14 Foods for Healthy Lungs and Improved Breathing

Monday, April 7, 2014 @ 03:04 PM Charlie Pulsipher
14 Foods for Healthy Lungs and Improved Breathing 3.31/5 (66.29%) 286 votes

The lungs are essential for human life. They work almost tirelessly, pulling in air and dumping out what can’t be used over and over, day and night. Breathing brings in oxygen and expels carbon dioxide, a waste product of metabolism. Breathing is also essential to our ability to talk and sing.

girl_sit_ups_crunches_forest_picThe lungs are made of hundreds of thousands of branching tubes that end in tiny air sacs, or alveoli. There are over three hundred million of these tiny sacs in our lungs, offering roughly the surface area of a tennis court to keep up with the respiratory demands of the body. The membranes of these tiny air sacs are also thinner than tissue paper to maximize the exchange of gases.

Our lungs make up a large part of our immune system. Pollutants and infection-causing microbes are captured by mucus in the lungs and shuttled upward by tiny cilia for us to cough out or swallow. Sneezes are another way the lungs help rid us of infection or pollution, often before these invaders even pass beyond the sinuses.

The lungs are remarkable. They should be cared for. First and foremost, do not smoke. Smoking destroys the cilia that help remove infection and pollutants, resulting in clogged airways. Also avoid pollutants both indoors and out. This isn’t always possible, but you can do your part by driving less, using less electricity, using electrical stoves, and limiting exposure. Wear a respirator when painting or doing any hobbies that include dust or industrial gases.

Exercise is also important. It doesn’t necessarily strengthen the lungs as they rely on the diaphragm muscle, but any improvement of the cardiovascular system makes the job of the lungs easier. Do something active for 30 minutes each day to lighten the load on your lungs and increase the efficiency of oxygen transportation and metabolism. These 30 minutes can even be broken up throughout the day. Park further from the grocery store, take the stairs, get up from your desk and walk around the building, do some jumping jacks, walk your neighborhood, or even run in place for a bit. Anything is better than staying on the couch.

glass_ice_water_lemon_picWhat we eat may not directly affect the lungs, but our food indirectly touches them through the cardiovascular system and by providing antioxidant protection. A high fat diet has also been linked to a higher risk of developing lung cancer. On the other hand, eating fruits has been shown to lower these risks. Eating well goes hand in hand with exercise in keeping your lungs clear, healthy, and not overburdened. Fresh, raw foods are the best way to get the enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that will keep you breathing easy.

Water – Water plays a huge role in health and is the base of any cleansing action. Pure, clean water is essential to keeping blood flowing to and from the lungs. It also keeps our lungs hydrated and the mucus flowing. It may sound disgusting, but that mucus is important and needs to be the right consistency for the cilia to move it—along with toxins, microbes, and pollutants—out.

Garlic and Onions – These pungent foods are great for the heart and thus the lungs too. They reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and fight infection.

Ginger – This spice has anti-inflammatory properties and promotes the elimination of pollutants from the lungs.

Chili Peppers – Peppers are filled with capsaicin, the spicy compound that gives them their bite. Capsaicin improves blood flow, stimulates mucus membranes, and fights infection.

purple_cabbage_picCruciferous Vegetables – Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and kale have been shown to halt the progression of lung cancer and cut the risk of developing lung cancer in half. They are rich in chlorophyll that cleans and builds blood, and full of some very effective antioxidants.

Pomegranates – Pomegranate juice slows the growth of lung tumors. Pomegranates contain many antioxidants including ellagic acid, which is gaining strides in cancer research.

Turmeric – This spice is related to ginger with many of the same benefits. It also contains curcumin, a compound that encourages the self-destruction of cancer cells.

Apples – Flavonoids, vitamin E, and vitamin C all help the lungs function at their best. Apples are rich in all of these and those who eat several a week have healthier lungs.

Grapefruit – Naringin, a flavonoid in grapefruit, inhibits the activation of a cancer causing enzyme. White grapefruit contains a high amount of this flavonoid, though pink grapefruit has some too along with the antioxidant lycopene. Grapefruit is especially good at cleansing the lungs after quitting smoking.

mixed_nuts_imageBeans, Seeds, and Nuts – These all contain rich amounts of magnesium, a mineral that contributes to healthy lung function. They also provide essential fatty acids that are good for the cardiovascular system.

Carrots – These roots are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and lycopene, all antioxidants that affect lung health and lower the chances of developing lung disease.

Oranges – Citrus is rich in vitamin C and vitamin B6. These help the lungs transfer oxygen.

Pumpkin – Pumpkin is another food rich in beta carotene and vitamin C, like carrots.

Red Bell Pepper – These mild peppers are rich in vitamin C and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids have been shown to cut the risks of developing lung cancer.

Charlie Pulsipher

About Charlie Pulsipher

Charlie Pulsipher is a health and fitness enthusiast, writer, author, and neighborhood do-gooder. He shifted his education from Biochemistry to English Literature in an attempt to avoid math, but never stopped loving the natural world of the miniscule. He has published several fantasy and science fiction novels and helped others publish more down to earth books about natural foods. He can’t stop writing. He is probably happily tapping away on some keyboard even now.

