Strengthen Your Lungs to Improve Your Respiratory Health

It’s hard not to think about our lungs and how we can keep them healthy amidst all the uncertainty of this pandemic. Seeing our economies shut down and a global health crisis is something almost none of us have had to contend with at this level in our lives.

Best Practices For Lung Health

Understanding what you can do to help your lungs function at their best will help you in more ways than one so we are sharing some top 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? Increasing the involvement of your entire lungs can help keep them healthy.

How Breathing Works
Let’s take a moment to really examine how our breathing works – and how we can improve it. When you take a deep breath, your diaphragm, 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 can be relaxing.

Involve The Whole Lung
Deeper breaths require greater involvement from more parts of your lungs. That means that the lower sections (where mucus can tend to collect) are activated and mucus is dislodged. Deep breathing has shown to be an effective way to support good lung function for patients with asthma and other respiratory disorders.

Diaphragmatic Breathing
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 on your rib cage or at the top of your belly. You should feel your diaphragm rise as you inhale, and lower as you exhale. That simple awareness can help you to consciously expand your lungs.

Maintaining good posture with a straight spine will also help you do this – you want to give your ribs space to expand. As well, count slowly with each breath. It should take just as long to exhale as it does to inhale.

As an added bonus, this breathing exercise can help you to relax – and we all need more of that right now. Deep breathing can lower the production of stress hormones such as cortisol.

2. Exercise

Moving your body requires effort, oxygen and therefore deeper breaths, which can improve your lung capacity as well as supporting your physical health. Do whatever exercise feels good to you while, of course, ensuring that you are still practising appropriate social distancing.

Interval Training For Lung Health
Some evidence suggests that interval training can be a particularly good way to boost lung function, because alternating periods of exercise with periods of rest can help your lungs recover from the exertion as you continue to work out. As always, listen to your body.

3. Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough water can help thin the mucus in your lungs. As well, proper hydration is necessary for maintaining good health overall so it should always be a priority.

4. Breathe Through Your Nose

Protect Your Lungs From Particles
Those little hairs in your nostrils are there for a reason, they act as filters to keep the air you breathe clean, and they 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. Laugh More

Yes, it seems simple, but laughing truly is a great exercise to work the abdominal muscles, increase lung capacity and oxygenate the blood. And let’s face it…comedy moments are the best exercise ever!

6. Clean 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 not adding toxins into your environment but rather seeking out healthy cleaning supplies.

Natural Cleaning Products
Baking soda, vinegar and water have always been a tried and true cleaner, and there are plenty of more eco-friendly cleaning products available which use essential oils and natural ingredients. As much as possible, eliminate aerosol sprays and synthetic air fresheners which can be particularly irritating to the lungs.

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.

8. If You Smoke, Stop

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 can start 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 and there are many things you can do to help improve your body’s resilience.

Wellness is achieved when the 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 416-234-1888. We are here to help you.

References
Breathing study on adults with asthma: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32212422

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/

Exercise and coronavirus: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200331162314.htm

Smoking and COVID-19: https://www.livescience.com/coronavirus-covid-19-risk-and-smoking.html

Effects of quitting smoking: https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/benefits-of-quitting-smoking-over-time.html

Quarantine Cuisine: Eating to Stay Healthy in Isolation

Let’s start with the good news: If you’re self-isolating, you should have more time to devote to creating a healthy diet for yourself. At least, that’s the fantasy that many of us started out with a few weeks ago. However, terms like the “quarantine 15” and “isolation constipation” are starting to appear on social media.

It turns out that eating healthily and avoiding overindulging during a pandemic isn’t always easy, even if we have the best intentions.

How Emotions Affect Food Choices

Perhaps the biggest challenge is that we’re all human. It’s perfectly normal to be feeling a wide range of emotions right now, from hope to boredom, uncertainty to terror and even contentment – sometimes all within the same hour!

Many people turn to food when they’re stressed, whereas others can’t seem to stomach a bite when upset. All of these are perfectly normal reactions to a very unique situation.

The Role Of Cortisol In Comfort Eating

On the surface, it may seem that your motivation to dive into a plate of freshly baked cookies is that they are one of life’s few remaining pleasures.

