How to Cure Lung Problems Naturally
When you inhale, the hairs of the nostrils and the flypaper-like mucous lining of the nose stop most particles that are larger than 10 to 15 micrometers (millionths of a meter), including common air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide or ammonia. Some particles that escape the nose find themselves swept against the tonsils and adenoids, which both have germ-resistant surfaces.
Only the smallest particles go down the windpipe, and most of them stick to the blanket of mucus that lines every surface in the lung except for the alveoli, the delicate sacs where oxygen passes into the blood and carbon dioxide comes out. This blanket moves in waves, pushed back towards the throat by the hair-like cilia, which beat like ours 1000 to 1500 times a minute. In healthy lungs, the mucus 'conveyor belt' carries all the inhaled debris out of the lungs and into the digestive tract in less than 24 hours. Removing debris from the alveoli, however, can take months.
The older you get, the more difficult normal respiration becomes. The physical changes that take place in aging lungs reduce the total surface area of lung tissue where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place. In addition, the chest wall becomes stiffer, and the muscles that move the chest wall in breathing become weaker. All that can mean serious trouble as you age. For people advanced in years, even a minor respiratory ailment may be too much for their lungs to take.
That's where nutrition comes in. Getting enough of the right nutrients may not prevent the physical changes that occur in your respiratory system with age, but a good diet can prevent many of those respiratory ailments that are so dangerous to age-weakened lungs. Scientific research has found that a number of essential nutrients help protect your lungs against disease.
The most obvious example is found in vitamin C and its effect on the common cold. Vitamin C may prevent colds, which is reason enough to include it in your health regimen. It almost certainly provides relief from the stress of cold symptoms, and that's just as important if you're operating with a respiratory system already taxed by age.
Vitamin C may protect against other kinds of stress to the respiratory system. Researchers have shown that animals fed vitamin C suffer less damage to their lungs when they are exposed to ozone, a highly poisonous pollutant gas and a major component of smog. Scientists believe that vitamin C in the lungs may protect cells from destructive oxidation reactions touched off by ozone.
Vitamin E, another antioxidant vitamin, has also been shown to protect laboratory animals from ozone damage. In one study, researchers found that rats deficient in vitamin E had more chemical evidence of lung damage caused by ozone than rats that were not lacking the vitamin. Physical examination of the rats' lungs confirmed the chemical findings. While all the animals in the experiment suffered lung damage from breathing in ozone, almost all the rats suffering severe damage were eating a test diet deficient in vitamin E. By comparison, of the rats receiving vitamin E supplements, nearly all suffered only mild lung damage (Environmental Research, December 1979).
Vitamin A: an important anti-pollution nutrientIn the ongoing battle against pollution, we must not overlook one of the lung's most important protectors: vitamin A. Vitamin A is particularly valuable, it seems, in preventing damage caused by nitrogen oxide, or NO2, a pollutant present in car exhaust as well as in cigarette smoke. At the Delta Regional Primate Research Center of Tulane University, James C. S. Kim exposed three groups of hamsters to NO2 for five-hour periods, once a week for eight weeks. The conditions, he explained, were 'comparable not only to industrial pollution found in an urban — suburban environment but also to the exposure of the respiratory tract of a habitual smoker. '
The first group of hamsters received a diet lacking in vitamin A. The second received what Dr. Kim called a 'vitamin A-adequate' diet. The third was fed a 'vitamin A-high' diet — twice what the second group received. After eight weeks of exposure and observation, their lung tissues were examined.
Vitamin A-deficient animals, Dr. Kim noted, responded poorly to NO2 exposure: 'Rapid and often labored breathing appeared immediately and continued through the five hours. Recovery was slow.' By the fifth week of the experiment, they had visibly started to decline: 'All exposed animals, without exception, were in poor condition. '
Microscopic examination of their lung tissues revealed severe damage. The epithelial lining, it was found, had degenerated badly. The cilia, so necessary for defense against bacteria, had been impaired, and in some cases destroyed. Cells in the alveoli had hardened and were unable to function properly. In many animals, there were signs of pneumonia.
