Every time we take a breath, which amounts to about six million times a year, our lungs are involved. Their most important function is to extract oxygen from the environment and transfer it to our bloodstream. No wonder the lungs are high on our list of health priorities, and why we should take care to keep them clean and healthy.
The lungs have no musculature of their own – when it comes to breathing, they depend on the muscles of the diaphragm (which is attached) as well as the intercostal muscles located between the ribs and the muscles of the abdomen and the neck, per medicalnewstoday.com. As the lungs expand, they suck in air, and when they compress, carbon dioxide is pushed back out as waste.
Lungs Are For More Than Just Breathing
Respiration is not the only function of the lungs, which are somewhat cone-shaped and located in the chest, right below the rib cage on either side of the heart. Here are some of their other roles, keeping in mind that lung disease is one of the leading causes of death in America, accounting for about one in every seven deaths, per livestrong.com:
- Regulate blood pressure.
- Maintain pH balance. The lungs can detect an increase of acidity in the body when caused by a rise in carbon dioxide levels, at which time the lungs boost their rate of ventilation to get rid of more of the unwanted gas.
- Filter blood. They can filter small blood clots and remove small air embolisms.
- Protect the heart. When some types of collisions to our bodies occur, the lungs can absorb some or all the shock that targets the heart.
- Infection protection. Some of the lungs’ membranes secrete a substance known as immunoglobulin A, which can prevent some lung infections.
- Blood reservoir. Per medicalnewstoday.com, the lungs have the capacity to deviate the amount of blood inside of them at any given moment, a characteristic that allows them to move more blood to the rest of the body in the event of a life-endangering hemorrhage.
- Our ability to speak. Without airflow, we would really be at a loss for words – literally.
Vitamins and Supplements for Healthy Lung Function
Numerous supplements and vitamins work well to benefit respiratory and lung health. Here are some of them, keeping in mind that a consultation with your physician is in order before you dive into any of these on your own:
- Vitamin D. Lower than normal blood levels of vitamin D have been linked to a greater risk of infections as well as conditions such as cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and interstitial lung disease, per livestrong.com.
- Vitamin E. But not just any vitamin E – you want it in the form of alpha-tocopherol, which is contained in sunflowers and olive oils, and is supposed to help improve lung function, per livestrong.com.
- Elecampane. Has been used for a long time by native Americans as a means to expel excess mucous that is obstructing lung function, per collective-evolution.com. It is viewed as a natural antibacterial agent benefitting the lungs by reducing the chances for infections such as bronchitis.
- Eucalyptus. A common ingredient found in cough syrups and lozenges, this compound native to Australia is better than shrimp on the barbie when it comes to promoting respiratory health and soothing irritated throats.
- Licorice root. A soothing herb that softens the mucous membranes of the throat, lungs, and stomach. It can reduce irritation in the throat, and it also works as an expectorant.
- Lungwort. It’s a type of plant said to resemble lung tissue and has been used in a manner conducive to lung and respiratory health, per globalhealingcenter.com.
- Oregano. Among the compounds it contains are carvacrol and rosmarinic acid, which are natural decongestants also known to be effective fighters against histamine, thus aiding in clearing up respiration and the nasal passages, per globalhealingcenter.com.
- Osha root. This is an herb that can be found in the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S. and has long been notable for its ability to support respiration. It also helps boost circulation in the lungs, which allows us to take deep breaths.
- Sage. Also known as salvia officinalis, its variety of oils possess aromatic properties that, as vapors, can treat some lung disorders and sinusitis.
- Thyme. Used often to prevent or treat respiratory tract infections and bacterial infection pneumonia, per collective-evolution.com.