7 Natural Habits to Prevent Lung Disease

August 12, 2019

"Eliminating environmental toxins and inflammation can help prevent lung disease, including lung cancer."

Today Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD holistic nutritionist, continues her prevention series. Today's discussion includes what we need to know about preventing lung cancer and lung disease, which are major causes of death in the US. Dr. Nancy will provide her top 7 ways to prevent the most severe pulmonary issues and breathe easy! Don’t miss today’s important show.

Video Highlights

  • 05:31: Lung Cancer
  • 08:01: Lung Disease
  • 14:22: Lung Disease Trivia
  • 19:29: Top 7 Natural Habits to Help Prevent Lung Disease
  • 19:34: Don’t smoke!
  • 22:55: Exercise
  • 24:58: Boost your Immunity
  • 27:08: Load up on anti-inflammatory foods
  • 31:39: Do your best to avoid air pollution
  • 35:32: Limit exposure to environmental toxins
  • 42:01: Make Regular Doctor Visits 
  • 43:55: Wrap-Up

In the past, we’ve spoken a lot about heart health, metabolism, blood sugar, and diabetes, but we don’t really talk about lung disease often. So let’s first define what lung cancer and lung disease are.

Lung Cancer 

Lung cancer is the presence of abnormal cells in one or both of the lungs that grow at an uncontrollable rate. These cells are different from normal cells found in the lung because they do not grow into regular, healthy lung tissue. Instead, they grow into tumors or spread to other parts of the body in a process called metastasis

These abnormal cells show up in the lungs when there is a DNA mutation, created either by the normal process of aging or by external factors like exposure to environmental toxins. 

There are two types of lung cancer — primary and secondary. Primary lung cancer is cancer that originates within the lungs. Secondary lung cancer, as you might be able to guess, originates somewhere else in the body and travels to the lungs. When diagnosed with this secondary type of lung cancer, you are not actually being diagnosed with lung cancer. You’re being diagnosed with a metastatic form of cancer. For instance, if a person is diagnosed with throat cancer which then spreads to the lungs, the diagnosis for that presence of cancer in the lungs becomes metastatic throat cancer. 

Lung Disease

Picture lung disease as an umbrella. Under that umbrella is a multitude of illnesses, diseases, and conditions all affecting the lungs in some way. The most common lung diseases affecting Americans are:

  • Asthma, which is chronic inflammation of the airways. Symptoms include shortness of breath, spasms, and wheezing.
  • Chronic bronchitis is a form of bronchitis characterized by an inflammation of the airways. Acute bronchitis is also known as a chest cold, and goes away within ten days, leaving a persistent cough in its wake for up to a month. Chronic bronchitis, however, is due to chronic inflammation and repeated irritation to the airways. This is also considered a form of COPD, which is…
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition accompanied by difficulty breathing because those who have it lack the ability to exhale normally. 
  • Emphysema — air becomes trapped in the lungs due to damage. 
  • Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition in which chronic lung infections are caused by an inability to expel mucus from the bronchi, the small tubes running from the lungs to the windpipe, or trachea. 
  • Pneumonia, which can be a very serious, is a condition caused by fluid or pus that becomes trapped in the air sacs within the lungs. The air sacs also become inflamed. 

Lung disease is also divided into three categories: 

  • Lung tissue — These types of lung diseases deal with inflammation and/or scarring in the lung tissue that makes it challenging to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Because they also affect the lung’s ability to expand fully, people with these types of diseases feel as if they can never take a deep enough breath. Examples include sarcoidosis and pulmonary fibrosis. 
  • Lung circulation — These types of lung diseases impact the blood vessels within the lungs. As with lung tissue diseases, lung circulation diseases also deal with scarring and inflammation, but they also include clotting issues. Shortness of breath is a big symptom associated with lung circulation diseases, and they can also affect heart health. Pulmonary hypertension is an example. 
  • Airway — As the name implies, these types of lung diseases impact the airways that carry oxygen in and out of the lungs. Asthma and COPD are common airway lung diseases because they are caused by blocked or narrowed airways. Those experiencing this type of lung disease often describe their experience as “breathing through a straw.” 

Okay so now you have a rundown of common lung diseases and the types of lung diseases that exist. 

Lung Disease Trivia

Lung Disease Causes

  1. Genetics
  2. Infection
  3. Environmental toxins
  4. All of the above

If you answered D, you’re correct.

