Breathing is one of the most important processes that happens in our bodies. Yet, many of us rarely give it much thought. This simple but complex act is automatic and therefore does not require conscious effort to make it happen. However, for individuals with either acute or chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma or COPD, or infections such as pneumonia or COVID-19, or those impacted by the wildfires out west, breathing is very much on their minds.
With each inhalation, the breath serves to bring oxygen into the body and deliver it to the bloodstream and into every cell in the body. On each exhale, the lungs carry out the waste product, carbon dioxide. But, breathing has many functions beyond the movement of air. The respiratory system also plays an important role in immune health, has its own microbiome, and helps to filter airborne toxins.
Upper (nose and throat) and lower (lung) respiratory health are very much dependent on the quality of the air we breathe and the foods that we eat. Air pollution is a major health risk and it is vital that we do all that we can to reduce our exposure to harmful airborne toxins. In addition, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, practicing healthy lifestyle habits, using functional lab testing, and supplementing with key nutrients are all very effective ways to promote respiratory health and build resilience.
Ways to Protect Your Respiratory Health
- Reduce exposure to toxins in your home
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
- Engage in healthy lifestyle habits
- Order functional lab testing
- Supplement with key nutrients
8 Tips to Reduce Toxins in Your Home
1. Use a home air purifier. A portable air cleaner or high-efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) filter can help to improve indoor air quality by trapping contaminants such as dust, mold spores, dust mites, and other toxins. A HEPA vacuum is also effective at reducing airborne particles.
2. Avoid air fresheners, scented candles, dryer sheets and fabric softeners. These and many other household products contain hundreds of dangerous chemicals that vaporize easily and emit gas pollutants into your home.
3. Cook with stainless steel and cast-iron pans. Avoid using nonstick cookware as their surfaces break down and release toxic particulates.
4. Avoid exposure to smoke. Tobacco smoke contains many cancer-causing chemicals and can cause damage to the body’s organs and systems, and is associated with numerous long-term health consequences.
5. Use natural cleaning products. Many household cleaning products contain harmful chemicals that have been found to contribute to chronic respiratory problems. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a very helpful guide for choosing healthy cleaning products.
6. Fill your home with plants. Houseplants, such as golden pothos, peace lily, and bamboo palm, can help to filtrate and purify air. (If you have pets, choose your houseplants carefully, as some are toxic for dogs and cats.)
7. Check for mold. Dampness creates an environment for mold spores to grow. Exposure to mold can cause respiratory symptoms, as well as a wide range of other health problems. Fixing leaks, allowing fresh air to circulate, and using a dehumidifier can help to reduce the likelihood of mold growth.
8. Dust regularly. Dust and dander that settle in carpets and on surfaces and furniture provide a common respiratory trigger. And, viruses have been found to spread through the air on these microscopic dust particles. Therefore, dusting surfaces, vacuuming and washing bedding often can be very helpful with removing dust particles.
Eat an Anti-Inflammatory DietA healthy diet plays a major role in promoting a strong and healthy respiratory system. A diet rich in a variety of fresh whole foods, and organic when possible, can help protect the body from airborne pollutants. And, bioactive compounds found in nutritious foods support respiratory health by helping to calm inflammation and improve airway function.
Top Anti-inflammatory Foods for Respiratory Health
1. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower have been shown to support detoxification, immune health, and help guard against harmful pathogens.
2. Red onions and apples contain quercetin, an important bioflavonoid that has powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antihistamine, antiviral and antibacterial properties.
3. Dark leafy greens are rich in vitamins A, C, E and K, in addition to many of the B vitamins. They also contain a variety of protective antioxidants to support lung health.
4. Garlic provides sulfur compounds and trace minerals. Research shows that garlic has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antioxidant properties.
5. Fatty fish such as wild caught salmon are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation and support cellular health.
6. Berries such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries provide powerful antioxidants shown to protect lung health.
7. Green tea is rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants and supports detoxification processes.
8. Herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger, oregano, sage, rosemary and thyme support healthy respiratory function and have anti-inflammatory properties.
9. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, miso, tempeh, unsweetened yogurt and kefir support your body’s microbiome health and immune system function.
10. Bone broth is rich in minerals, collagen and amino acids. These nutrients help to reduce inflammation, support immune health, and also benefit GI health.
Engage in Healthy Lifestyle HabitsAdopting healthy lifestyle habits, such as engaging in regular exercise, getting restful sleep, and maintaining a healthy weight, have been shown to increase life expectancy and lower your disease risk. Even small changes can make a big difference in your physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. Here are some of the most beneficial habits that can help to keep your respiratory system functioning at its best.
