Lung Health Tips to Improve Respiratory System

Our understanding of COVID-19 is ever-evolving and will continue to be, so long as we don’t have a cure. What we do know is that this novel coronavirus is a respiratory virus. According to the American Lung Association, those with chronic lung health conditions may develop severe complications if they contract COVID-19 [1]. Furthermore, we don’t know the lasting impact COVID-19 will have on the lung health of individuals without chronic conditions. That’s why we must do everything possible to improve the health of our lungs. Here are some tips.

How to Get COVID-19

The attack on lung health begins at the onset of a COVID-19 infection. It gets contracted from person-to-person through droplets of liquid transmitted from the infected into the non-infected.

Wearing a mask in public
is important right now

Exchange of these fluids may be due to:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Breathing
  • Kissing

These droplets can be present on a surface, in the air, or transferred by different forms of human interaction. The virus can enter the body through orifices, such as your eyes, mouth, and nose.

How COVID-19 Affects Lung Health

Next, the virus seeks out mucous membranes in the nose and throat. It incubates up to a 14 day period before people notice symptoms of COVID-19.

The path of infestation

As the virus spreads, it can travel along the respiratory tract. Inevitably, this will lead to the lungs.

According to the American Lung Association,

“The lungs are the first and main body organ affected by COVID-19. In the early days of an infection, the novel coronavirus rapidly invades cells in our lungs. COVID-19 is thought to attack the epithelial cells lining the airways—that catch and clear out things like pollen and viruses—flooding our airways with debris and fluids [2].”

American Lung Association

When the virus hits these organs, the lungs can become inflamed. Not only are these symptoms painful, but they can make it difficult to breathe.

How to Improve Lung Health

There are many changes we must make to our lifestyle to thwart off COVID-19, the flu, and future coronaviruses. One is to improve our immune system. However, we must also tend to each vital organ’s specific needs. They all provide our bodies with specific functions. Therefore, they’re going to need specific maintenance.

We rely on our lungs to breathe. Yet, the average person without a chronic lung disease doesn’t even use 70% of their lung capacity [3]. So, here are some ways to ensure that you enjoy quality breath for the majority of your years.

Deep Breathing Techniques

Take in deep breaths. There’s plenty to be had!

Think of your lungs like a muscle. The more you work out your biceps, the more bubbly they get. Your lungs need the same consideration. Achieve this by practicing deep breathing techniques.

Our breath is the ultimate workout tool for lung health. Best of all, it’s free. Here are a couple of ways you can use this lung training accessory to its max advantage.

4-7-8 Technique

If you’re new to deep breathing, start off with the 4-7-8 technique [4]. This method is an easy way to baby-step your way into deep breathing.

  • Breathe in for four seconds.
  • Hold for seven seconds.
  • Exhale for eight seconds.
  • Repeat three more times.

This lung health exercise can be performed anywhere and takes only a couple of minutes. So, you can do it during a lunch break, once you get out of the shower, or first thing in the morning.

Yoga

If you need to build up the stamina to improve your breath intake, try yoga. Yoga makes you become conscious to breath because you integrate your inhales and exhales with movement.

Meditation

A non-physical exercise to improve deep breathing is also meditation. Meditation forces you to pay attention to your inhales and exhales.

Each time you breathe in, consciously think “inhale.” Each exhale, think “exhale.”

Try to elongate each breath. Eventually, you’ll be a meditative state and will forget to count your inhales and exhales. However, they’ll naturally become more buoyant.

Hof Breathing

Another deep breathing technique that will improve your lung health is the Hof Method of breathing. This one is more time-consuming but helps draw more breath into the lungs, which helps clear the muck out caused by viruses.

  • Sit comfortably and inhale through the nose and out through the mouth 30-40 times.
  • After less exhale, inhale as deep as possible.
  • Let the air out as much as possible.
  • Stop breathing and hold until you autonomously breathe again.
  • Draw in a big breath to fill up the lungs.
  • At full capacity, hold for 15 seconds.
  • Let go.
  • Complete the cycle 3-4 times.

