Breathe free: Road to healthy lungs
As the world races to vaccinate its populations and continues to persevere against COVID-19, the discussion on improving the body’s ability to fight off infections or illness can’t be ignored. With people wearing double masks and queueing up for that jab or some of them still trying their luck with the vaccination slots and fretting over missing out on that one injection to freedom, let us take a moment to remind you, that even though it might seem otherwise but you are still in control of your health. The steps you take today will go a long way in keeping you healthy. Apart from washing your hands, avoiding touching your face and staying home, this disease puts lungs into focus and oh! boy do we need to pay attention to our lungs now, more than ever.
“With gradual aging, our lungs start to become less flexible and lose their strength to maintain optimum oxygen levels. One barely takes notice of their lungs, it is important to understand that lungs require daily care just like the rest of the body,” says Celebrity Nutritionist Shweta Gupta, founder of Newbeginnings.
Luke Coutinho, Holistic Lifestyle Coach, feels we do not realise the importance of our breath and lungs unless we are deprived of oxygen or start to suffer from lung issues. He says, “In fact, one of the many things that the current pandemic has taught is the importance of our lungs and respiratory function. Our lungs work for us all the time – while we sleep, are awake, work, and workout and so on. However, what we fail to use, we lose.”
In order to help counteract the build-up of toxins and tar in the lungs caused by environmental pollutants, allergens, dust and cigarette smoke, you need to help your lungs cleanse themselves. And as the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease obstructs respiratory pathways with very thick mucus, it is imperative to have the best offense and that is healthy lungs.
“People are now constantly on the lookout for increasing their respiratory health to combat and sail through the tough times we are living in. Even if not the virus, factors such as pollution, and the harmful environment, damage our respiratory health. For now, it is crucial to safeguard the lungs and shield them from the deadly virus and nature always has the answer to our questions,” says Nikhil Maheshwari, Director of Operations, Maheshwari Pharmaceuticals India Ltd.
“To improve lung capacity, one needs to breathe slowly and completely. Making each breath count. Literally. Start with being aware of how you breathe by counting each inhalation and exhalation. Make it last longer consciously,” starts Anupama Menon, nutritionist and food coach.
Let’s chalk out a few exercises, we bet easy ones to help you improve your lung health and keep this vital organ going strong for life.
1. Diaphragmatic breathing
“Today, most of us are chest breathers which puts our body in a sympathetic state, i.e fight-or-flight response state. Hence, taking deep breaths using our nose and breathing into our diaphragm can be amazing for lung health,” says Yash Vardhan Swami, Health coach.
2. Deep breathing exercises
Niyati Tolani, Clinical Nutritionist and Weight Management Specialist suggests beginning your day with a 20 min deep breathing exercise routine, as it would help strengthen the lungs. She says, “Pranayam, kapalvarti and anulom vilom, are good for overall health. Namita Piparaiya, Yoga and Ayurveda Lifestyle Specialist, Founder - Yoganama, says, “Humming Breath (Bhramari) helps improve oxygen absorption in the body. It additionally also helps in better quality of sleep and can be practiced both in the morning and at night before sleeping.”
3. Balloon Breathing
A simple activity of blowing up the balloons itself turns out to be a powerful exercise for the lungs. Coutinho adds, “It works in intercostal muscles that are responsible for the movement of the diaphragm and rib cage during breathing.The more effective the movement of intercostal muscles, the better is our lung capacity and the ability of the lungs to maintain the oxygen supply to our body. In fact, this exercise is also scientifically proven to boost oxygen saturation levels (SPO2) in our blood.”
4. Eating right
It’s time for us to go back to our roots and follow a lifestyle which helps us build a stronger inner self specially through Ayurveda. Jaivardhan Agarwal, Founder & CEO, Ayurvridhhi, suggests consuming black cumin seeds as they are an elixir for lungs, and are rich in antibacterial and antiviral properties - a cure for every ailment. Dr. Arunesh Kumar, HOD, Paras Chest Institute & Sr. Pulmonologist, Paras Hospital, Gurugram, recommends green tea, “Green tea contains Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a catechin, that is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.” Another herb that reduces the amount of mucus in the respiratory tract is Kantakari. Maheshwari adds, “A medicinal herb known for its antioxidant properties, this herb provides relief in breathing, and can be consumed in the powdered form mixed with honey and water.” Tolani suggests apples, lemons, kiwi, mango, spinach, purple cabbage, berries for maintaining lung health and having a resilient immune system.
5. Taking the vitamins
“When it comes to food, foods that are high in antioxidants like Vit C (amla, citrus foods), curcumin (haldi), lycopene (tomatoes), carotenoids (yellow peppers, spinach, tomatoes, carrots) and anthocyanins (blueberries and red cabbage) can considerably improve lung capacity and functions at multilevels,” adds Menon.