Support your most vital organs and breathe freely
Your body runs on oxygen— but these days, getting enough of it can be a challenge for many. Respiratory diseases are on the rise, and deaths from these conditions have increased significantly in recent years.1
The truth is, threats to the lungs surround us like a sweeping fog bank. Smoke from wildfires, industrial pollution, and other dangerous exposures continue to increase in today’s world.
The good news is, there are proactive steps you can take to support optimal respiratory and immune health, with powerful benefits for total-body wellness.
Lungs Are The Secret To Life
Every time you take a breath, you fill your lungs with oxygen—and how much, depends on their capacity. The lungs purify the blood with this oxygen and send it back into your circulation, so it can travel through the bloodstream and deliver vital nourishment to cells, tissues and organs. At the same time, your lungs collect carbon dioxide (CO2) waste from your blood and release it when you exhale. 2 Because the lungs help cleanse your body of CO2 and other waste products, they’re among your primary detox organs as well.
Lung infections including pneumonia, or chronic inflammatory conditions such as asthma, impair your lung capacity. When that happens:
- your blood can’t get enough oxygen to nourish cells, tissues and organs
- your cells and organs can’t get rid of enough CO2
- CO2 buildup can damage organs
For some organs, this isn’t as dire until it becomes chronic. But even a small reduction of oxygen can be a big problem for your brain. For proper function, your brain needs a strong and steady supply of life’s most vital nutrient—taking up about 25% of all the oxygen we breathe in.
Lung Problems Signs and Symptoms
Breathing is essential for life, so don’t ignore any of these signs that may signal more serious lung problems:
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble breathing
- Air hunger (feeling like you aren’t getting enough air)
- Persistent cough
- Coughing up mucus
- Inability to exercise or do physical activities
- Achy feeling when you inhale or exhale
- Chest pain
Lung Disease on the Rise
Since smoking rates have fallen, you’d think the rates of chronic lung diseases would too. But they’re actually increasing—affecting more than 50 million Americans today, and billions more around the world.
Common lung conditions include:
- Pneumonia infections
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
These respiratory diseases are some of the most common reasons people become hospitalized, with a life-or-death need for oxygen therapy or other breathing treatments.
Top Lung Health Threats
Threats to your respiratory health can be classified into three categories:
Environmental toxin exposure
Immune system dysfunction
While it may not be possible to avoid the first two of these completely, you can minimize their threat levels.
For the third threat, immune dysfunction, there are ways to ensure your immune system operates with balanced responses that neither under-react, leaving you vulnerable, nor overreact, damaging tissues and organs.
Environmental exposure comes from the air you’re breathing—indoors or outdoors—that can contain any number of chemicals or particulates that enter and damage your lungs.3
Outdoor exposures are measured by the Air Quality Index (AQI), which quantifies the safety of the air you’re breathing in a specific area. Any reading above 50 tells you that your lungs face extra threats such as:
- Ozone pollution 4
- Particulate matter,5 including heavy metals like cadmium and lead,6,7
- Wildfire smoke8
Indoor exposure comes from a many different sources, such as:
- Chemical cleaners
- Paint fumes
- New furniture and flooring
Infections can also harm your lung health in a number of ways.
Common respiratory infections like a cold or flu can move to your lungs and worsen there, causing inflammation and increased mucus production. That can transform into bronchitis, which can take weeks to go away. Or it can develop into pneumonia, a life-threatening complication.
Pneumonia can strike on its own or develop as a secondary infection from a different respiratory virus. Pneumonia causes the air sacs in your lungs to fill with fluid, making it a struggle to breathe, and often leads to hospitalization in at-risk populations.
Immune system dysfunction can develop as a result of toxin exposure, chronic infections, autoimmune conditions or a combination of these. One major alarm protein called galectin-3 plays a key role. When triggered by stress, infection or other threats, galectin-3 unleashes a cascade of inflammation that can contribute to immune dysregulation and over-reaction, causing even more serious lung problems,9 including:
- Lung scarring (pulmonary fibrosis),11,12
- Cytokine storm 13,14
5 Proven Ways to Protect Your Lungs
These 5 strategies can help you support your lungs… and your life, for greater long-term health and wellness.