According to the Wim Hof website,

“By systematically and deeply breathing in and out, the pH-value in the blood increases (making the blood more alkaline) whereas the acidity lessens. Normally, on average the pH-value is 7.4. By exerting the breathing techniques, this becomes significantly higher and can even go up to 7.75 [5].”

Wim Hof

Leaning towards a more alkaline environment can do wonders for your immune system. Furthermore, a more acidic environment makes it easier for pathogenic stomach bacteria to take over [6].

Quit Smoking

It sounds obvious that smoking is detrimental to lung health. Yet, over 40 million American adults start smoking cigarettes [7]. There are so many pictures of harmed lungs caused by long-term cigarette use. In addition, the Surgeon General provides a warning on cigarettes. All of these are proof enough to know that smoking isn’t good for these vital organs.

person smoking
Please kick the habit!

While some may have a valid point that smoking cannabis isn’t as harmful, you should still ere with caution. After all, you’re bringing a hot substance into your lungs. It was literally just on fire. So, you’re still doing lung damage.

Also, the vaping-related illnesses of the 2019 pre-pandemic should serve as a warning sign for these types of ways of using cannabis products [8]. Medical cannabis users can opt for edibles or topicals instead of flower. Meanwhile, CBD users should opt for tinctures or CBD syrup instead of vape pens.

Diffuse Essential Oils

Get diffusin’

Essential oils are a great all-natural way to improve your lung health. They enter through your nostrils, stimulating the olfactory system. Here, they bypass all toll booths to the brain, gaining instant access to the mind. Essentially, essential oils can biohack the brain.

As you inhale the essential oils through the nostril, these highly potent plant compounds come in contact with mucous membranes where viruses hide.

Antiviral essential oils include:

  • Oregano
  • Bergamot
  • Cinnamon Leaf
  • Eucalyptus
  • Tea Tree
  • Rosemary
  • Lemon

Be careful when diffusing essential oils around pets. Some of these compounds are too toxic for their little livers to filter. So, quarantine yourself in a room away from there for about 20 minutes as you inhale. Otherwise, consider inhaling straight from the bottle.

Cardio Training

Many of us think of a cardiovascular workout as a way to improve heart health. However, it also trains your lungs. After all, the first thing to go when we’ve run too fast is our breath!

According to a study conducted by the University of Virginia School of Medicine,

“Regular exercise may reduce the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a major cause of death in patients with the COVID-19 virus…Research conducted prior to the pandemic suggested that approximately 45 percent of patients who develop severe ARDS will die [9].”

University of Virginia School of Medicine

Scientists hypothesize this perk of exercise is due to the fact that exercise produces an endogenous antioxidant that helps fight free radicals. This antioxidant is called “extracellular superoxide dismutase” (EcSOD).

Studies on EcSOD show that this antioxidant helps protect mice from developing multi-organ dysfunction syndrome [10]. Seeing as the lungs are an organ, there is strong evidence that this exercise-derived nutrient can help protect against respiratory viruses.

Saunas

Not many studies have been conducted on saunas and lung health. However, the research that is available all seems positive [11].

Get steamy!

Evidence suggests that sauna bathing can improve:

  • Vital Capacity
  • Volume
  • Ventilation
  • Forced Expiratory Volume

The dry heat can help break up mucous in the respiratory tract. That way, you can expel potential infections through blowing your nose and coughing into a tissue.

Also, the heat makes your breathing slow down. So, you’re more prone to take deeper breaths.

HEPA and Carbon Air Purifiers

There are so many environmental toxins in our homes, offices, and other public places. Not to mention, our cosmetic items have toxic ingredients that linger in the air and collect in our dust.

A price we pay for beauty

One analysis of indoor pollutants found that there are at least 45 toxic chemicals that linger in the dust in an average person’s home [11].

We inhale these toxins on a daily basis. So, it’s best to purify the air we’re breathing in as much as possible. The most efficient way to do that is with HEPA and carbon air purifiers.

