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Supporting your lungs

Asthma, Immune | May 13, 2020 | Author: Naturopath

Immune, Asthma

Supporting your lungs

For every breath taken into the lungs an amazing process is taking place to transport life-giving oxygen to all the cells in the body. Exhaling releases carbon dioxide which is the waste produced from the work cells are doing. It makes sense to take care of the lungs. Unfortunately, some disorders, viruses and bacterial, pollution and life actions can mean the lungs do not perform the important actions they were designed for in the best possible way. 

Lung function

Every breath taken is supplying life-giving oxygen to the cells in the body and every breath exhaled is removing carbon dioxide gas (Co2) from the body. Carbon dioxide is the waste product of cellular metabolism (normal cellular function). Blood containing oxygen is circulated throughout the body for cellular function and the removal of carbon dioxide is transported back to the lungs through the blood.

Lung functionWhen air is inhaled (breathed – in) it enters into the lung through the trachea (wind pipe) to the lungs - spongy organs located on either side of the chest. The air is transported through tube-like branches, called bronchi, which divide into smaller and smaller branches called bronchioles - simular to the branches on a tree. Bronchioles end in microscopic clusters of air sacs called alveoli. It is in the alveoli where the oxygen from the air breathed in is absorbed into the blood. 

Carbon dioxide is also removed from the blood in the alveoli to be expelled from the body in exhalation.

A thin layer of cells containing blood vessels is located between the alveoli (called the interstitium), which help the function of the alveoli.

A thin layer of tissue called the pleura covers the lungs and a thin layer of fluid lubricated the lungs allowing for a smooth action as they expand and contract with each breath.

The exchange

The alveoli are covered by a network of tiny capillaries (the smallest blood vessels) which is where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place. 

Lung dysfunction

There are some medical conditions which affect how well the lungs function.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

This is damage to the lung causing lung dysfunction and resulting in shortness of breath. Smoking is the main contributor to this disease.

  • Emphysema is a form of COPD in which the alveoli are damaged which causes air to be trapped in the lung. Smoking is the main cause of emphysema.
  • Chronic bronchitis is ongoing inflammation of the bronchial tubes causing a cough which brings up mucus. It can cause a shortness of breath, a wheeze, low fever and chest tightness. Smoking can also be responsible for this disorder.


Shortness of breath and a distinct wheeze are often the hallmark signs of this condition which is caused by inflammation and spasms in the bronchi. Allergies, viral infection, air pollution and even changes in temperature can result in asthma for some people.


This is an infection usually caused by bacteria, most commonly Streptococcus pneumonia.

  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a pneumonia caused by a specific virus first identified in 2002

Acute bronchitis
This results in inflammation and mucus production resulting in a cough.
Usually caused by a viral infection, but also bacterial infection or by physical or chemical agents which have been inhaled (dust, allergens, fumes, tobacco smoke).

Pertussis (whooping cough) an infection of the bronchi caused by Bordetella pertussis, which is highly infectious. It causes persistent coughing and may be fatal in young children. There is a vaccine and vaccine booster for this disease.

Pleurisy is inflammation of the lining of the lung (the pleura) causing pain, due to infection, autoimmune disease or pulmonary effusion.


Pulmonary fibrosis affects the interstitial area of the lungs (the area between the air sacs) in which the lungs become scarred and stiff and causing shortness of breath.

Sarcoidosis is tiny areas of inflammation in the lungs – or other areas of the body.
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Other causes of lung dysfunction

  • Obesity hypoventilation – due to the inability of the lungs to expand when breathing due to internal pressure from extra weight.
  • Pulmonary hypertension - high blood pressure in the arteries leading from the heart to the lung. 
  • Pulmonary embolism (blood clot) - usually from a clot dislodging from elsewhere in the body, which travels to the heart and gets pumped into the lung.
  • Pneumothorax (air in the lung) from injury or may occur spontaneously.

Healthy lungs

The respiratory system is often the first barrier of defence against invading pathogens. There are some herbs, nutrients, antioxidants and lifestyle changes which can help with keeping lungs healthy. 

Healthy lungs

Vitamin A is responsible for the proliferation and maintenance of the respiratory tract.

Deficiency is linked to changes in the epithelial lining of the pulmonary system resulting in disruption of normal lung function and a predisposition to disfunction and respiratory disease. Reduced levels of plasma vitamin A are associated with frequent respiratory infections.

Vitamin D deficiency is closely associated with lung diseases such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, interstitial lung disease, COPD and respiratory infections.

