Lungs are wondrous machines that work constantly, air in and out, day and night, mostly without us thinking about it, but that airflow drives metabolism. We breathe out metabolic waste and draw in fresh oxygen in a delicate dance of tissue paper thin membranes, pulsing blood, and microscopic air sacs. It’s a beautiful, intricate system that can unfortunately be derailed by disease, pollutants, smoking, and viruses. Asthma, COPD, and pneumonia are just a few of the most common breathing difficulties. Thankfully, there are many ways to improve the health of your lungs today.
1. Stop Smoking
Smoking is one of the worst things you can do to your lungs. You draw in chemicals, smoke, carcinogens, tar, and oils that damage everything they touch, block the transfer of gases, and coat thin air sacs. Stop smoking now. Vaping and other inhalants are not exactly healthy either.
Water is an essential part of breathing and mucus consistency. Mucus protects cells and has to well hydrated to do its job. Dry it out and it becomes sticky, immobile, and incomplete. Mucus should be thick enough to capture dust, viruses, bacteria, and pollen, but thin enough to move those outside invaders away from vital cells. Drink plenty of water, take steamy showers, and consider using a diffuser or humidifier.
Focusing on your breath can make you more aware of how well your lungs are doing and note any difficulties you may be having. Meditation also often leans on breathing exercises that strengthen lungs, improve oxygen transfer, and aid the heart.
4. Mask It
Wear a mask when doing anything that might expose your lungs to avoidable damage. This includes exposure to dust, aerosol solvents, mold, sawdust, exhaust, pollutants, and viruses like Covid-19 and influenza. You need a good P100 or N95 mask to capture the most particles possible.
Exercise is one of the best ways to improve lung capacity and health. It also boosts heart health, circulation, muscle function, brain health, and bone density. Exercise touches every part of the body, especially cardio. If you already have diminished lung capacity, start slow and consult your physician.
Sleep is the time your body uses to repair, remove waste, and renew. Sleep resets many of our hormone levels, including stress hormones. Lack of sleep lets stress, waste, and disrepair build up and affects every part of the body. Eight hours is the minimum, not the maximum.
7. Up the Quality
Improve the quality of the air you’re getting by changing the air filters in your heater or air conditioner often, using ones that remove more dust, pollen, spores, and other pollutants. Clean, disinfect, and dust your home to remove mold, bacteria, viruses, pollen, and dust mites. Get fresh air more often too. Walk in the mountains, through a forest, or even a park. The tree and plant filtered air is good for your lungs.
Get vaccines for the flu and pneumonia each year. Once Covid-19 has a vaccine, it may be one you need yearly too. Vaccines are a big part of protecting your lungs from preventable viral diseases.
9. Green Tea
Green tea is rich in chlorophyll, which has a cleansing, soothing effect. Tea also hydrates mucus membranes. But what really puts green tea on this list is that is has more antioxidant action than most other foods out there. Matcha has even more antioxidants than other green teas. Why does that matter? Antioxidants protect the delicate alveoli from oxidative damage, improve blood function, and ease inflammation that restricts sinuses and airways. Matcha has more L-Theanine, catechins, chlorophyll, and EGCG than any other tea, green or otherwise. L-Theanine and caffeine together increase metabolism, focus, concentration, and air flow.
Ginger is an all-around excellent superfood. It reduces inflammation, acts as an antihistamine, eases pain, soothes digestion, and contains powerful antioxidants. Pair it with matcha for more effect.
Turmeric is ginger’s cousin and brings many of the same benefits. It also brings curcumin, a compound that is being studied for its effects on pain, lung cancer, longevity, inflammation, COPD, and even reducing fibrosis in the lungs. Pair it with black pepper for better absorption.
12. Good Fats
Some fats are essential to reducing inflammation, building cells, and protecting against bacteria. Omega-3 rich fish, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, avocado, and olive oil are all on the beneficial side of fats. Processed fats in fried fast food are not and can increase inflammation.
13. Spicy Peppers
Capsaicin stimulates mucus flow, reduces inflammation, and eases pain, speeds metabolism, improves blood flow, and fights infection. Cayenne is a good one, but almost all peppers contain some capsaicin along with antioxidants.
Garlic is another well-known antioxidant rich food. It contains sulfur compounds that fight inflammation and infection while reducing cholesterol. It has been studied specifically for its beneficial effects on lung cancer among smokers.
15. Red Bell Pepper
It may not be spicy, but it is still rich in vitamin C, carotenoids, and other potent antioxidants that can protect the lungs and other sensitive tissues from damage.
Berries are tiny bundles of hydration, flavonoids, and antioxidants in a sweet package. They are a good addition to your diet for all around health, including the lungs. The anthocyanins in berries have also been linked to maintaining healthier lungs as you age.
17. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are an excellent source of chlorophyll, minerals, and antioxidants. Iron is vital to red blood cell health, which is intimately linked to lung health. Lutein in greens has also been tied to reducing inflammation in lungs.