The Respiratory System
The respiratory system refers to the lungs, airways and respiratory muscles that allow the exchange of gases. These gases, oxygen and carbon dioxide, are passively exchanged in the alveolar region of the lungs. Most of the respiratory system is lined with mucous membranes that protect the system. Cells lining the lungs also secrete immune factors and other antimicrobials that help to protect the lungs from infection and damage.
The respiratory system is also considered a major channel of elimination in the body, allowing us to eliminate toxins during exhalation.
Urban Lungs- Smog and Air Pollution
- In 2010, the Ontario Medical Association estimated 9,500 Ontario residents would die due to air pollution.
- Each year there are 64,000 hospital visits due to smog in Ontario.
- A study in Hamilton, found that living near a road took 2.5 years off your life!
- In 1978, Statistics Canada reported 2.5% of children with asthma. Today, 20% of children in Canada have asthma.
- Smog has been linked to respiratory conditions, cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, impaired lung development and birth defects.
We know that air pollution is compromising the heath of our lungs, but did you know that our indoor environments are 2 to 5 times more polluted than our outdoor environment, even on the smoggiest day? Carpets, paints, appliances, vinyl shower curtains, toxic cleaning products, toxic 'air fresheners', caulking and many other common household items off-gas toxins that contribute to our highly polluted indoor environments.
Helping our Lungs- Foods
-Include essential fatty acids to promote healthy mucous membranes and respiratory cells. -Include foods rich in antioxidants, like the carotenes, selenium, CoQ10, vitamins A, C and E. Try a variety of berries, dark leafy greens, carrots, Brazil nuts, sweet potato, bell peppers and goji berries. -Foods rich in flavonoids, like rutin, quercetin and hesperidin, have been shown to reduce risk of lung cancer. Try grapes, apples, buckwheat, lovage, dark berries and citrus fruits.
-Avoid additives, chemicals and preservatives. -Reduce mucous-forming foods, like dairy and sugar. -Avoid cold food and drinks.
Herbs to Strengthen our Lungs
Expectorants are herbs that help phlegm and other materials travel out of the lungs to be expelled. When there is a lot of phlegm or mucous in the lungs, stimulating expectorants, such as elecampane, horehound or bloodroot may be beneficial. When coughs are dry or mucous is too thick to be expelled, relaxing expectorants are useful. Coltsfoot and mullein are wonderful local expectorants.
Lifestyle Habits for Healthy Lungs
-Aerobic exercise helps us to clean out our lungs by improving blood flow, thinning mucous and promoting gas exchange and regeneration of lung tissue.
-Breathe through the nostrils to help filter impurities from the air and regulate air temperature.
-Avoid engaging in strenuous exercise outdoors on high smog days. -Invest in plants to filter the air in your home and office. See an interesting TED talk by researcher Kamal Meattle on how to clean your indoor air quality with 3 plants!
-Use natural cleaning products, detergents and cosmetics. See my post on Making Your Own Natural Cleaning Products for recipes!
-Use a shower filter to remove chlorine.
-Keep your bathroom free of mould.
-Diaphragmatic breathing helps to cleanse our lungs, increase our lung capacity and promote regeneration of lung tissue.
-Avoid burning petroleum based wax candles and toxic incense.
-Use beeswax candles to help purify the air.
-When buying new products for your home, remove packaging and allow them to off-gas outside before bringing them inside your home.
-Use natural paints, such as milk paints to reduce off-gasing.
-Choose natural materials for shower curtains, avoid vinyls and plastics.
-Dust your home regularly and wash bedding weekly in hot water to kill dust mites.
-SING!! Singing releases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters and improves lung function!
Lung Loving Juice Recipe
2 small carrots
1 handful of spinach
2 rings or 4 hunks of fresh pineapple
Juice spinach, followed by pineapple, orange and carrots. Drink this juice as fresh as possible to enjoy the highest amounts of vitamins and micronutrients!
Oranges contain vitamin C, an important antioxidant for lung health and a vitamin that may promote respiratory function. Pineapple helps to cleanse the lungs. Rich in vitamin C as well as anti-inflammatory enzymes to soothe and repair lung tissue. Spinach is rich in vitamins, phytonutrients and minerals, such as iron, potassium and magnesium. Magnesium helps muscles to relax, easing bronchial tension. Both carrots and spinach contain Vitamin A, an antioxidant that is important for maintaining the health of mucous membranes and has been shown to reduce the risk of lung cancer.