The hamsters that received a vitamin A-adequate diet fared a good deal better. NO2 made them breathe rapidly, but they showed no signs of distress, and afterward their breathing quickly returned to normal. They remained in good condition throughout the eight weeks of the experiment and were 'healthy and alert' at its end.
When the lungs of these animals were examined, there were no signs of pneumonia or the severe inflammation that had afflicted the deficient group. The gas had caused damage, certainly, but normal lung tissue had apparently grown back to repair it. 'There appeared to be an increase in cell regeneration in animals supplemented with vitamin A in contrast with those not supplemented,' Dr. Kim noted. The epithelial lining, for the most part, was intact, and there were few abnormal cells.
The animals that received double doses of vitamin A survived their polluted environment equally well. Observation and microscopic examination showed them to be much like the vitamin A-adequate group.
Dr. Kim summed up the significant implications of his experiment:
High concentrations of NO2 destroy lung tissue. With enough (or a little more than enough) vitamin A, regeneration of the lung is rapid and successful. But with a low dose, this protective response is retarded — and the animal suffers.Too little vitamin A in the face of NO2 exposure can raise the risk of disease, he explained.
Without vitamin A, ciliated epithelium doesn't form. Instead, you get squamous cells — precancerous-type cells. You get abnormal mucous cells, which mean clogging in the respiratory tract, and danger of infection. If the epithelium doesn't form properly, it can lead to emphysema. [Environmental Research]His findings should be of special interest to commuters, Dr. Kim says, because they subject themselves to conditions much like those of his experiment. 'If you commute, you have intermittent exposure to NO2. You may be exposed to urban pollution for five hours, eight hours, then you come back to your house in the suburbs, where the air is cleaner. The next day you go back to the city. The epithelium in the lung has to repair itself accordingly, after each exposure. '
Vitamin A can help the lungs adapt to this less-than-perfect world, Dr. Kim says. 'But a commuter who doesn't get enough vitamin A is going to suffer. '
In general, the effects he observed in his lab led Dr. Kim to regard vitamin A highly as 'a preventive measure' for safeguarding lung health. Even the lung problems that we associate with old age may be forestalled with the early, regular use of vitamin A supplements, he speculates.
(See also EMPHYSEMA.)
Is your house hurting your lungs?Air pollution is not simply a matter of dirty haze hanging over the centers of our big cities. Indoor air pollution may actually be a bigger health problem than pollution outside the home, and measures commonly taken to save energy, measures to seal a house against the infiltration of outside air, can make the problem worse.
James Berk, a researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California, has been studying the problem of indoor air pollution for several years now and has found that indoor pollutant levels may increase when infiltration of outside air is reduced.
How fast is air replaced?'It's energy-conservation measures such as weather stripping that will reduce infiltration,' Dr. Berk says. Weather stripping involves the plugging of gaps around windows and doors through which cold air can enter a house. It's an essential part of improving the energy efficiency of a building.
All houses, even those that are thoroughly plugged up, allow some exchange of air from outside through cracks in the frame. In the United States — where houses are generally far better insulated than they are in Britain — houses generally let in outside air at a rate of approximately one air change per hour. That means that each hour, outside air equal to the volume of the house enters the house. Once an hour, an entire houseful of new air has to be brought up to the desired temperature. If you can cut the rate of air exchange, you use less fuel for heating.
You also have less fresh air for breathing. The Berkeley researchers found substantially higher levels of a number of pollutants in insulated buildings. 'In one study,' Dr. Berk told us, 'we tested pollutant levels in a school where we could control the rate of exchange through the mechanical ventilation system. That gave us some way to look at the various ventilation rates possible in a building. In that situation, we found elevated levels of carbon dioxide, which were merely a result of the students' breathing.
