Best Nutrients for Breathing

Worried about good health, no sick days, smelling nice aromas, having the breath to keep fit? Fortunately there are plenty of nutrients and good foods that can be added to your diet that will let you breathe easier!

Citrus fruits have long been known for their help in the prevention of respiratory issues such as colds and flu, and it turns out that it is not only because they are high in vitamin C. These fruits also contain compounds known as limonoids. Extracts made from limonoids found in citrus fruits have been found to protect lung tissue and reduce the mucus buildup typical of sufferers of COPD.

According to the American Lung Association, nearly 20 million Americans suffer from asthma. Studies have found that increasing consumption of whole grains and fish could reduce the risk of asthma by about 50 percent. However, researchers also point out that wheat can be a food allergen known to aggravate asthma, so other types of whole grains should be considered.

Walnuts are one of the few nuts rich in omega-3s. If you are not a fish eater, consider sprinkling walnuts on salads or adding them to your cereal for an omega-3 breathing boost. Be aware of potential nut allergies, however.

It is the omega-3 fish oils that seem to be responsible for fish's calming effect on asthma. Omega-3s inhibit the production of cytokines, chemicals that are known to trigger airway restriction in asthmatics. On the other end of the spectrum are omega-6 oils, which actually stimulate the production of cytokines. According to the USDA the average American diet is very high in omega-6 oils; these are the oils used in most cookies, cakes, chips, and processed foods.

What Can Help

It may seem strange, but foods you eat really can affect your breathing, and the good news is research has shown that many common foods contain wonderful nutrients that work to improve lung and breathing abilities.

  • The antioxidants found in many fruits and vegetables such as vitamins C, A, and E can minimize the severity of asthma attacks, can improve breathing, and reduce damage to bronchial tissues.

  • Magnesium is an important nutrient that has been identified as calming the symptoms of asthma and improving lung function overall.

  • Selenium, a mineral similar to magnesium in how it affects the body, also has been shown to have a positive effect on breathing, especially as related to the prevention of sinus and cold infections.

  • Zinc has been shown to shorten how long colds last and their severity.

  • Vitamin B6 is essential to a healthy immune system. B6 helps the body fight off all sorts of infections, and therefore may be helpful in boosting the body's resistance to colds, flu, and other respiratory infections.

  • Folic acid, another B vitamin (B9), also has been shown to help fight off respiratory infections. In fact, many believe it is the folic acid, and not the vitamin C, in orange juice that give it its cold-fighting ability.

  • Quercetin, a powerful antioxidant found in onions, has been linked to the prevention of lung cancer. Fresh garlic also may prevent many respiratory ailments.

  • Resveratrol and the other anti-inflammatory agents found in red wine that have been shown to lessen the risk of heart disease may help in preventing or lowering the risk of COPD.

  • Carvacrol and thymol, two compounds found in thyme and oregano oil have been found to loosen phlegm in the lungs and relieve bronchial spasms.

  • Thyme has long been used as a folk remedy for chest congestion and respiratory distress such as coughs and bronchitis. Recently, researchers pinpointed some of the compounds in thyme that are probably responsible for its healing effects. One of these is thymol. Thymol is also one of the key ingredients in that smelly and yet effective “vapor rub” smeared on the chest for colds in some home remedies.

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