The lungs are a critical part of your body’s organ system. They are the mechanisms by which you consume your body’s most basic and necessary product, oxygen, and the lungs are constantly working to accomplish this task. Simultaneously, they require and are supported by a variety of vitamins and nutrients that allow them to work properly and efficiently, or “smoothly.”
On the flip side, hereditary traits and lifestyle factors can contribute to lung deficiencies, most notably chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “COPD refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. It includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.” These conditions are not uncommon. While emphysema is a form of lung damage that can be catalyzed by genetic factors, per drweil.com, COPD is often brought about or catalyzed by factors in one’s lifestyle or environment, namely cigarette smoking. For those who have lung damage or are diagnosed with COPD, the right nutrients, foods, and supplements can help mitigate the harm of these conditions and improve longevity of lung function.
While, some of the items in this list are described as having “preventative” benefits in medical research and others are described as “lessening symptoms” of COPD, we consider all of them together, as they all contribute to good lung functioning.
Food for Healthy Lungs
While conditions such as COPD can potentially be managed with the right nutrients and supplements, it is important to take measures to prevent lung damage from occurring in the first place. A proper diet contributes to a general lung functioning. A 2019 study sponsored by the University of Genoa, per National Institutes for Health (NIH), explored how food and eating patterns can contribute to the occurrence of COPD. Some general recommendations discussed in the study are:
- Plant-based, unprocessed foods: Foods with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties might decrease the risk for this disorder if they are consumed as part of a balanced diet. These foods include green vegetables, fruits, and wholegrains. Regular consumption of these foods, and avoidance of processed sweets and grains, is correlated with increased lung function and lower incidence of COPD.
- Fish: Fish such as salmon are not only tasty but also high in Omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory processes, including in individuals with COPD. Other foods such as seeds, nuts, and fish oil supplements also contain Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Herbal tea: According to medicalnewstoday.com, herbal tea is used in some parts of the world as a preventative measure against COPD. However, you must drink herbal tea very frequently, about twice a day, to attain this benefit. Considering the cheap price and calming effects of tea, this is an easy and even relaxing lifestyle component that might lower the risk for COPD. Some popular herbal tea options are green tea, mint tea, and chamomile tea.
Vitamins and Supplements
If you are at risk, or think you might be at risk, for COPD due to regular smoking, exposure to pollution, or other factors, taking supplemental measures to mitigate the potential symptoms and damage to your lungs makes sense. Hence, supplements. If you are diagnosed with COPD, then these supplements are essential if you want to preserve lung health.
- Vitamin A: A 2009 study by scientists in Japan, per NIH, suggested that individuals consuming a high amount Vitamin A, a vitamin known for its antioxidant properties, were at lower risk for COPD. The difference in risk was a significant 52 percent.
- Vitamin E: When individuals with stable COPD (no flare-ups of symptoms) and those who experienced flare-ups were studied by scientists in the Netherlands in 2009, those experiencing flare-ups had significantly lower levels of Vitamin E than those who were stable. Vitamin E may be crucial for mitigating the effects of COPD.
- NAC (N-Acetylcysteine): Per webmd.com, “NAC is an antioxidant supplement that has shown promise in some studies but not in others.” Some of the studies done with NAC have shown that NAC might reduce the occurrence of cough and the buildup of mucus and other products in the lungs of individuals with COPD and mild impairment of lung function. NAC can be found in pill form along with other supplements on this list.
- Calcium: This essential nutrient is helpful to many functions in the human body, including the lungs. Per medicalnewstoday.com, it can be specifically helpful to individuals with COPD, as they might lose calcium due to side effects of medication for COPD.
While COPD is a widespread condition with no known cure, it is manageable for many sufferers via proper diet and supplementation. A plant-based and Omega-3 rich diet without processed foods and sweets is a positive lifestyle change for those at risk or diagnosed with COPD. Additionally, the right supplements can help to lessen the risk and symptoms of COPD. Although there are supplements for Omega-3 fatty acids on the market, it is recommended that a wholesome diet and the right supplements be used in tandem to combat the risks and symptoms of COPD, and increase the longevity and consistency of smooth lung functioning.