The levels of carbon dioxide did not exceed the health standards set by various US government agencies, and carbon dioxide was the only pollutant that increased in concentration. 'That was not surprising,' the scientists reported at an international energy conference, 'since there were no obvious indoor sources of pollution other than the occupants themselves. '
When the occupants get involved in activities other than breathing and thinking, though, other pollutants begin to build up indoors. Using gas cookers can produce higher levels of three major air pollutants — nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide, and carbon monoxide. A monitoring of those pollutants carried out a number of years ago in four houses with gas cookers found consistently higher levels inside the houses than outside. The study, conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency by a Connecticut research firm, found that indoor levels of nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide were directly related to using a gas cooker (Journal of the Air Pollution Control Association).
Other pollutants may build up in energy-efficient homes, the researchers in California discovered, independent of what the people inside them are doing. 'We found elevated levels of formaldehyde,' Dr. Berk told us, 'which is emitted from a chemical binding agent used to make building materials like particle board and plywood, and to make some furnishings. Formaldehyde is also released into the air by urea-formaldehyde foam insulation. '
Formaldehyde and radonFoam insulation was added to many American homes in the 1970s as part of the drive to save energy. In the case of urea-formaldehyde foam, energy saving may set up a double health threat. A sealed house with that foam insulation would lock in pollutants from the insulation itself.
Dr. Berk and his colleagues measured levels of formaldehyde in special experimental homes designed for maximum insulation. One of the super-insulated houses averaged one air change every five hours, compared to one change each hour in the normal American home. In that experimental house, the levels of total aliphatic aldehydes (the chemical family to which formaldehyde belongs) measured some eight times higher than the levels outside. The scientists reported.
These results indicate that, in general, indoor air has higher formaldehyde/aldehyde concentrations than outdoor air. The concentration of aldehydes often exceeds the recommended US and European formaldehyde standards for indoor air in residential buildings.Levels that high can play havoc with a sensitive individual's health. The University of Washington published the results of an ongoing survey of inhabitants of mobile homes (i.e caravans). Formaldehyde-emitting plywood and particle board are used extensively in the construction of mobile homes, and the participants in the survey were people who had complained of symptoms much like the standard symptoms of formaldehyde poisoning: 80 out of 92 people complained of eye irritation; 58 suffered irritation of the respiratory tract; and 51 reported headaches (University of Washington Environmental Health and Safety News).
A letter to the researchers from a family in Idaho who had read of their work describes a typical syndrome :
We bought a 1977, 14 x 61-foot mobile home last November, and ever since we moved into this mobile home, we have been awfully sick. It makes our skin sting and burns, eyes burn, [and we have] awful headaches all the time. Our lungs hurt, and we can hardly breathe, we have dizzy spells and have sore throats.
I just don't think we could make it in this mobile home another winter with everything closed up and the furnace turned on. We have got to have the windows open so we can get plenty of air.One of the more exotic indoor pollutants that the scientists at Berkeley are concerned about is radon gas. 'This is a radioactive gas which can enter a structure from several sources, the primary source often being the soil beneath the house,' Dr. Berk says. Radon gas is also emitted from stone, concrete, brick and other building materials. It produces part of the natural radiation we are exposed to every day.
Natural radioactive radium in the soil breaks down to form radon, which, like all radioactive substances, decays further to form four radioactive 'daughter' elements. These daughter elements often become attached to dust particles in the air so small that they slip past the body's own filtration system and are carried into the lungs. Studies of uranium miners exposed to high levels of the radioactive dust clearly suggest that those particles may increase the risk of lung cancer.
'In the literature, there are numerous examples of radon measurements showing higher indoor than outdoor concentrations, ' the Berkeley researchers report in one study. 'Due to the fact that the population spends most of its time indoors, the total exposure of the general public to radon daughters will be largely determined by the elevated indoor concentrations.' A comparison of radon levels in US homes with those measured in Swedish homes, which are typically better insulated than American buildings, indicates that the pollutant builds up just like any other when ventilation is reduced.