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and contributes to both innate and adaptive immune function. Deficiency result in impaired immunity and frequent infections.

Vitamin E is present in the fluid lining of the lung and respiratory tract and along with Vitamins C, help maintain healthy immune function. Allergic inflammation is inhibited by supplementation with the purified natural vitamin E isoform α-tocopherol and has been found beneficial in allergic diseases and asthma.

Zinc is supportive of immune function and low levels are associated with frequent infections. Zinc supplementation may alter airways reactivity, beneficial for asthmatics.

Herbal Help

Ginseng (Panax Ginseng) enhances immunity, increases natural killer cells and macrophage activity (immune defence). Ginseng can improve oxygen uptake from the blood and improve muscle strength, and athletic performance. Studies show it may support improvement in breathing and exercise for COPD patients.

Saffron (Crocus sativus) offers an antihistamine action.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) smooth-muscle relaxant (beneficial for lung disorders such as asthma) and offers antioxidant activity, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory actions. Ginger offers a protective effect on respiratory disorders. It reduces hyper-activity and is bronco-dilatory (opens up the bronchial and bronchioles in the lung).

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) supports immunity, lowers blood pressure, is adaptogenic and a tonic.

Elecampane (Inula helenium) is a western herbal medicine traditionally used as an expectorant to relief catarrhal and coughing. It may help with shortness of breath.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is a demulcent useful to soothe irritation and inflammation of the mucous surfaces of the lung. It can be useful to relieve coughs, colds, asthma, and COPD.

Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris) can be used in the oil form as an inhalation to treat coughs and chest infections, or as an herbal medicine. It has antiseptic, antifungal and antibiotic actions is a soothing action on mucous membranes.

Pelargonium sidoides is a species of South African geranium useful for the treatment of respiratory infections, alleviating symptoms and reducing duration of infection.  Blackmores Kaloba® is an AUST-R, clinically proven^ extract of Pelargonium sidoides.
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Curcumin (Curcuma longa) is a commonly used spice which has an antioxidant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory actions.

Antioxidant protection

Antioxidant protectionA lower consumption of antioxidant vitamins can promote a vulnerability to oxidative stress. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by nonspecific hyperirritability of the tracheobronchial tree (the lung and throat). Its activation is associated with reduced intake of antioxidant nutrients. Beneficial effects are shown with the increase of fresh fruit and antioxidant vitamins for the treatment and prevention of asthma.
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An imbalance of oxidation/antioxidants maybe associated with the development of emphysema. Vitamin A influence alveoli development, tissue repair and regulating antioxidant defences. Vitamin A and C are beneficial antioxidants for lung health.

Co-enzyme Q 10

Coq10 is a substance occurring naturally in the body. It is an antioxidant and is used for growth and maintenance. Low levels are associated with poor antioxidant protection and increased oxidative damage and the lungs. Coq10 may support healthy lung function in those with asthma and COPD.
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Lifestyle changes

  • The most important reduction in the risk of lung diseases is the cessation of smoking.
  • Exercise regularly to help strengthen lungs and build stamina.
  • Weight reduction helps the capacity to take a deep breath and reduces the extra work your heart has to do pumping blood.
  • Avoiding exposure to air pollution as much as possible.
  • Increase intake of nutrient and antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables. The more colour-rich the more beneficial.

It is important to get support and approval from your health care provider before supplementing or making major lifestyle changes.

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Vitamin A Deficiency and the Lung https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6164133/

Chronic vitamin D deficiency induces lung fibrosis through activation of the renin-angiotensin system https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5468249/

Vitamin C and Immune Function https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707683/

Vitamin E isoforms as modulators of lung inflammation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24184873

Increased oxidative stress in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as measured by redox status of plasma coenzyme Q10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16289557

Decreased levels of coenzyme Q(10) in patients with bronchial asthma. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12169177


Zinc as a Gatekeeper of Immune Function https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5748737/




This obscure herb works for the common cold https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3183890/


Ginseng improves pulmonary functions and exercise capacity in patients with COPD. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12814035

Curcumin use in pulmonary diseases: State of the art and future perspectives. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27888157

Herbal Medicines for Asthmatic Inflammation: From Basic Researches to Clinical Applications https://www.hindawi.com/journals/mi/2016/6943135/

Evaluation of Efficacy of Curcumin as an Add-on therapy in Patients of Bronchial Asthma https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4190737/

Bioactive Compounds and Bioactivities of Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6616534/

Immunoregulatory and anti-inflammatory properties of Crocus sativus (Saffron) and its main active constituents: A review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6535192/

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