rose from a barely-discussed subject to a hot topic mere weeks after COVID-19
hit the planet. Which is all good and well but it highlights what we naturopathic doctors have emphasized all along: Respiratory health is vital to wellness, period.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, protection of our vital life energy is handled by our Wei Qi, which is distributed throughout the body by the lungs. Meaning, when your lungs are healthy, you
are healthy and your Wei Qi is strong. Lungs, according to TCM, are also said to have a particularly important connection to our skin and mucous membranes, which means they play a large role in immunity
And yet, many of us don’t pay much attention to our respiratory function, or only do when we experience coughing, wheezing, pain, or another issue. This organ system, however, is one of the most critical organizations in the body. Composed of our airways, lungs, and the muscles and blood vessels connected to them, it delivers oxygen throughout our body and makes everything we do possible.
The lungs also regulate the release of fluids, specifically urine and sweat, and lung Qi works with kidney Qi to ensure fluids in the body don’t accumulate. The respiratory system, when working well, can also supply us with higher energy levels, improved overall health, and even a brighter mood.
With all of this in mind, here are five of the tips for improving respiratory health I give my clients.
5 Respiratory Health Tips
1. Engage in steam therapy
While lungs are a self-cleansing organ, exposures to toxins
—from pollution to smoke—can inflame the lungs and cause a feeling of congestion or heaviness (to say nothing of the diseases that may arrive with ongoing exposure). Steam therapy, in which you inhale water vapor, may help open your airways. What’s more, the warm, moist air helps loosen mucus in the lungs, as well as in the nasal passages and throat—all of which contributes to better breathing.
To do so: Heat water in a kettle or pot until boiling. Carefully pour the water into a large bowl. Drape a towel over the back of your head, close your eyes and slowly lower your head toward the water until you’re seven to 12 inches away from the water. (Take extreme caution to not make direct contact with the water.) Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for two to five minutes—and experience immediate respiratory relief.
2. Boost your Vitamin D intake
We all know that we need the sunshine vitamin for strong bones and balanced moods. If that isn’t enough inspiration to concentrate on increasing your vitamin D consumption
, consider this: Researchers
found an association between low vitamin D levels and chronic lung disease. Additionally, Vitamin D3 has been determined to bolster the physical efficiency of those with respiratory ailments.†
To keep your respiratory system in top shape, make sure you’re getting sufficient vitamin D. This can be accomplished through 10-15 minutes of sunshine, foods that are rich in Vitamin D, such as salmon
, canned tuna, egg yolks, mushrooms and oatmeal
, and/or a quality vitamin D supplement
3. Reduce your chemical burden
Lung damage from household cleaning products? Unfortunately, yes. Ammonia, bleach, VOCs, and phthalates—all common ingredients in household products—have been linked to respiratory illnesses, including asthma.
Purge your home of these items and replace them with homemade cleaning products
or essential oils
. Don’t forget to take a look at your personal care products
, too—many contain petroleum-based chemicals in their fragrances that, when inhaled, can trigger asthma and other damage.
4. Sweat it out
While aerobic exercise can’t necessarily increase lung function, it can improve lung capacity—or the amount of oxygen you take in with each breath. Swimming, running, dancing, vinyasa yoga, barre—all will raise your heart rate and make you breathe harder, which ultimately enriches lung health.
Even better? Consider listening to a funny podcast on your power walk, or watching a stand-up routine while doing core work at home: Laughing works the abdominal muscles, increases lung capacity, and forces stale air out the lungs, thereby letting in fresh air.
5. Look to Mother Earth
Gird your lungs against environmental stress, viruses, and infections by looking to Mother Earth, where a host of lung health-supporting herbs grow.
, for example, acts as a natural antihistamine and helps shield your respiratory system against foreign bodies and allergens.†
Osha Root organically supports relief from congestion, and thyme—yes, that kitchen staple—may help the airways relax, which improves airflow into the lungs. Eucalyptus
(its oil in particular) can help break up congestion, soothe your chest and throat, and potentially impact bacteria that may be aggravating your lungs.†
Or, try out a supplement that includes a bevy of herbs that organically support lung health. Herbal Medicine’s Respiratonic,
for one, contains a blend of Echinacea, licorice root, Yerba Mansa root and ginger root to hydrate lung tissues and support immunity.†
Then, breathe deep, and thank your respiratory system for giving you life.
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.