43 Responses to “14 Foods for Healthy Lungs and Improved Breathing”

  1. Steven says:

    My dog has blasto in her lungs, i am going to try some of these foods after i see which is safe for dogs.

    • Charlie Pulsipher Charlie Pulsipher says:

      Always a good idea to verify what dogs can have, Steven. I’m so sorry your little friend is suffering. I also suggest you try coconut oil. It’s very good for a dog’s skin and coat, but also has some anti-fungal properties that might help. Good luck!

      • Marta Young says:

        Pumpkin and broccoli will be fine for your dog, but again in moderation as too much fibre can cause digestive distress (which will leave you cleaning up green and orange mess). Onions are definately a no-no and only small amounts of garlic. Chili peppers tend to be aversive to dogs, so I wouldn’t try feeding these at all. Nuts in very small quantities as, again, may cause digestive distress. As Charlie says above, depending on the size of your dog, a teaspoon to tablespoon of coconut oil in your dogs food or kong every day will do no harm.

    • Joe says:

      Hi Steven,

      I started preparing our dogs food at home – I’ve seen many improvements, so I suggest you start if you haven’t already.

      Out of the list garlic, onions (and leeks etc) are not good for dogs as they have a chemical that damages the blood. It happens slowly though, so a little here and there is no problem. Garlic has much less, so I do add that to the food (superfood for the lungs and anti cancer), but you have to watch the quantity – google for some recomendations.

      Pomegranite can irritate some dogs stomachs and make them vomit – the same with anything spicy such as chilli peppers.

      Beans have to be very well cooked, but can be a good source of protein.

      Seeds and nuts make great snacks in moderation.

      And probably the star of the show is turmeric. Many dogs owners give this to their dogs with amazing results, especially against lumps – benign and malignant. Again, Google for the correct quantities, and also have a look on Earth Clinic.

      There are many recommendations for homemade dog food on the net – most of which contradicting! Suffice to say that dogs are not obligate carnivores like cats and do not need meat at every meal. Meat bases are a good idea, but phytochemicals are also important. I tend to make a stew with meat and veg, with herbs and turmeric thrown in as well. I avoid high glycemic foods, but they do well on a bit of rice with it as they’re active. Research well before you try anything!

      Good luck!

      • Charlie Pulsipher Charlie Pulsipher says:

        Wow, thank you so very much for this thorough look at all the foods and tailoring them for dogs, Joe!

    • Kaie Jones says:

      Consult your vet, first. Onions and garlic are toxic to dogs, as are grapes and chocolate. People have different chemistry from our canine family members.

    • Mary says:

      Do not under any circumstances feed your dog broccoli, it will cause renal failure and is toxic to dogs. Also do not feed onion, garlic, rhubarb, nuts, chocolate to name a few.

  2. dot says:

    Great article.

  3. val says:

    IS organic extra virgin coconut oil bad for lungs

    • Charlie Pulsipher Charlie Pulsipher says:

      Not that I know of, Val. It reduces inflammation so I’d expect it to be good for the lungs, as long as you aren’t inhaling it. I use it to help clear my sinuses fairly often.

      • efarmant says:

        How do you use coconut oil to clear your sinuses?

        • Kathryn M. says:

          You can use coconut oil for oil pulling. You can google for instructions for oil pulling. You essentially have oil in your mouth for a few minutes for mouth health. I do it and it also seems to pull stuff out of my sinuses. I use coconut oil.

        • Charlie Pulsipher Charlie Pulsipher says:

          I swish it around my mouth for several minutes. I have a bad root canal that causes problems with my sinuses. This helps. I have also used a little coconut oil in a neti pot on occasion.

      • Jal says:

        Oils of all kinds will cause lipemia in the blood which makes you feel slow and stodgy. While not affecting the lungs directly like dairy, they’re no bueno in the diet.

        • Charlie Pulsipher Charlie Pulsipher says:

          Coconut oil tend to not do this as much since the medium chain triglycerides are absorbable and usable as they are without having to be altered like most other oils. Still a good idea to go easy on it.

  4. Hi Charlie,
    I was reading your article 14 Foods for Healthy Lungs and improving Breathing I absolutely loved it!
    I think the readers of my iPad magazine would also!
    We are doing the next magazine”s issue and wondering if we could reprint that article and give you credit for it?
    Cheers
    Rosetta Wood
    Paleomagazine.net
    rosettawood123@gmail.com

  5. marlon tomanengMarlon Tomaneng says:

    Super nice article. Thank you for posting.

  6. Glenn Bolger says:

    Too often this info is messed up with the technical, hyperbole or marketing gobbligook. Thank you, concise, clear, short and to the point, the way of a good speech or lecture. Thanks again and hats off to you.

  7. Judy Vance says:

    I Am on oxygen all the time is it true that a person can get off of it and not have to use it any more would like to know what to do to help me with this problem would like to be free from it please let me know what I must do thanks…..Judy Vance

    • Charlie Pulsipher Charlie Pulsipher says:

      You will really have to work closely with your doctor, Judy. Some people can go off oxygen, but it really depends on the underlying disease, your health, your ability to be active, your diet, and so much more.

