Q: With Covid hitting lungs so heavily, and increasing concerns about air pollution, I’m wondering how to protect the health of my lungs.
A: In addition to Covid and air pollution, there are numerous risk factors for compromised lung integrity, and smoking is number one. Please get help to turn your head around if you still smoke. Drug and alcohol misuse is likewise harmful, due in part to the risk of passing out and aspirating stomach contents.
Being exposed to extremes of heat or cold can also be hard on the lungs, so be prepared against those possibilities. (Scarves can help!) Folks with significant scoliosis can suffer from lung compression to some degree, and need to add daily protective measures into their routines. Being hospitalized also increases your risk of lung problems, so do your best to stay well! And, not surprisingly, immobility weakens the lungs, so make it a point to move and breathe deeply every day. Find something fun that feels good, even if it’s just wiggling around on the floor with your arms and legs in the air.
Eating for Lung Health
A good diet is the foundation of good health. And it’s especially important these days, when “convenience” has seemingly overtaken common sense when it comes to the food we eat. Simply put: Don’t buy junk food. There’s no reason to whatsoever. You may think you like the taste, but after giving it up for a few weeks, you’ll notice that it starts to taste disgusting. Because it is disgusting. So be wily. Don’t succumb to advertising or convenience when it comes to your health.
Also pay attention to the specific foods you eat—even if they’re “healthy.” Dairy products, especially milk, are highly correlated with upper respiratory congestion (sinusitis, sinus infections, sore throat, cough, even ear infections). Milk is for babies, who should ideally drink only breast milk. Cheese is easier to digest, but it will still irritate mucous membranes and is best avoided. Ice cream is a terrible food: cold (body prefers warm food), corn-fed (American dairy products have the highest lactose content on the planet), and super sweet. A half teaspoon of sugar has been shown to depress the immune system for several hours after ingestion. A large scoop of ice cream can contain up to 25 teaspoons of sugar! Go for sorbet or a nondairy confection if desired.