact your brain functions, among other physiological functions. Also, people who take short shallow, breaths may lack the ability to cope effectively with their emotions(3).
Since breathing is so important, having healthy lungs is a logical necessity.. When your lungs are healthy, you are capable of taking in the longer, deeper beneficial breaths. Training your breathing is very important, but, having healthy lungs comes first. How effective is it to put the premium fuel in your car if your engine is broken?
Healthy respiratory system function is based on healthy lungs. With all the pollution and external factors sabotaging both your lungs and breathing habits, there are many highly effective steps and at-home remedies that are worth considering.
One of the most effective ways to restore your lungs’ health is to stop passing it toxins. Cigarettes contain not one, not two, butthousands of very harmful chemicals that can cause health problems. When you smoke, you are narrowing your airways. So, in other words, you are making your breathing harder. With time, your passages become inflamed and your lungs become swollen. This bad habit can destroy both your lung tissues as well as increase your risk for lung cancer(4).
Smoking is not only harmful when you engage in it; but, being exposed to second-hand smoking can be as damaging. When you are in close proximity to a smoker, you are being exposed to his highly toxic harmful smoke. So, what you should do is prevent people from smoking in your house, car and office. Support businesses that do not allow smoking avoid public places permitting smoking and finally, stay in smoke-free hotels when traveling (5).
Cigarettes are not the only things that can harm your lungs. Synthetic fragrances, like the kind contained in laundry products and air fresheners, are highly toxic to your lungs.. So avoid overusing these chemicals and engage in outdoor activities like bicycling, walking and riding. This will help you breathe clean air from nature as well as minimize outdoor pollution. Also, make sure you stay away from highly polluted industrialized areas. Finally, when doing projects in your home, make sure you are doing it in an eco-friendly way. For example, choose formaldehyde-free cabinets, opt for linoleum flooring instead of vinyl, and look for low VOC paints(6).
This can be easily achieved when you add plants to your home. Plants are natural air purifiers that can filter volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. Try to add two plants for every 100 square feet in 12-inch pots. Plants that are perfect for your indoors include ferns, aloe vera, bamboo palm, peace lily, spider plant and others. Also, do your best to remove dust from the leaves and do not overwater them to prevent the growth of mold(7).
One very important factor to keep your lungs well is learning how to do deep breathing. Only then will you be able to lead the oxygen to every cell of your body. Make sure you are sitting in a relaxing and quiet place with your eyes closed and breathing as deep as possible through your nose. Inhale over a period of five seconds, hold your breath for a few seconds and then exhale very slowly. This exercise needs to be repeated eight times every day. It helps you detox your lungs and destress.
Some foods are essential to maintain healthy lungs. Make sure you are drinking enough water as dry lungs can be at higher risk for irritation. Also, opt for fatty fish, apples, apricots, broccoli, walnuts and poultry. On another note, certain herbs have unique compounds that are beneficial for lung health. Eucalyptus is on top of that list. Due to its1,8-cineole, this herb and essential oil can be a perfect lung stimulant whether inhaled, diffused or used as balms. Other beneficial herbs include thyme, oregano, peppermint and mullein.
Your respiratory health is of major importance. When your lungs are clean, your environment is fresh and you know how to properly channel oxygen into your cells, you will be healthier. Stop smoking, avoid environmental pollutants as much as possible, clean up your indoor air and choose the right foods. Your lungs are fully capable of self-cleaning when offered the right tools and the proper cleansing environment.