By Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, APNP
It’s hard not to think about our lungs and how we can keep them healthy amidst all the uncertainty of this pandemic. Seeing our economies shut down and a global health crisis is something almost none of us have had to contend with at this level in our lives.
Best Practices For Lung Health
Understanding what you can do to help your lungs function at their best will help you in more ways than one so we are sharing some top tips you can do at home.
1. Practice Deep Breathing
Did you know that we normally only use about 50 percent of our lung capacity? Increasing the involvement of your entire lungs can help keep them healthy.
How Breath Works
Let’s take a moment to really examine how our breath works – and how we can improve it. When you take a deep breath, your diaphragm, muscles and lungs work in harmony to draw in oxygen. When you exhale, you expel carbon dioxide. You’ve probably noticed that taking deeper breaths has a different effect on your body than taking short, shallow breaths. You may also notice that stress tends to make your breathing more shallow and that taking deep breaths can be relaxing.
Involve The Whole Lung
Deeper breaths require greater involvement from more parts of your lungs. That means that the lower sections (where mucus can tend to collect) are activated and mucus is dislodged. Deep breathing has shown to be an effective way to support good lung function for patients with asthma and other respiratory disorders.
What exactly does deep breathing mean? Try paying attention to the role your diaphragm plays as you inhale and exhale. It might help if you place a hand on your rib cage or at the top of your belly. You should feel your diaphragm rise as you inhale, and lower as you exhale. That simple awareness can help you to consciously expand your lungs.
Maintaining good posture with a straight spine will also help you do this – you want to give your ribs space to expand. As well, count slowly with each breath. It should take just as long to exhale as it does to inhale.
As an added bonus, this breathing exercise can help you to relax – and we all need more of that right now. Deep breathing can lower the production of stress hormones such as cortisol.
Moving your body requires effort, oxygen, and therefore deeper breaths, which can improve your lung capacity as well as supporting your physical health. Do whatever exercise feels good to you while, of course, ensuring that you are still practicing appropriate social distancing.
Interval Training For Lung Health
Some evidence suggests that interval training can be a particularly good way to boost lung function because alternating periods of exercise with periods of rest can help your lungs recover from the exertion as you continue to work out. As always, listen to your body.
3. Stay Hydrated
Drinking enough water can help thin the mucus in your lungs. As well, proper hydration is necessary for maintaining good health overall so it should always be a priority.
4. Breathe Through Your Nose
Protect Your Lungs From Particles
Those little hairs in your nostrils are there for a reason, they act as filters to keep the air you breathe clean, and they warm the air to minimize the shock to your lungs on a cold day. Breathing through your nose provides a buffer that helps to reduce the amount of extra “cleaning” work your lungs need to carry out.
5. Laugh More
Yes, it seems simple, but laughing truly is a great exercise to work the abdominal muscles, increase lung capacity, and oxygenate the blood. And let’s face it…comedy moments are the best exercise ever!
6. Clean Cleaning
You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating. If you’re not sure which products you should be using to clean your home, focus on not adding toxins into your environment but rather seeking out healthy cleaning supplies.
Natural Cleaning Products
Baking soda, vinegar, and water have always been a tried and true cleaner, and there are plenty of more eco-friendly cleaning products available which use essential oils and natural ingredients. As much as possible, eliminate aerosol sprays and synthetic air fresheners which can be particularly irritating to the lungs.
7. Fresh Air Indoors
As the weather warms up, remember to open up your windows and let the fresh air in. If you live in an area that is busy with traffic, try waiting until night time to freshen up your house. Indoor air filters are another way to ensure the air quality in your home is optimal.
8. If You Smoke, Stop
Having healthy lung function is always important, but now more than ever we need to make sure our lungs and lung capacity are working at peak levels. Research shows that your lung function can start to improve as early as 2 weeks after quitting smoking.
We are living with a lot of uncertainty right now. Taking proactive steps to optimize your health is important and there are many things you can do to help improve your body’s resilience.
Wellness is achieved when the body is able to protect itself against imbalances, breakdowns, and foreign invaders. The human body has evolved powerful defense systems that help it to maintain optimal physical, mental, and emotional states. Our lifestyle, past, and current health issues as well as our ability to manage stress and trauma all play a role in our state of health.
Supporting our body’s innate ability to heal is not a short term solution to a problem but rather a daily plan to stay strong and resilient.
If you are looking for help to get your health optimized and work towards your unique version of resilience and wellbeing, give us a call at 920-339-5252. We are here to help you.
Breathing study on adults with asthma:
Diaphragm breathing and stress: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5455070/
Benefits of deep breathing exercises: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24937500
Hydration and pulmonary problems: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14681718/
Effects of quitting smoking
Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, APNP, is a woman’s hormone expert and the owner of Wise Woman Wellness LLC, an innovative wellness and hormone care center at 1480 Swan Road, De Pere. Mann is the author of the eBook: A Guide to Gluten and Going Gluten Free. She is a board certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner, one of a handful in Wisconsin and less than 1600 worldwide to achieve this distinction. She combines the best of conventional, functional and integrative medicine to help women with female, thyroid and adrenal hormone issues to live healthier, more abundant, joy-filled lives using a blend of compassion, cutting edge science, practical guidance and humor. Contact her at 920-339-5252 or via the Internet at www.wisewomanwellness.com. Attend the introductory seminar, “End Hormone Havoc – Crazy Hormones Cause Fatigue, Weight Gain and Brain Fog and How to Fix Them!”, now offered VIRTUALLY monthly, to learn about specialized thyroid, adrenal and female hormone testing and customized, bioidentical hormone treatments to achieve lifelong optimal hormone balance, increased vitality and longevity.