Naturopathic Support for Lung Health & Long COVID: Part I
After both the COVID-19 infection and concerns in air quality after the wildfires, there is an increase in interest in ways to support lung health. So what happens after you've been infected with COVID (possibly multiple times), or you are worried about environmental exposure to air toxins?
Long-Covid is a term that describes the persistent symptoms that some people experience after recovering from Covid-19. A diagnosis is made after these symptoms persist for longer than 12 weeks. One of the most common and debilitating symptoms is shortness of breath, along with fatigue, both which can affect the quality of life and daily activities of long-covid sufferers. The forest fires have also caused similar symptoms if exposed for lengthy periods of time.
In this blog post series, we will explore some natural supports that may help improve lung health and ease the symptoms of Long-COVID and airborne toxin exposure.
The first natural support is breathing exercises. Breathing exercises can help strengthen the diaphragm, the main muscle involved in breathing, and increase lung capacity. They can also help reduce stress and anxiety, which can worsen shortness of breath. Some examples of breathing exercises are pursed-lip breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and box breathing. You can find more details and instructions on how to perform these exercises online by clicking the link here: https://www.healthline.com/health/breathing-exercise#pursed-lip-breathing
The second natural support is hydration. Drinking enough water can help thin the mucus in the lungs and make it easier to cough up. This can help clear the airways and prevent infections. Hydration can also help prevent dehydration, which can cause dry mouth, fatigue, and headache. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day, or more if you are sweating or have a fever.
The third natural support is a healthy diet. A healthy diet can help boost your immune system, reduce inflammation, and provide antioxidants that can protect your lungs from oxidative stress. Some of the foods that are good for lung health are leafy greens, berries, citrus fruits, nuts, seeds, garlic, ginger, and honey. Avoid foods that are processed, fried, sugary, or dairy-based, as they can increase mucus production and inflammation in the lungs.
Other Lifestyle practices:
- Quit smoking: Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your lungs, as it damages the lung tissue, increases inflammation, and increases the risk of infections and cancer. Did you know that after quitting smoking your lungs can regenerate to their previous state?
- Avoid pollutants: Exposure to air pollution, dust, mold, chemicals, or allergens can irritate and inflame your lungs and worsen your symptoms. Try to avoid these triggers as much as possible by wearing a mask, using an air purifier, cleaning your home regularly, and avoiding outdoor activities when the air quality is poor. I recently started using an air purifier in my bedroom, and keep the windows closed.
- Exercise: Exercise can help improve your lung function, blood circulation, muscle strength, and mood. It can also help prevent weight gain, which can put pressure on your lungs and make breathing harder. Start with low-intensity exercises such as walking, cycling, swimming, or yoga, and gradually increase the duration and intensity as you feel comfortable. However, do not overexert yourself or exercise if you have fever or chest pain. This can be difficult for people with Long-COVID. I like to use the "pacing" method which involves starting with a short 10 minute walk daily and doing that for 1 week. After you find that you have tolerated that, increase by a few minutes each week until you feel stronger. You can also start back at the gym with light weights, and do the elliptical or bike for cardio instead of running.
- Rest: Getting enough rest is crucial for your recovery from long-covid. Resting allows your body to heal and repair itself from the damage caused by covid-19. It also helps reduce stress and anxiety that can affect your mental health and immune system. Try to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night, and take naps during the day if you need to. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, or screens before bedtime.
Some herbs have anti-inflammatory, expectorant, and antiviral properties that may help soothe the lungs and fight off infections. Some examples of herbs that may benefit lung health are licorice root, ginger, turmeric, thyme, and oregano. You can consume these herbs as teas, tinctures, capsules, or syrups. However, be careful not to exceed the recommended doses and consult your doctor before taking any herbs if you have any medical conditions or are taking any medications.
In Part 2 of this series on Lung Health, I will discuss in more detail the specific naturopathic supports, along with supporting research.
Disclaimer:These are some of the natural supports that may help improve lung health and long-covid symptoms. However, they are not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your lung health or long-covid, please consult your doctor or a qualified health professional.