10 Lifestyle Habits That Support Respiratory Health
1. Regular exercise. Physical activity strengthens the heart, allowing blood to pump to the lungs more efficiently, and oxygen to flow throughout the bloodstream more efficiently. Exercise also helps to improve lung capacity and lung function.
2. Stress management. Prolonged stress can affect every organ and body system. Chronic stress can damage the immune system, increase the risk of heart disease, trigger digestive distress, and worsen respiratory symptoms. Taking steps to manage and reduce your stress level can greatly benefit your health.
3. Avoiding tobacco smoke. Smoking damages the airways and the small air sacs in the lungs. Over time, it can cause not only lung cancer but also lung diseases including emphysema, bronchitis, and chronic airway obstruction.
4. Mindfulness techniques. Deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation and exercises that promote a healthy posture can help to increase chest wall expansion as well as optimal lung function.
5. Spending time in nature. Mental and physical health can be improved simply by spending time in nature, and specifically in a forest. Studies show that being in nature and breathing in fresh air supports immune health and lung health, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and improves attention and focus.
6. Restful sleep. Poor sleep is associated with many health consequences, such as decreased lung function, weakened immune health, obesity, impaired glucose control, increased cardiovascular events, increased anxiety and depression, and lower life expectancy. Habits that encourage a peaceful night’s sleep include sticking with a consistent sleep schedule, creating a restful environment, and removing electronic devices from your bedroom.
7. Maintaining a healthy weight. Excess weight is associated with chronic systemic inflammation and oxidative stress. Obesity is also strongly linked with respiratory symptoms and diseases.
8. Drinking more water. Staying well hydrated helps to keep the mucosal lining in your lungs thin, which helps the lungs to function better.
9. Laughing. It's great exercise for your abdominal muscles and helps to increase lung capacity. It also helps to force more air out, so that fresh air can enter more areas of the lungs.
10. Taking measures to prevent infections. Washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, and wearing a face mask can help to reduce your chances of catching respiratory infections.
Order Functional Lab TestingComprehensive lab panels allow you to dig deeper into your health and can provide you with important insights. For example, you can learn about your inflammatory state, nutrient levels, toxin levels, as well as health risks.
2 Key Functional Lab Panels
2. Organic Acid Test – analyzes over 70 biomarkers in a non-invasive, at-home urine test. This test provides an accurate evaluation of yeast and bacterial overgrowth, vitamin and antioxidant levels, fatty acid metabolism, neurotransmitter levels, oxalate levels, mitochondrial function, oxidative stress and detoxification.
Supplement With Key NutrientsVitamins, minerals, antioxidants and herbs can offer important support for respiratory health. Taking a high-quality multivitamin that provides a comprehensive array of nutrients is highly recommended. In addition, taking vitamin D3, omega-3s and a probiotic supplement all provide extremely important foundational support. Taking targeted nutrients and herbs can benefit respiratory health in many ways. For example, they can boost immune health, provide antioxidant protection, manage inflammation, help fight infections, and support respiratory mucosal health. To best support and strengthen your respiratory system, we highly recommend the following three supplements.
1. Allergy Support Plus – contains a powerful blend of essential nutrients for respiratory protection. Key ingredients include vitamin C, zinc, quercetin, turmeric, nettle, NAC, plus many other synergistic nutrients. This highly effective formula protects against allergens and helps manage inflammation. Take 1 capsule 2-3 times daily, preferably between meals.
2. S-Acetyl Glutathione – provides a bioavailable and stable form of the body’s most important antioxidant, glutathione. This protective “master” antioxidant protects cells from oxidative stress, supports immune function, assists in detoxification and has antiviral properties. Take 2 capsules daily.
3. Resveratrol Plus– benefits respiratory and cardiovascular health via its antioxidant, anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties. Also included in this formula is grape seed extract, another potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory plant compound. Take 1 capsule 1-2 times daily.
Comprehensive Support for Respiratory Health
Reducing your exposure to toxins in your home, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, engaging in healthy lifestyle habits, using lab testing, and taking nutritional supplements all work together to promote and maintain optimal respiratory health. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t tackle everything at once! Take small steps to make healthy changes in your life, and you will be rewarded over time.
If you’d like further information, Village Green Apothecary’s team of nutrition experts is here to answer your health questions and provide you with personalized guidance. Feel free to call us, send us an email, come in and visit, or schedule an appointment to receive one-on-one support.