How Does Lifestyle Affect the Functioning of the Respiratory System?
Is There Natural Help For Respiratory Illnesses?
If you suffer from respiratory issues, you have surely considered how lifestyle might affect the functioning of the respiratory system, and begun to take everyday precautions and eliminated some of these factors.
When you consider the terrible smog in our cities, the pollution everywhere, and the current heavy smoke blanketing most of North America due to out of control wildfires, it is certainly not surprising that respiratory diseases are rampant. And yes, doctors prescribe medications but many of them create unwanted side effects such as insomnia, nausea, and irritability.
Diseases of the lungs affect everyone from babies to seniors, causing suffering and often death. Symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, a chronic cough, frequent respiratory infections, lack of energy, swelling in ankles, feet, and legs, as well as hemoptysis or blood in the mucus or sputum. This last is a very serious symptom and should be investigated immediately by a pulmonologist.
Main Respiratory Diseases
The main respiratory diseases we face today are:
- COPD (includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema)
- pulmonary fibrosis
- lung cancer
These can be caused by infection, smoking, radon, asbestos, or other forms of air pollution such as the wildfire smoke mentioned above. Thankfully nature comes to the
rescue once again.
Five Amazing Herbs to Help You Maintain Respiratory Health
Herbs play a huge roll in the maintaining of healthy lungs.
- Osha root contains camphor and other beneficial oils which clear mucus and improve blood flow to the lungs.
- Lomatium has antibacterial and antiviral properties and is used successfully to clear up allergies and other lung function problems.
- Pleurisy root is excellent for clearing the lungs and chest of mucus and has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Licorice root is called a wonder herb in Chinese medicine for treating respiratory diseases and promoting healthy lungs.
- Mullein has unique chemical compounds which support healthy pulmonary function and soothes the mucus membranes when they are irritated.
What’s COPD, aka Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?
COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is one of the most serious of respiratory illnesses, and is very often fatal. COPD is characterized by an irreversible airflow constriction, which is progressive. COPD is kind of a fancy modern umbrella term for chronic bronchitis or emphysema, or combinations of these.
Severe COPD attacks consist of chest pain, shortness of breath, blue finger tips, confusion or agitation, and/or drowsiness. This disease can be very difficult to manage but, besides supplements and essential oils, symptoms can be reduced by proper exercise and using proper breathing techniques.
The good news is there are many supplements that help to reduce the symptoms of COPD.
Supplements to Help COPD
- Vitamin D. COPD sufferers tend to have low levels of this vitamin so the supplements improve flare-ups.
- Co-enzymeQ10 and creatine. These are natural chemicals that help to supply energy to the cells of the body. Using these supplements improve exercise tolerance, shortness of breath, and an overall quality of life.
- Essential oils. These oils open up the airways and clear mucus. The most effective one is eucalyptus oil. Containing a natural compound called eucalyptol, it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, opens up the airways, reduces mucus production, and aids in preventing flare-ups.
- Myrtol. This is an essential oil derived from pine, lime, and eucalyptus. It has been proven to be a safe and effective treatment for COPD / bronchitis.
Two Types of Bronchitis
Another serious respiratory disease is bronchitis which causes excess mucus production and a severe tightening of the airways, causing a persistent cough. Other symptoms include white or colored mucus, chest tightness, shortness of breath, fever, chills, muscle aches, nasal congestion, and fatigue. It often occurs when you are healing from a cold or infection.
There are two types of bronchitis, the first being acute bronchitis. This one can clear up on its own, unlike chronic bronchitis which cannot easily be cured. It must be treated with lifelong treatments and lifestyle changes.
Chronic bronchitis is caused by breathing environmental irritants, or as a result of an extended illness.
Bronchitis is considered chronic when it occurs often, lasting for three or more months per year for at least two years. It presents as a wet continual cough.
Some therapies are used to treat chronic bronchitis or at least ease the symptoms. These include breathing treatments and exercises and medications such as bronchodilators which open the airways.
Proper Breathing to Help COPD
The way we breathe has a direct relationship with not only treating respiratory diseases but mood, anxiety, muscle tension, and blood flow as explained by Dr. Monica Vermani. She states that breathing deeply has a positive effect and, conversely, shallow breathing has the opposite. It can reduce focus, cause irritability, muscle tension, and heart palpitations.
People who suffer with COPD / chronic bronchitis tend to get hyperinflated lungs. Consequently exercises for these patients focus on getting as much air out on the exhale as possible. Here are three lung exercises to utilize for this purpose:
- pursed-lip breathing. Breath deeply on the inhale through your nose, then purse your lips and exhale slowly through your mouth.
- diaphragmatic breathing. Breath in slowly, using your diaphragm, making sure to feel your stomach expanding. Exhale slowly while your stomach contracts. Your chest should not move.
- box breathing. Inhale for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale slowly for four counts, then pause for four counts.
Treating Acute Bronchitis At Home
Acute bronchitis can be treated at home and usually lasts from one to two weeks. The following home remedies have proven to aid in recovery:
- Ginger can have an anti-inflammatory effect and it can be taken crystallized, in ginger tea, eaten raw or added to food, or taken in supplement form.
- Garlic effectively inhibits the growth of the bronchitis virus. It can be eaten fresh or in capsule form. Take it in small amounts as it can upset your stomach.
- Turmeric is antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory, all of which help to fight bronchitis. To take turmeric add it to salads or pickles, mix it with honey to make a paste to be consumed three times per day while the symptoms last, use the powdered form in tea, or take it as a supplement.
- Inhaling steam in your bath or shower helps to break up mucus. As well the hot water allows tense muscles to relax. Another way to inhale steam is by putting hot water in a bowl, leaning over the bowl with a towel over your head forming a sort of tent, and breathing deeply.
- Gargling salt water can reduce pain in your throat. Dissolve a spoonful of salt in warm water and gargle, then spit it out but do not swallow it.
- Honey and lemon are both excellent ways to soothe dry coughs and sore throats. Use them alone or in teas.
- Pineapple juice helps to break up and expel mucus due to its bromelain.
Tricks and Tips for Healthy Lungs
I know that this is a lot to take in all at once but I would just like to share some tips and techniques to keep your airways in tiptop shape, thereby hopefully preventing a respiratory disease somewhere down the road.
1. Do not smoke and try to avoid second hand smoke.
2. Convert your fireplace from wood burning to a cleaner burning gas or electronic one.
3. Keep your home as free as possible from air fresheners, mould, pet dander, and aerosol sprays.
4. Check your home for radon. This is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced in the ground
and is the second leading cause of lung cancer.
5. During wildfire season stay indoors as much as possible with doors and windows closed.
Hopefully this article will assist you in preventing lung diseases, or at least in helping to alleviate the symptoms.
Scientists have shown for the first time a link between chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an often fatal lung condition, and the gut microbiome. They found the gut microbiome could now be considered when looking for new therapeutic targets to help treat lung disease.
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We can see how lifestyle might affect the functioning of the respiratory system, and hopefully we have provided some knowledge and resources that you didn’t have before, so that if you suffer from COPD or some other respiratory condition, you have another tool or two to help fight it.
Treating bronchitis / COPD or other respiratory conditions at home is possible, and remember gut health and proper breathing. Both are much more crucial to good overall health than most people are aware!