How to Have Healthy Lungs
Healthy lung function is crucial to your very survival. Your lungs are a vital organ. If they are inflamed, filled with fluid, damaged or scarred your ability to absorb life-giving oxygen is impaired. When they are working fine, it’s easy to take your lungs for granted. Breathing is governed by your autonomic nervous system. This is the portion of your nervous system that runs on auto-pilot without you having to think about it, just like your heart.
Lung Anatomy and Function
Your lungs are pyramid-shaped organs that are located in your chest on the right and left side. In the front of your body, they extend from just above your collarbone at the top to about the sixth rib down. In your back, your lungs end around your tenth rib. They are connected to your windpipe or trachea by tubes called bronchi. You can envision the tubes for your lungs like an upside-down tree, the trachea is the trunk of the tree, that then divides into two branches or bronchi, which then divide into smaller branches or bronchioles.
On the bottom, your lungs are bordered by your diaphragm. The diaphragm is a flat, dome-shaped muscle that helps you breathe. Your right lung is shorter and wider than your left lung and is greater in volume.
Each lung is made up of smaller units called lobes with space between the lobes. The right lung consists of three lobes, while the left lung only has two lobes. Lobes are then divided into segments. Each segment receives air from its own tube or bronchus and gets blood from its own artery. Some lung diseases affect one or more of these segments. In some cases, the diseased segments can be surgically removed with little influence on neighboring segments.
As mentioned, the bronchi branch into the smaller branches or bronchioles. At the end of the smallest bronchioles are air sacs that are called alveoli. This is where CO2 or carbon dioxide, that is a waste product of your metabolism, gets exchanged for O2 or oxygen that is in the air we breathe.
In addition to exchanging CO2 for O2, your lungs also:
- Manage the pH of your blood by increasing or decreasing the amount of CO2 in the body
- Filter out small gas bubbles that may occur in your bloodstream and
- Help control your blood pressure through the conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II.
Best Practices For Lung Health
Understanding what you can do to help your lungs function at their best helps you in more ways than one. Here are some top lung 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? Involving your entire lungs when you breathe keeps them healthy.
How You Breathe
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, chest 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 helps you to relax.
Breathe With Your Whole Lung
Deeper breaths require greater involvement from more parts of your lungs. That means that the lower sections (where mucus tends to collect) are activated and mucus is dislodged. Deep breathing is 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 at the top of your belly. You should feel your belly expand as you inhale, and contract as you exhale. That simple awareness helps you to be more conscious of expanding your lungs.
Maintaining good posture with your shoulders back, chest open and a straight back gives your ribs the space to expand. As well, count slowly with each breath. Inhales and exhales should be equal counts.
As an added bonus, this breathing exercise relaxes you – and we all need more of that right now. Deep breathing lowers the production of stress hormones such as cortisol.
2. Stay Hydrated
Drinking enough water thins the mucus in your lungs. As well, proper hydration is necessary for maintaining good health overall so it should always be a priority.
Exercise requires effort, oxygen and therefore deeper breaths. This also works your chest muscles and diaphragm in addition to supporting your physical health. Do whatever exercise feels good to you and that you enjoy so that you’ll stick to it.
HIIT Workouts For Lung Health
Some evidence suggests that interval training is a particularly good way to boost lung function. Alternating periods of intense exercise with periods of rest helps your lungs recover from the exertion as you continue to work out. As always, listen to your body and only do what works for you.
4. Use Your Nose to Breathe
Protect Your Lungs From Particulate Matter
Those little hairs in your nostrils, called nares, are there for a reason. They act as filters to keep the air you breathe clean. They also warm the air to minimize the shock to your lungs on a cold day. Breathing through your nose provides a buffer which helps to reduce the amount of extra “cleaning” work your lungs need to carry out.
5. Clean Up Your 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 keeping them clean by seeking out the healthiest cleaning supplies that have only natural ingredients.
Natural Cleaning Products
Baking soda, vinegar and water are tried and true cleaners. There are plenty of eco-friendly cleaning products available that use essential oils and natural ingredients. As much as possible, eliminate aerosol sprays and synthetic air fresheners which can be particularly irritating to your lungs.
6. Laugh More
Yes, it seems simple, but laughing truly is a great exercise to work your abdominal muscles, increase your lung capacity and oxygenate your blood. And let’s face it, comedic moments are the best medicine ever!
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. Particulate matter in city air create lung inflammation for some people.
8. If You Smoke, Stop, We Can Help
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 starts 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. There are many things that you can do to help improve your body’s resilience.
Wellness is achieved when your 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 416-481-0222 we are here to help you. Our team is offering virtual services at the present time. You can work virtually with a chiropractor, psychotherapist, dietitian, or naturopathic doctor.
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