By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
January 15, 2018
- Respiratory disease is the third leading killer in the U.S.
- Can eating apples boost your lung function?
- Breathe your way to stronger lungs
Unless you have breathing problems, you probably take your lungs for granted. Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat as necessary. No problem.
This makes it easy to forget about the fact that your lungs are constantly interacting with the environment around you. Every minute of the day you are breathing in car exhaust, smoke dust, mold, cleaning chemicals, pesticides and other environmental pollutants that are harmful to your lung health.
This means that your lungs require the same care and attention that you give to your heart health, brain function and other parts of your body. Otherwise you could find yourself huffing and wheezing through your later years.
Considering the fact that chronic lower respiratory disease is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease and cancer, this is something you should take to heart… especially considering that chronic respiratory diseases are not curable.
The good news is that if you take good care of your lungs, they’ll keep pumping air in and out of your body for your entire lifetime. But you need to get started now… even if you aren’t experiencing any breathing issues yet.
Eating Apples Can Help You Breathe Better
Your lungs are on the front-line when it comes to breathing in toxic substances – ones that destroy your lung cells. So your first order of business is to neutralize these damaging toxins by boosting your antioxidant status.
You can easily do this by eating more foods that are high in flavonoids like catechins, quercetin, hesperetin and naringenin.
These powerful antioxidants go a long way when it comes to protecting your lungs. Indeed, individuals who regularly eat high flavonoid foods like apples, onions and grapefruit can potentially cut their risk of lung cancer in half and have lower incidence of asthma.
As a matter of fact, high flavonoid intake can even improve lung health in people who are already experiencing breathing issues.
Case in point: People who eat the most foods high in these compounds are less likely to experience COPD symptoms such as reduced pulmonary function, chronic cough and breathlessness. So that’s a pretty big deal.
The strong antioxidant activity in apples appears to be especially protective. Eating five or more apples each week is associated with greater lung capacity and can even help restore lung damage caused by smoking.
In addition to apples onions and grapefruit, other foods high in lung-healthy flavonoids include berries, kale, broccoli, citrus fruits, green tea and cacao.
Breathe Your Way to Better Lung Function
You can also boost respiratory health by exercising your lungs.
One of the easiest ways to do this is with breathing exercises. You see, most people only use the upper part of their lungs when they inhale and exhale. This does nothing to boost your lung volume.
So here’s a very simple breathing exercise you can do anywhere, anytime.
Inhale slowly through your nose for a slow count of four. When your lungs feel full, try to breathe in a little more. Make sure to draw the air deeply into your diaphragm. Hold it for a count of seven, allowing the air to push against the walls of your lungs and saturate them with oxygen.
Then exhale through pursed lips for a count of eight (longer if you can). It can be helpful if you pull in your belly while exhaling, as it will help force the old air out. The more often you practice this, the stronger your lungs will become.
Another way to get your lungs pumping at full speed and build respiratory capacity is with high intensity interval training (HIIT). This is the form of exercise I recommend to all of my patients. And it’s the #1 way to re-oxygenate your body.
Getting started is simple. (Just be sure to check with your doctor before starting any type of exercise program, especially if you’ve been sedentary for years and are de-conditioned…you will want to start with shorter times.)
HIIT involves short bursts of high intensity exercise followed by short recovery breaks in between. And it doesn’t matter what condition you’re in to start with.
For example, if you’re out of shape just walk briskly or sprint as fast as you can for 30 – 40 seconds. By this time you should be panting for oxygen, but not desperate for it. It’s this respiratory exchange that rids your body of CO2, refreshes your lungs with much-needed oxygen and increases lung volume.
Take a 2 to 4 minute rest interval of easy walking while you catch your breath. Then repeat 4 to 6 times. The idea is to consistently increase intensity and shorten rest time as your lungs (and body) gain strength.
Tabak C, et al. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and intake of catechins, flavonols, and flavones: the MORGEN Study. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2001 Jul 1;164(1):61-4.
Le Marchand L, et al. Intake of flavonoids and lung cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2000 Jan 19;92(2):154-60.
Knekt P, et al. Flavonoid intake and risk of chronic diseases. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Sep;76(3):560-8.
Butland BK, et al. Diet, lung function, and lung function decline in a cohort of 2512 middle aged men. Thorax. 2000 Feb;55(2):102-8.
Diet Rich in Apples and Tomatoes May Help Repair Lungs of Ex-Smokers, Study Suggests. News Release. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dec 2017.