  8. Skyler says:

    I can not understand why Watercress is not on this list.

    • Charlie Pulsipher Charlie Pulsipher says:

      I had to stop somewhere, but you are very right. Watercress is very good for lung and respiratory health. Thank you for pointing it out, Skyler.

  9. Carolyn G. says:

    Don’t forget cilantro. It’s great at clearing mucus. My lung doctor — originally from India — recommended it.

  10. Prabhjeet singh says:

    I want to know diet for Interstitial lungs disease (ILD) patient. my mother is suffering from this disease. please do reply

    • Charlie Pulsipher Charlie Pulsipher says:

      ILD can be caused by several different things. You will want to work with her doctor to target the specific cause affecting your mother. Many people lose weight with this disease, so make sure she is eating small meals more often, nutrient dense foods that contain natural anti-inflammatories are important. Think ginger, turmeric, coconut oil, leafy greens, and fresh fruits. Exercise is also important, even if it feels impossible. Even just walking a little each day can improve oxygen efficiency. I wish you and your mother luck, Prabhjeet, and hope you and her doctor can do her some good.

  11. ravichandra says:

    My son is suffering from chronic lung disease from his birth.doctors told that problem will solve when he gains weight.but he is now 8.5 kgs at the age of 30 months.and from last 5 months his weight is between 8 and 9 kgs only.please tell us the vegetarian food to grow his lungs and weight.

    • Charlie Pulsipher Charlie Pulsipher says:

      Sorry, ravichandra, this one might be beyond me. You will want to work closely with your doctor to make sure your son isn’t allergic to anything and is getting the calories he needs.

  12. Roschella Caturan says:

    My mother is suffering for blood bleeding and she’s difficult for breathing.we bring her for many doctor’s but we get same answer,they said my mother nothing problem for her lungs..but why like?my mother is still blood bleeding until now..please help us for this case,we really dont know what we do..then she always say her back is pain..hope and i wish u can give me an explanation for my mother’s case.

    • Charlie Pulsipher Charlie Pulsipher says:

      That’s a really tough one, Roschella. I’m not sure how I can help you either if so many doctors can’t find anything wrong. I’m also not entirely sure what is bleeding from your description above. It could be anything from something fairly innocuous like a simple infection or parasites to something more dangerous like broken ribs, lung cancer, or even plasma cell cancer. You need to find a doctor who is willing to dig deeper and figure out what if happening rather than just tell you nothing is wrong. Obviously something is wrong. There are some diets she can follow to rule out parasites or some other causes, but really you need a better doctor. Good luck!

  13. Helen says:

    Dear Charlie,

    Thank you for this article, I find this very helpful. I’m currently on pure veggies and fruits (lettuce, apples, grapes, bananas, cucumber, guavas, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. I get my rice and meat only on weekends. Do you think I am doing the right way? I am very anxious of keeping my lungs healthy as I have this so called bronchiectasis which doctors say is a permanent disorder affecting my lungs.

    Looking forward to your response.

    With best regards,

    Helen

    • Charlie Pulsipher Charlie Pulsipher says:

      You are welcome, Helen. Bronchiectasis is rough, but usually manageable with good diet. Sounds like you are on the right track. You’ll want to keep working with your doctors to make sure it doesn’t progress any further and watch how you feel and any changes in weight, breathing, color of your mucus, and coughing. You’ll want to stick to lean meats and unprocessed grains. Brown rice is better than white. Quinoa, amaranth, and groats could be good grains to add to your life too. Ginger and pineapple should help keep down inflammation, which is one of the root causes of the scarring and airway enlargement you want to avoid. Chia, flax, and purslane are good sources of healthy fats, along with the other seeds you are using. You may want to try a small amount of coconut oil. You should avoid most saturated fats, but coconut oil tends to reduce inflammation and has some antibacterial properties to reduce infection, but you’ll want to test it out slowly, work with your doctor, and make sure it doesn’t cause any problems. I wish you luck, Helen.

      • Helen says:

        Hello Charlie,

        Thank you for your reply. Sorry it took me a bit long to get back to the site. I’m pleased to hear your advice and the additional list of good food for me. Yes, I’m closely watching my mucus and keep my cough syrup always on my side. I also regularly check my weight and make sure am breathing easily. I had my last appointment with my doctor on 10th July and he said my weight, breathing, pulse rate, heart beat are excellent. I told him about my diet and he also approved of this. My next appointment is on 8th January when I will have a regular chest X-ray.

        Thank you for your encouraging reply. Now I can comfortably proceed with my diet and try those you have mentioned.

        More power and best regards,

        Helen

        • Charlie Pulsipher Charlie Pulsipher says:

          I’m glad I could be a small help to you, Helen. Good luck with everything and let us know how it all goes for you. Thank you.

          • Helen says:

            Sure Charlie, will keep you posted. Thanks once again!
            This week I added ginger to my raw mixtures. It tastes great when mixed with the rest.
            Have a lovely day!


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