How to keep your lungs happy

How to keep your lungs happy

by Bianca Castro |

The pandemic has highlighted the need to look after our respiratory health more than ever. But while we all know that stopping smoking, exercising and avoiding breathing in air pollution can help keep our lungs strong, what else do they like — and dislike?

Lungs Loathe: SHALLOW BREATHING

‘Many of us have a habit of shallow, chest breathing,’ says chiropractor Charlie Moult from sourcebreathwork.com. ‘This can lead to shortness of breath over time and weakens the respiratory muscles, especially the diaphragm — a muscle at the base of the lungs which helps you fill and empty them.’

The best way to breathe? Belly-breathing. It increases lung efficiency, allows more oxygen in and more carbon dioxide out. Practise for five minutes a few times a day: sit in a chair, or lie down, with one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Breathe in slowly through your nose, directing your breath towards your tummy. The hand on your chest should stay still, while the one on your belly should rise.

Lungs Love: BERRIES

Blueberries are packed with healthy antioxidants called anthocyanins — these plant pigments give them their deep colour and research suggests might help keep lungs ‘young’ as you age. One study found men who ate two servings of blueberries daily had notably slower rates of decline in lung function than those who ate fewer or no berries.

Lungs Loathe: SLOUCHING

Poor posture — sitting hunched over your desk, or with rounded shoulders as you stand — means your chest tightens and stops your rib cage from expanding to give your lungs enough room to fully inflate. Try to sit and stand straighter, so your chest and ribs are ‘open’. Do ‘wall-angels’ several times a day, suggests Charlie.

He says: ‘Standing with your back against the wall, place your arms out to the side and bend them to right angles. Make sure your pelvis is tucked in and head is back, touching the wall, to open out your chest. Move your arms up and down — like you do to make a snow angel — and feel your chest open out and shoulder blades pinch together.’

Lungs Love: SINGING

According to the British Lung Foundation, certain singing techniques work in a similar way to breathing practices used to manage breathlessness and clear airways in people with lung conditions. For example, singing long notes — which lengthen out breaths — helps empty the lungs of stale air more completely, making it easier to breathe in fresh oxygen. So, belt out a tune to keep lungs as fit as a fiddle!

Lungs Loathe: PROCESSED MEATS

‘Several studies have confirmed an association between frequent intake of processed meats such as sausages and bacon, with risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,’ says Marcela Fiuza, British Dietetic Association spokesperson and registered dietitian — at marcelanutrition.com. ‘Researchers think the effects of nitrate — a preservative used in these meats — may cause lung tissue damage. The healthiest protein sources are fish, beans and legumes so try to eat plenty of those instead.’

Lungs Love: WATER

‘Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can keep mucosal lining in the lungs thin, which helps them function well,’ says Marcela.

Drink six to eight glasses of healthy fluids such as water, lower-fat milks and sugar-free drinks daily. Tea and coffee also count.

Lungs Love: FIBRE

Research suggests plenty of fibre in your diet could help keep your lungs fit. In one study, people who ate the most fibre performed better in breathing tests than those who didn’t eat fibre-rich foods. It’s thought this could be due to the fact that fibre has anti-inflammatory properties — and inflammation is a factor in many lung diseases. To increase your intake, choose whole-wheat pasta and cereals, enjoy baked beans, plenty of vegetables and eat the skin on your baked potato.

Lungs Loathe: DIRTY CARPETS

Carpet fibres hold mould, pet hair, dust mites and dirt. When walked on and released into the air they can irritate your lungs, cause breathing difficulties or trigger asthma attacks. Vacuum carpets a few times a week and steam clean every year.

Lungs Love: PEACE LILIES

Potted plants help clear the air of household toxins such as benzene and formaldehyde, found in synthetic fabrics and paint, meaning you can breathe easier. Peace lilies and rubber plants are especially good at this sort of purification.

Edited by Kim Jones

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