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Indoor Air Detox

Raise your lung health when indoor air quality drops

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In the winter, we spend 90 percent of our day indoors, where the air can be as much as 100 times more polluted than outdoor air.

That spells trouble for one of your most important organs: your lungs. Thankfully, improving your lung health and detoxing the air in your home is simple and doesn’t have to leave you breathless.

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Your lungs, your life

You take about 20,000 breaths a day. You might not consciously think about each breath, but they’re literally the building blocks of life. This is why.

·         Every cell in your body needs oxygen to function, and healthy lungs optimize your oxygen intake while being more efficient at removing carbon dioxide.

·         Healthy lungs maintain the balance of gases in your bloodstream and support your heart, brain, and other vital organs.

·         A healthy respiratory system can better fight off viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens, reducing the risk of illnesses.

“Lung health plays a pivotal role in our wellness, especially during the winter,” says functional medicine expert Jabe Brown, MSc. “When our lungs are healthy, we breathe easier, move better, and have a lower risk of respiratory infections and lung diseases.”

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By the numbers

Lung cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in Canada. Meanwhile, chronic lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affect millions, and the number of Canadians living with these lung health concerns has risen dramatically over the years.

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How healthy are your lungs?

“Assessing lung health isn’t complicated,” says Jabe Brown. “If you can breathe easily, even when active, your lungs are likely in good shape. Professionally, quick tests like spirometry or pulse oximetry provide further insights into your lungs’ functioning.”

Some of the top symptoms of poor lung health include the following:

·         chronic coughing

·         shortness of breath

·         chest pain

·         wheezing

·         frequent respiratory infections

Regular health checkups with your doctor or natural health practitioner should always include discussions about your lung health if you have any concerns.

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Blueprint for better breathing

This winter, detox your indoor air and level up your lung health so you can breathe easier and deeper.

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Exercise your body and lungs

Breathing exercises improve lung functioning and lung capacity.

“As a nurse and yoga teacher, I recommend daily yogic breathing techniques—personally, they’ve significantly improved my breathing and I no longer rely on inhalers,” says Donna Brown, RN, who grew up with childhood asthma.

“In the ICU,” adds Donna Brown, “I’ve used techniques like pursed lip breathing (where you’re doing a series of quick exhales through pursed lips) for those with emphysema, bronchitis, and asthma. It improves the force and strength of exhaling to expel air trapped in damaged and distended air passages.”

Meanwhile, 30 minutes of general exercise five days a week also strengthens your lungs. Regular workouts help you be more efficient at getting and using oxygen. Exercise also strengthens the supporting muscles in your chest and neck that help with overall lung functioning.

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Eat a lung-healthy diet

“Nutrient-rich foods, especially those high in antioxidants and vitamin D, reduce inflammation and promote lung health,” says Jabe Brown. “And don’t forget to drink water. Hydration keeps your lungs’ mucosal linings thin so your lungs work more efficiently.”

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The tea on lung health

Studies reveal how several specific nutritional supplements support lung health.

omega-3s

protect and help improve lung function

curcumin from turmeric

may help protect your lungs against pollution

n-acetylcysteine (NAC)

an anti-inflammatory that may help treat COPD

green tea

may protect against lung tissue damage while also having anti-inflammatory properties

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Detox your indoor air

“Improving indoor air quality during the winter is quite simple,” says Jabe Brown. “It’s just about basic cleaning and ventilation principles. For example, crack open a window when cooking. Vacuum your rugs and carpets frequently. And dust surfaces with a microfibre cloth.”

There are many other opportunities for detoxing your home’s air. Try some of the following.

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Switch to natural household cleaners

Cleaning products, pesticides, air fresheners, and personal care products can release chemicals into the air.

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Clean up biological contaminants

Mold, pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and other allergens accumulate indoors, especially in damp or poorly ventilated areas.

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Keep fresh air moving

Inadequate ventilation allows pollutants to accumulate without proper circulation or exchange with fresh outdoor air.

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Run an air purifier

“Use one with a HEPA filter to eliminate harmful airborne particles, allergens, and pollutants,” says Jabe Brown.

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Use a humidifier

“Humidity maintains good lung health, and the winter season’s dry air dehydrates our airways and makes us more susceptible to developing chronic lung problems,” says Donna Brown. Aim for a humidity level of 30 to 50 percent.

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The ABCs of COPD

The rate of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in Canadians continues to rise, but many people don’t know what it is.

What’s COPD?

It’s a chronic lung disease characterized by obstructed airflow from the lungs. The two main forms are chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Causes of COPD

Long-term exposure to irritants is the primary cause, with cigarette smoke being the most significant risk factor. Other irritants include chemicals, dust, and fumes in the workplace or at home. In some cases, genetic factors can predispose you to COPD.

Prevention of COPD 

Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke. Reduce or eliminate exposure to all air pollutants, occupational hazards, and indoor pollutants, including by properly ventilating areas where exposure to irritants is common.

Natural treatment of COPD 

The lung-improving techniques in this article all apply. For more serious cases, pulmonary rehabilitation—which involves exercise training, education, and social support—can put you back in control of your lung health.

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Farewell, fungus

It’s estimated that half of all homes struggle with dampness and mold, and the problem is especially prevalent in the winter. “Being in an enclosed, moldy home puts you at a greater risk of developing mold toxicity or fungal infections that target the lungs,” says Nancy Mitchell, RN. She recommends vinegar and water to “clean your home and keep fungal growth at bay.”

This article was originally published in the March 2024 issue of alive magazine.

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