Most of us take breathing for granted. Even if you don’t smoke or experience respiratory problems, an occasional lung cleanse should be part of your self-care regime. If you do smoke or have asthma or allergies, cleaning up the pipes is even more important.
Your Lungs Are Larger Than You Might Think
Although they fit perfectly inside your chest, the surface area of the lungs (inside and out) is 40 times larger than your external skin. They are made of a spongy material to allow flexibility and permeability. We can live with only one but anyone who has had a lung removed will tell you that life isn’t the same afterward.
Within each lung are air tubes called bronchioles that are linked together via bronchial trees. At the end of each branch of the trees are small air-filled sacs called alveoli. White blood cells in the alveoli filter irritants and invaders from the air, either destroying them or pushing them through the body for elimination.
Your lungs work hard to continually take in oxygen, filter it, and release it to the circulatory system to spread throughout your body. Expanding and contracting up to 20 times every minute without a break, it’s in our best interests to keep our lungs in the best shape possible (1).
Common Causes Of Respiratory Problems
Lung diseases include (2):
- Asthma – a condition in which bronchial tubes are chronically inflamed, narrowing passageways and restricting breathing. A severe asthma attack can be triggered by external factors such as seasonal allergies or stress. It’s estimated that 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma and its occurrence is rising. (3) Asthma is a chronic, lifelong condition; in extreme situations, it can be fatal.
- Bronchitis – inflammation of bronchial tubes that connect air passages of the nose and mouth to the lungs. Bronchitis is usually triggered by allergies or a respiratory infection (e.g., influenza) and passes within a brief period of time. Air pollutants are also a prime factor.
- Colds and other viral infections
- Cystic fibrosis – a genetic disease in which heavy mucus is produced in the lungs (and other organs), making breathing difficult.
- Emphysema – a progressive lung disease in which the alveoli are chronically inflamed, blocking air flow in and out of the lungs.
- Pleurisy – inflammation (and often fluid between layers) of the inner linings of the lung.
- Pneumonia – an infection in the lung that can be caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, and aspirated chemicals.
- Tuberculosis – the most common bacterial infectious disease in the world. It attacks the lungs and can damage the liver and kidneys. It can manifest different symptoms so is sometimes difficult to diagnose. The most common symptoms are similar to a flu that doesn’t quickly go away.
Symptoms of respiratory problems include:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
- Chest pain
- Local tenderness of the chest or back
- Coughing up phlegm or blood
- Symptoms of lung infection are similar to other types of infection: fever, cough, excess mucus, body aches, chest and throat irritation, and extreme fatigue.
Overworking Your Lungs
Toxins exist all around us, including in the air we breathe. Common dust, pollution from cars and factories, bacteria and viruses, airborne chemicals from various sources, and toxins expressed through geoengineering constantly surround the majority of people on the planet. This especially true for people who live in cities and densely populated areas, who are more likely to experience lung pain and breathing problems. Rural dwellers are not much better off, with all the farming chemicals floating around.
Additionally, many products used in the home can interfere with proper lung function. Household cleaners, talcum powder, stuff we track in from outside, fabric softeners, cologne, air fresheners, scented candles, dust, and animal dander are common irritants. Actually, indoor air can be a greater source of pollution than that outdoors with toxins that affect not only your lungs but also your brain. (4)
These are far from the only lung irritants out there. People who work with hazardous substances like asbestos and coal are at great risk of developing chronic lung illness. Also, long-term exposure to mold can cause congestion and bleeding in the lungs. (5) On the other hand, radon exposure is extremely hazardous and affects more than just miners: it’s the second leading cause of lung cancer (behind cigarettes).
“The public often underestimates the potential risk of cancer due to radon. This could discourage assessment and abatement measures in the home, as given that the general population does not see the problem. In fact, several studies have noted optimistic biases in the public’s assessment of radon exposure’s potential health risks. For the most part, the general public thinks radon exposure does not pose a risk,” writes the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. (6)