HEPA and carbon air purifiers pull moisture, mold, and heavy metals out of the air. It recycles clean air and releases the toxin-free air back into the atmosphere. That way, you are less likely to inhale these particles into your lung.

Probiotics

Anything inside of our body interacts with microbes. Therefore, controlling your microbiome is essential for optimal wellness, including improving lung health.

One meta-analysis of the gut-lung-axis noted,

Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), mainly produced by the bacterial dietary fibers’ fermentation especially in case of a high-fiber diet (HFD), act in the lungs as signaling molecules on resident antigen-presenting cells to attenuate the inflammatory and allergic responses [13].”

Front. Cell. Infect. Microbiol.

There are many microbes around your lung, but nothing compared to your gut biome. However, healthy lungs have many of the same commensal bacteria.

Bacteria for lung health include:

  • Firmicutes
  • Bacteroidetes
  • Proteobacteria
  • Actinobacteria
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If you’re unsure that you have enough of these bacteria in your microbiome, try taking an at-home gut test. Thryve sends you everything you need to safely take procure a stool sample and mail it to us for analysis.

We analyze your DNA to determine the ratios of stomach bacteria in your body. Based on the gut test, we then provide you with a custom probiotic supplement. If you’re lacking any of the bacteria for optimal lung health, then they’ll be included in your probiotic!

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Resources

[1] Editorial Staff | May 29, 2020 Topics: Health & Wellness Top Story COVID-19. “Top Story: COVID-19.” American Lung Association, 2020, www.lung.org/blog/update-covid-19.

[2] “Learn about COVID-19.” Learn about COVID-19 | American Lung Association, 29 Apr. 2020, www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/covid-19/about-covid-19.

[3] Bradford, Alina. “Lungs: Facts, Function and Diseases.” LiveScience, Purch, 2 Feb. 2018, www.livescience.com/52250-lung.html.

[4] Weil., M.D., Dr. Andrew. “Video: Breathing Exercises: 4-7-8 Breath.” Dr. Weil, 2020, www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/breathing-exercises-4-7-8-breath/.

[5] Hof, Wim. “The Benefits of Breathing Exercises: Wim Hof Method.” The Benefits of Breathing Exercises | Wim Hof Method, 2020, www.wimhofmethod.com/breathing-exercises.

[6] University of Kansas. “Acidic Environment Could Boost Power of Harmful Pathogens.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 9 Jan. 2020, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200109141017.htm.

[7] “Data and Statistics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 Feb. 2020, www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/index.htm.

[8] Vaughn, Emily. “The Vaping Illness Outbreak: What We Know So Far.” NPR, NPR, 18 Sept. 2019, www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/09/18/760635457/the-vaping-illness-outbreak-what-we-know-so-far.

[9] Barney, Joshua. “COVID-19: Exercise May Help Prevent Deadly Complication.” UVA Health Newsroom, 25 May 2020, newsroom.uvahealth.com/2020/04/15/covid-19-exercise-may-help-prevent-deadly-complication/.

[10] Call, J. A., Donet, J., Martin, K. S., Sharma, A. K., Chen, X., Zhang, J., Cai, J., Galarreta, C. A., Okutsu, M., Du, Z., Lira, V. A., Zhang, M., Mehrad, B., Annex, B. H., Klibanov, A. L., Bowler, R. P., Laubach, V. E., Peirce, S. M., & Yan, Z. (2017). Muscle-derived extracellular superoxide dismutase inhibits endothelial activation and protects against multiple organ dysfunction syndrome in mice. Free radical biology & medicine113, 212–223. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2017.09.029.

[11] Laukkanen, Jari A. et al. Cardiovascular and Other Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing: A Review of the Evidence. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 93, Issue 8, 1111 – 1121.

[12] “Making a Healthier Home.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 8 Sept. 2017, newsinhealth.nih.gov/2016/12/making-healthier-home.

[13] Enaud, Raphaël, et al. “The Gut-Lung Axis in Health and Respiratory Diseases: A Place for Inter-Organ and Inter-Kingdom Crosstalks.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 10 Jan. 2020, www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcimb.2020.00009/full#B19.