1. Practice breathing deeply
Most of us don’t breathe deeply enough. Research shows that practicing deep, mindful breathing for even 2-5 minutes per day can deliver lung-saving results, including:15
- Improving the amount of oxygen that moves through your lungs with each breath (aka ‘tidal volume’)
- Boosting your lung capacity, the total amount of air your lungs can take in at one time
- Improving the volume of air your lungs can move in one minute
Regular cardio exercise may be one of the best ways to keep your lungs in optimal shape. Since the lungs have to work harder during exercise, you can naturally expand their function with regular activity. Try to breathe 40 to 60 times per minute while exercising (normal breathing rate at rest is around 15 times per minute).16
3. Limit exposure to bad air whenever possible
Depending on where you live and work, it can be a challenge to avoid “bad” air entirely, but there are things you can do to reduce threats. Actions you can take include:
- Limit outdoor activities when the AQI exceeds 50
- Wear a mask when you may be around people with respiratory infections
- Filter the air in your home or office and HEPA air filters and house plants
- Avoid chemical cleaning products and synthetic air fresheners
4. Balance your immune system
In many cases, immune dysregulation can strike seemingly out of nowhere. You can help minimize your risk of destructive out-of-control immune responses in two ways:
Blocking galectin-3, the master alarm protein that drives organ inflammation and fibrosis, lung scarring (fibrosis), and cytokine storms17
Keeping your gut microbiome in balance since around 70% of your immune system is located in your gut.18
Taking these two steps can help keep your immune system stay well-directed and balanced for optimal response to threats and invaders.
5. Evidence-based botanicals
A number of researched natural agents are shown to support optimal respiratory health and better breathing. The top formulas I recommend include:
- Botanically Enhanced Medicinal Mushroom Formula: In my practice, I rely on select medicinal mushrooms in a unique, botanically-enhanced formula, to provide powerful support for immune balancing, respiratory function and defense, and more. One mushroom, Cordyceps sinensis, has been shown to reduce airway inflammation and hypersensitivity.19,20 , Shiitake mushrooms are rich sources of unique compounds that may protect against cytokine storms.21 Reishi mushrooms have been shown to help control asthma and bronchitis.22
- Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP): Clinically researched modified citrus pectin blocks galectin-3,23 giving it the unique ability to prevent immune overreactions, runaway inflammation, and fibrosis—including lung scarring. By blocking galectin-3, MCP may also help reduce the risk of a cytokine storm.24
- Honokiol: Honokiol, a powerful compound extracted from magnolia tree bark, has a special affinity to the lungs, as research shows honokiol tends to concentrate in lung tissue more than any other organ or part of the body. Honokiol delivers powerful anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant support for healthy breathing. It has been proven to reduce airway inflammation, stop the flu from progressing into pneumonia, and halt lung fibrosis.26-28
- Tibetan Herbal Formula: An extensively researched Tibetan Herbal Formula containing unique botanical ingredients works on many levels to balance the immune system, reduce inflammation, and fight respiratory infections.29 Research shows that this formula helps stop production of inflammatory cytokines30 and treat recurring lower respiratory infections.31 More than 30 published clinical studies point to the diverse benefits of this time-honored traditional healing remedy.
In today’s age, protecting lung function is one of the most important ways we can defend our long-term health. With these simple yet powerful strategies, you can help to increase oxygenation of your body’s cells, organs and tissues, with the wealth of benefits that come from life’s most vital nutrient.
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Nishi Y, Sano H, Kawashima T, Okada T, Kuroda T, Kikkawa K, Kawashima S, Tanabe M, Goto T, Matsuzawa Y, Matsumura R, Tomioka H, Liu FT, Shirai K. Role of galectin-3 in human pulmonary fibrosis. Allergol Int. 2007 Mar;56(1):57-65. doi:10.2332/allergolint.O-06-449. Epub 2007 Jan 29. PMID: 17259811.
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