Foods That Help the Respiratory System

Your respiratory system is responsible for supplying your blood with oxygen. Your lungs allow you to absorb oxygen and breathe carbon dioxide out. Your trachea filters air you breath, while your diaphragm -- a rounded muscle -- supports healthy breathing. Medical conditions that may interfere with respiration include bronchitis, asthma, lung cancer, emphysema, cystic fibrosis and upper-respiratory infections, such as sinusitis. In addition to healthy lifestyle practices and medications, when necessary, certain foods may help strengthen your respiratory system.

Yogurt and Kefir

A cup of plain yogurt.
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Yogurt and kefir are cultured milk products that provide rich amounts of protein, calcium and probiotics -- healthy, or "friendly," bacteria that promote digestive wellness. According to research published in the "British Medical Journal" in June 2001, probiotics may help prevent respiratory infections. For the study, 571 healthy children between ages 1 and 6 were given probiotics or a placebo for seven months. Researchers found that children who consumed probiotics developed fewer respiratory infection symptoms and absences from day care than children who did not. Probiotics may also help reduce your frequency or severity of cold symptoms. To reap maximum benefits of probiotics, consume yogurt and/or kefir with "live active cultures," such as lactobacillus, routinely.

Fruits and Vegetables

A sliced red bell pepper.
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Fruits and vegetables supply rich amounts of antioxidants -- nutrients that support your immune system's ability to protect your body from infections, disease and toxins associated with cancer. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends an antioxidant-rich diet for all people with chronic conditions, such as asthma. The antioxidant vitamin C, prevalent in red bell peppers, citrus fruits and juices, papaya, kiwifruit, leafy greens, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, may provide help alleviate inflammation in your respiratory system. In general, incorporate a variety of colorful, whole fruits and vegetables, which tend to provide the greatest antioxidant benefits, into your meals and snacks regularly.

Warm Fluids

A bowl of minestrone soup.
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Warm fluids, such as herbal teas, broth, soups and warm water, promote hydration and help your body flush toxins away through urine. Chicken soup provides a valuable dietary remedy for colds, mucus and sore throats linked with respiratory conditions, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Chicken in soup provides amino acids, which enhance lean tissue repair and physical strength. Additional protein-rich soup additions include beans, lentils, fish and turkey breast. Incorporating vegetables into soups provides additional antioxidant benefits. Opt for broth-based soups most often, since creamy soups may interfere with mucus and congestion.

Fatty Fish

Grilled salmon with vegetables.
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Fatty fish, such as salmon, albacore tuna, herring, lake trout, flounder, halibut and sardines, are prime sources of omega-3 fatty acids -- healthy fats associated with improved heart health and brain function. Though additional data and analysis is needed, according to a research review conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, omega-3 fats may improve breathing difficulty and other asthmatic symptoms. To prevent excessive saturated fat intake, which may worsen inflammation, use low-fat cooking methods, such as broiling, baking and steaming, most often.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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