But there are innate physiological reasons we reach for sweets when we’re stressed. When the body senses that it’s under threat, it releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. And cortisol has been tied to an increase in appetite. Some studies have found that the hormonal cycle (aka sugar high and sugar crash) created when we turn to sweets is actually addictive.

Sweet Seduction

On top of that, many people are turning to baking, both to avoid going to the grocery store and to stay busy. And if you’ve recently drooled over a photo of a friend’s perfect loaf of freshly baked bread you know that the seductive power of social media may also play a role.

Uneven Purchasing

In addition, having to limit our trips to the store can lead to an abundance of non-perishable foods like pasta in the cupboard, in contrast with a shortage of fresh produce in the fridge.

7 Ways To Avoid The “Quarantine Fifteen”

So, what’s a socially isolating person to eat in order to stay healthy? The most important thing is that you take it easy on yourself. Being overly self-critical can escalate the cycle of stress and overeating. Always keep in mind that we’re living through unprecedented developments. There is no “right” way to deal with these changes.

1 – Be Conscious Of Why You Are Grazing
It’s also useful to examine the causes behind any overeating. Do you walk through the kitchen every time you’re bored? Eat chips during your Netflix binge nights?

2 – Practice Mindfulness
Some interesting studies have found that developing a mindfulness practise through yoga or meditation can lead to better food choices. With its positive effect on overall wellbeing, there has never been a better time to take up mindfulness. One unexpected result could be healthier eating habits.

3 – Develop Soul-Nurturing Activities
Delving into activities that give you a sense of satisfaction can help replace the sense of boredom and want that leads to overeating. Look into rewarding pastimes such as fixing things in your home that have been on your to-do list, decluttering that long-ignored hidden shelf, sewing, knitting, felting, teaching your pet a new trick, or even building a raised planter to grow a unique mix of salad greens in the smallest of sunny spots.

Feed the need with self-pride instead of cookies.

4 – Shop Smart
Of course, you can’t eat food that isn’t in the house. So being more mindful of what you buy in the store or order online is also important. If you’re finding it difficult to stay stocked up on fresh produce, investigate produce delivery services in your area.

5 – Vary Your Sources
Local organic farms are a good place to source regular veggie boxes, or if those are not available look into new produce services that many local restaurants are running as a way to stay afloat. If you manage to stagger your shopping from different sources, you can improve your odds of having fresh produce when you need a snack.

6 – Plan For Nutrition
Becoming more conscious of your choices when you’re shopping will also help you make good food choices. Look for easy ways to add more nutrient-dense foods, such as:

● Greens to add to smoothies
● Alternatives to pasta such as zoodles (noodles made from zucchini squash)
● Roasting root vegetables and keeping some on hand (these tasty veggies have the advantage of a long shelf life)
● Try fermentation instead of baking (kimchi and kombucha are much better for your digestion than bread!)

If you’d like to continue baking, that’s great! Just keep in mind that you can find many gluten-free or health-oriented recipes online. You might discover some new favourites.

Keeping specific healthy meals and snacks in mind as you shop can help you ignore the less nutritious choices.

7 – Focus On Health Attributes
Knowing the physiological needs your food is meeting is another angle that can help you make good choices:

Foods That Support Your Digestion

Avoid “isolation constipation” by ensuring you’re consuming enough fibre. This is a great time to try new recipes with beans for example, which happen to also be cheap and easy to store. Here are some good recipes to start with!

Foods That Support A Healthy Immune System

Nutrients such as zinc and vitamins A and D can help support a healthy immune system. Foods rich in zinc include most seeds and nuts. Good sources of vitamin A include orange and yellow fruits and veggies as well as dark green leafy vegetables.

And of course, while we’re talking about immune supportive vitamins, remember to catch a few rays of sunshine to top up your vitamin D. You need skin exposure at the sun’s peak times to get your daily dose, that’s why most of us supplement this essential vitamin.

Aside from your diet, how are you holding up? It’s important to check in with others to maintain your wellbeing. If you would like to talk about ways to stay healthy while in isolation, give the office a call!

References:
Curbing weight gain from emotional eating: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6137864/

Why we overeat when we’re stressed: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4214609/

Yoga and mindful eating: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5932774/