What you eat on a daily basis impacts every system in your body, including your lungs. Citrus fruits, leafy greens, fatty fish, walnuts and other whole foods provide the nutrients needed for optimal lung health. Some may lower your risk of respiratory infections. Others improve your breathing and keep your airways clean. A balanced diet should include vitamins for the lungs, especially during the cold winter months.
Read more: 10 Foods for Healthy Lungs
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Vitamin C Boosts Lung Function
Vitamin C is best known for its ability to boost immune function and promote collagen formation in the skin. According to a 2014 review in the journal Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, this nutrient may also improve lung function and cut the incidence of respiratory symptoms by half during and after exercise. These health benefits are due to its antioxidant power.
Strenuous exercise, such as running on the treadmill at high speed, increases the levels of free radicals in your body. Vitamin C, which is a potent antioxidant, scavenges oxidative stress and keeps your lungs functioning optimally. Eat citrus fruits, chili peppers, guava, kiwi, broccoli, kale and berries to get more of this nutrient in your diet.
Load Up on Vitamin E
Another powerful antioxidant is vitamin E. According to a 2017 study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, this fat-soluble nutrient reduces inflammation.
To reap its benefits, consume more nuts and seeds, wheat germ oil, olive oil, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, mango, butternut squash and spinach.
Get More Vitamin D
You've probably heard that vitamin D keeps your teeth and bones strong by regulating calcium levels. What you may not know is that this nutrient also protects against respiratory infection and may lower the risk of COPD flare-ups, according to a 2014 study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
According to the Busselton Healthy Ageing Study, which involved over 5,000 subjects, low levels of vitamin D may increase the risk of wheezing, bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory problems. High levels of this nutrient were associated with improved lung function.
The human body produces this fat-soluble vitamin on its own when exposed to sunlight. Some foods, such as tuna, mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring, oysters and egg yolks are naturally high in vitamin D.
Improve Your Lung Function Naturally
Lung function is one of the most important yet overlooked aspects of health. Most people struggle to lose weight, to bring their cholesterol levels down or to keep their skin young, but they still smoke cigarettes or skip exercise.
Smoking, a sedentary lifestyle and air pollution can weaken your lungs in the long run. This may lead to respiratory diseases and even lung cancer, according to a 2014 article in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), for example, is often due to cigarette smoking and exposure to outdoor air pollutants. As Mayo Clinic notes, this inflammatory disorder occurs in 20 to 30 percent of chronic smokers. Its primary symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, persistent cough, low energy and recurring respiratory infections.
The good news is that you can improve lung function naturally through lifestyle changes. Regular exercise, diaphragmatic breathing, proper hydration and good nutrition can all lead to better lung health.
- Frontiers in Medicine: A Grand Challenge of Factors Influencing Lung Health
- Mayo Clinic: COPD
- NCBI: Isoforms of Vitamin E Have Opposing Immunoregulatory Functions During Inflammation by Regulating Leukocyte Recruitment
- NCBI: Serum Tocopherol Levels and Vitamin E Intake Are Associated with Lung Function in the Normative Aging Study
- Wiley Online Library: Vitamin D and Respiratory Health in the Busselton Healthy Ageing Study
- Multidisciplinary Respiratory Medicine: N-acetylcysteine in COPD
- ERS Journals: Influence of N-acetylcysteine on Chronic Bronchitis or COPD Exacerbations
- ERS Journals: Impact of Environmental Factors on Lung Defences
- Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology: The Effect of Vitamin C on Bronchoconstriction and Respiratory Symptoms Caused by Exercise
- The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: Gamma Tocopherol-Enriched Supplement Reduces Sputum Eosinophilia and Endotoxin-Induced Sputum Neutrophilia in Volunteers with Asthma
- Dove Press: The Effect of Dietary Antioxidant on the COPD Risk
- Reviews in Clinical Medicine: Vitamin E and Autoimmune Diseases
- NCBI: A Review on Various Uses of N-Acetyl Cysteine
- The Lancelet: Vitamin D3 Supplementation in Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (ViDiCO)
- American Lung Association: How Public Health Issues Affect Lung Health
- WebMD: Vitamin D Deficiency Could Be Lung Disease Risk
- COPD Foundation: What Is COPD?