Recently, the British government has recognized this problem — chiefly affecting those living in areas of rocky soil such as Cornwall and the Lake District — and is sponsoring studies on the effects of radon. It is likely that some help (advisory and/or financial) will be made available to those affected to modify their homes.
There are other potential sources of pollution that the Berkeley scientists have not yet measured, Dr. Berk told us. 'If a household includes a cigarette smoker, that most likely would have a significant effect on indoor pollution. Other activities, such as cleaning with various chemicals, could have harmful effects in a tightly insulated house.'
Although the scientists did many of their tests in specially constructed experimental houses, Dr. Berk says the levels of pollutants they measured indicate possible problems for all of us. 'What is happening now is that builders are putting up houses and billing them as the energy-efficient houses of the future. They're saying it's worth the extra money to have good weather stripping and so on so that you can save money on energy in the long run.
'The first house we studied was a research house with an elaborate control system. It was custom-built for energy saving, and it had an air exchange rate of 0.2 air changes per hour. But another house we studied could have been realistically sold on the open market, and it had a ventilation rate of only 0.4 air changes per hour. If builders incorporate certain energy-saving features, a house with 0.4 or 0.5 air changes per hour would not be too hard to build. The question is whether or not such energy conservation measures can cause air-quality problems. '
How to upgrade air quality in your homeDr. Berk stresses that his work does not indicate that energy conservation should be abandoned. 'Our main thrust is to see what levels of pollution exist in an energy-efficient house. We want to see if problems exist, and we have found some potential areas of concern. But we're not saying the energy-conserving measures shouldn't be implemented. There are cost-effective solutions to the problem, short of abandoning energy conservation. '
For example, the researchers at the Berkeley lab have been evaluating devices called 'air-to-air heat exchangers'. The heat exchanger brings fresh air into the house but warms it with the heat from the outgoing exhaust air, thus sparing the home heating system.
There are other ways to save, Dr. Berk says. 'If you are building a new, tight house, you can eliminate building materials that might cause problems later, materials which would generate formaldehyde, for example.
'That solution is out, of course, if the house is already built. But in the case of radon, you may be able to take steps to seal the pollutant out of your house. There are usually cracks in basement floors, often in the wall and floor joints, where radon gas may come up from the soil. Drains in the basement sometimes open directly to the ground, and the gas may enter that way.
'If you have a house that is built on a concrete slab in direct contact with the soil, it may be worse than if the house is built over a ventilated crawl space. My house is built that way, with vents at the sides of the crawl space. The radon gas which emanates from the soil is ventilated out around the house, rather than into it. '
'There are also different types of contaminant control devices which can be effective,' says Dr. Berk. 'Most odors can be eliminated by using charcoal filters. Highly efficient particulate filters have been manufactured which remove many pollutant particles in the air. We don't have one filter which removes all the different kinds of pollution, but there are a variety of measures that can be used to combat the problem. '
Put aside such hobbies as woodworking and painting for the winter. Stripping and finishing furniture is out since the chemical solvents used in most finishes and cleaners are poisonous. Many cause respiratory irritation (and some can cause permanent damage to the nervous system).
Exposure to solvents in spray paint without proper ventilation has been followed by nerve damage. A variety of chemicals commonly sold in arts and crafts shops for various purposes can cause cancer. Such materials should never be used in a sealed house in the middle of January. Read a book instead.
Try to stir up as little dust as possible. Leave your spring cleaning for the spring. The chemicals in household cleaners may be hazardous in a closed house.
And if things get too stuffy, turn down your thermostat, bundle up and open your windows for a couple of hours. Even with the windows closed, if you decide to set the thermostat lower than normal, consider wearing a hat. Much of the body's heat can be lost through an uncovered head.
How to Cure Lung Problems Naturally Reviewed by Healthy Kite on 8/05/2016 Rating: