The colder weather can aggravate asthma and other respiratory conditions. To make matters worse people spend more time indoors in their homes and office, which tend to have poor air quality. To help you breathe a bit easier this season here are 16 ways to improve your breathing:
Eliminate air fresheners—The Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) conducted a study of “air fresheners,” “air sanitizers,” and other related products. They found toxic ingredients like acetone, butane (yes, that’s lighter fluid), liquefied petroleum gas, propane, and formaldehyde (among many others), all of which are linked to respiratory problems. Open a window and let in some fresh air rather than resort to toxic chemical sprays or plug-in products.
Don‘t forget the car air fresheners—They contain many of the same ingredients and are equally damaging to household air fresheners.
Skip the perfume—Perfumes can contain up to 400 different ingredients, 95% of which are chemicals used in the single ingredient “fragrance” and are derived from petroleum products. Many of these ingredients cause coughing and aggravate respiratory conditions in addition to headaches, depression, and other symptoms. Switch to a natural essential oil-based product if you just can’t live without perfumes. Many health food stores offer natural options.
Switch garbage bags to more natural options—Glad garbage bags and others now include Febreze to mask the smell. Unfortunately, recent studies show that Febreze contains acetaldehyde, 1,3-dichloro-2-propanol, benzaldehyde, BHT, and other respiratory toxins and known carcinogens. For the full EWG report on Febreze, click here.
Pass on the scented candles and potpourri—These products seem to be everywhere this time of year and unfortunately they contain many of the same lung irritants as perfumes. If you want a fresh-smelling home add orange rinds and cinnamon sticks to a pot of water and boil it on your stove for 10 to 15 minutes. The fresh holiday scent will freshen the air naturally.
Switch laundry detergents and fabric softeners—Commonly-used laundry detergents and fabric softeners contain many toxic ingredients that can aggravate the lungs, some of which include: alpha-terpineol, linalool, and pentane. These chemicals can affect muscle control and coordination. There are many natural alternatives available in most health food stores.
Eliminate gluten from your diet—Many asthma sufferers are sensitive to gluten which is found in wheat, rye, oats, barley, and many other grains and products containing them. Many baking powders, soy sauces, artificial food colors, emulsifiers, and other ingredients found in convenience food also contain gluten. Some great gluten-free options include: quinoa, millet, buckwheat (yes, the name can be confusing but there is no gluten in buckwheat), coconut flour, brown rice, black rice, red rice, and wild rice.
Reduce your sugar consumption—In my experience most asthma sufferers are sensitive to sugars of all kinds, natural or otherwise. It is best to cut back on all sweeteners and artificial sweeteners. If you have a sweet tooth opt for a piece of fruit or sweeten your beverages or foods with natural stevia (avoid products with maltodextrin or other added sweeteners).
Cut out dairy products—Dairy products like cheeses, butter, ice cream, milk, and cream are mucus-forming and can aggravate inflammation and respiratory conditions. Opt for dairy-free beverages like almond or coconut milk. There are many excellent dairy-free cheeses on the market. Avoid ones with casein which is a dairy product derivative.
Supplement with sea buckthorn—Sea buckthorn is a traditional Asian remedy for asthma and breathing disorders. It naturally contains Omega 7 fatty acids that have been shown to improve breathing. For more information about sea buckthorn, check out “Sea Buckthorn: Ancient Healer and Modern Superfood.”
Sip on a cup of herbal tea—Coltsfoot is an excellent herb for clearing out excess mucus from the lungs and bronchial tubes. Elecampane root helps kill harmful bacteria, lessens coughs, expels excess mucus from the lungs. Horehound leaves relax the muscles of the lungs while clearing them of excess mucus. It also has antispasmodic properties, making it a good choice for bronchial spasms and coughs. The leaves and flowers of the mullein plant lessen inflammation and pain, including within the nasal lining, throat, lungs, and bronchial tubes. Add one teaspoon of one or more of these herbs per cup of boiled water. Let steep for 10 minutes and drink 3 cups daily. Check with a qualified health professional to make sure these herbs are suitable for you.
Supplement with vitamin C—Vitamin C improves lung function and reduces the incidence of attacks. Two grams daily of the calcium ascorbate form of vitamin C works well for most asthma sufferers.
Add calcium and magnesium—These essential minerals help to relax bronchial muscles, which are prone to spasm in asthma sufferers.
Boost immunity and calcium absorption with vitamin D–It can be difficult to get adequate sunshine this time of year. Just a drop or two of a vitamin D3 supplement daily can seriously boost immune function making the lungs less prone to infection.
If all else fails supplement with serrapeptase—This natural enzyme is also known as serrapeptidase or serratiopeptidase. According to research at the Department of Respiratory Medicine in Japan and published in the journal Respirology, it may assist with clearing mucus from the lungs by making it thinner. It is readily available in most natural food stores. Consult with your health care practitioner to make sure it is right for you.
Don‘t forget to breathe—OK, I know this one sounds obvious but you’d be surprised at how few people actually breathe deeply. Take time out of your day to relax and practice deep breathing. Don’t force it or you’ll risk making things worse. Just follow your natural breathing with a modest effort to deepen it slightly. Deep breathing for even a minute at a time can retrain your body to breathe deeper but it also reduces stress hormones like cortisol that can cause shallow breathing.
Never stop taking any asthma medications without your doctor’s approval. Additionally, never take an asthma inhaler away from an asthma sufferer (this is a practice in some schools that needs to be stopped). Asthma can be a life-threatening condition and should be overseen by a qualified health practitioner.
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