The foods your lungs need to be healthy

Your breathing and lung health may depend on eating the right foods.

That really shouldn’t be surprising. Food is one of the four essentials of life, along with water, sleep and oxygen. Not only is food necessary to live, but it directly affects your health.

Eating a diet rich in natural whole foods, as close to their original form as possible, is one of the best ways to give your body the best nutrients. And while researchers haven’t drawn a direct correlation between food and lung health, studies show that four foods in particular can help alleviate the negative effects of chronic lung diseases.

Chronic Lung Problems

Persistent, ongoing disorders of the lungs are referred to as chronic lung disease (CLD). These disorders include asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and cystic fibrosis. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are collectively known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is generally caused by secondhand smoke or environmental and industrial pollutants. COPD affects 24 million Americans and more than 210 million people worldwide.

COPD Symptoms

The main difficulties associated with COPD are heavy wheezing and coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightening. Many people with COPD experience a morning cough, and the condition typically worsens during and winter and spring.

But I have witnessed many COPD sufferers cough throughout the day and in all seasons. The cough is accompanied by a fair degree of expectorated mucus or sputum that is often brown in the morning but becomes clear later in the day.

COPD is a serious condition. If you suspect you may have it, consult with your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Many of the signs and symptoms of COPD get more problematic over time and can impair your blood oxygen levels.

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Lifestyle Adjustments

As is true for many health conditions, simple modifications in lifestyle can relieve some COPD problems.

Most importantly, if you live or work in a toxic environment, try your best to eliminate your toxic exposure. Pollution from factories, automobiles, gas stations, asbestos and secondhand smoke can produce a continuously negative effect on your health, even when you don’t suffer COPD.

Giving your lungs a break from long-distance walking or running, heavy lifting and stair climbing can also provide some relief. You may have to do less walking. Instead, when you can, ride in an automobile, coast on a bike and use elevators or escalators.

Traditional Chinese herbs that have been researched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and found useful in treating COPD include:

  • Tao Ren,
  • Sie Cao,
  • Wei Ling Sian,
  • Gan Cao,
  • Jhih Mu, Dang Guei,
  • Sheng Di Huang and
  • Mu Tong.

These botanicals are included in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) herbal formulas. They work best in traditional combinations and when they are applied for a TCM-recognized pattern, as discerned by a TCM practitioner.

Four Foods That Help COPD

Research presented at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Thoracic Society and published in the journal Respiratory and Critical Care found four specific foods that had a direct positive effect on relieving symptoms associated with COPD.

Dr. Corrine Hanson, lead author of the study, says: “Diet is a potentially modifiable risk factor in the development and progression of many diseases, and there is evidence that diet plays a role in both the development and clinical factors of COPD.”

Specifically, fresh bananas, grapefruit, fish and small amounts of cheese proved effective against chronic lung disease when compared with COPD sufferers who did not consume these foods.

Study participants reported better lung functioning and fewer symptoms after beginning to consume these four foods. The researchers think that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of bananas, grapefruit, fish and small portions of cheese were the properties that helped the patients.

Interestingly, cheese and all dairy are often contraindicated in lung disease because of their mucus-forming nature. Dairy forms mucus, which can obstruct the lungs further. It also creates an internal environment suitable for bacteria. However, according to the study, eating dairy in small amounts may relieve symptoms.

Environmental Challenges

Overall, like many diseases, COPD and chronic diseases of the lungs are largely associated with your environment. Smoking, pollutants and industrial toxins usually play a major role in causing chronic lung diseases. Don’t forget: Changing your home environment and workplace toxic exposure while adjusting your diet and lifestyle can be a big help. Those shifts may reduce your symptoms, improve your quality of life and keep you safe from these types of diseases.


Dr. Mark Wiley

By Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. Dr. Wiley has written 14 books and more than 500 articles. He serves on the Health Advisory Boards of several wellness centers and associations while focusing his attention on helping people achieve healthy and balanced lives through his work with Easy Health Options® and his company, Tambuli Media.