Researchers have found that certain gene variants may be associated with impaired lung function and that gene variant can be passed down from one family member to the next. Lung diseases also commonly originate from a virus or bacterial infection that either went untreated or ignored until it progressed into something like bronchitis or pneumonia. Lastly, environmental toxins like air pollution, asbestos from insulation, cigarette smoke (especially cigarette smoke), and coal dust can irritate and inflame the lungs to the point that a chronic lung condition or disease forms. 

Lung disease is also known as

  1. Pulmonary edema
  2. Chronic respiratory condition
  3. Sarcoidosis

Answer: B

Lung disease is classified as a chronic respiratory condition because in almost every case, a primary symptom of the various lung diseases is difficulty or an inability to breathe. Pulmonary edema and sarcoidosis are two forms of lung disease. 

True or False: Lung cancer and lung disease are preventable

This one is true in most cases! As we discussed, a number of lung diseases are caused by environmental toxins, and inflammation. Asthma, chronic bronchitis, and pneumonia all involve inflammation of the airways or air sacs within the lungs. Eliminating environmental toxins and inflammation, therefore, will help prevent lung disease, including lung cancer. More on that in a bit. 

So let’s talk about ways to prevent lung cancer and lung disease, especially since lung disease currently affects people in the tens of millions in the United States alone! Of those tens of millions of people, asthma is the most common lung disease, affecting 25 million people. 

Additionally, COPD has surpassed strokes as the third leading cause of death in the United States. Overall, 7% of deaths in the U.S. are attributed to some sort of lung disease. 

Top 7 Natural Habits to Help Prevent Lung Disease 

1. Don’t smoke!

This is the leading culprit for developing lung disease or lung cancer. In fact, cigarette smoking is responsible for approximately 1 in 5 deaths annually. Over 16 million people living in the United States have a disease as a result of smoking. 

However, over the past few decades there has been a silver lining. Deaths due to lung disease spiked back in 2002, claiming 55 out of every 100,000 people. In 2014, that number dropped to 53 out of every 100,000 people. It’s not earth-shattering, but it’s progress! Researchers believe this may be due, in large part, to the reduction in smoking rates. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that smokers in the U.S. have declined from 21 out of every 100 people to 14 out of every 100 people. The number of people who are giving up smoking also seems to be increasing. 

Unfortunately, we’ve seen a tremendous rise in vaping, which may be partly behind the decrease in cigarette smoking. We’re not talking about vaping in this article, but we will devote a whole show to it in the future, given it’s growing popularity and the fact that the health risks associated are so downplayed by the marketers of these products. 

As far as lung diseases go, yes, smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, COPD, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. It causes swelling to the lungs, chronic inflammation, and narrows the air passages. Cigarette smoke, over time, can cause those DNA mutations we discussed, and create abnormal lung tissue that leads to cancer. 

2. Exercise

We talk about this so often, but exercise really is one of the keys to leading a long, healthy life. In the case of preventing lung disease, though, exercise, particularly of the cardiovascular variety, is essential. By getting 30 minutes of low to moderate exercise 5 days a week, you can benefit your lungs greatly. Low to moderate exercise includes walking, jogging, biking, and even doing vigorous yard work and cleaning your house counts if you do it right. These activities can help the body become more efficient at getting oxygen into your bloodstream and strengthen the lungs, heart, and diaphragm, to boot. 

Strengthening the diaphragm is particularly important because the diaphragm is responsible for our ability to inhale and exhale. When you are able to do this with more power, you’re more likely to ward off illness and diseases that hinder your ability to move air in and out of the body. 

3. Boost your Immunity

Pneumonia and chronic bronchitis are more often than not byproducts of a common cold gone awry. They’ve either gone ignored or untreated and escalated into a serious lung disease with serious, potentially long-lasting and damaging results. It is so important to protect yourself against things like the common cold so they don’t escalate to something more serious. 

Ways to protect and boost your immune system include:

  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes, especially if you’re around children a lot. Contact with these areas is the quickest way to spread illness and disease. 
  • Wash your hands with soap and water. 
  • If you’re sick, stay home! Not only can you spread your illness to others, but you run the risk of getting even sicker, which can develop into something more severe like bronchitis or pneumonia. 
  • Brush your teeth. That’s right — brushing twice daily can help prevent serious illness, as can getting a regular teeth cleaning every six months. 

4. Load up on anti-inflammatory foods

Many diseases associated with the lungs are a product of excessive inflammation. It stands to reason, then, that if you do everything you can to reduce chronic inflammation in the body, you’ll also reduce your chances of acquiring a lung disease. 

Foods that make the anti-inflammatory list include:

  • Lean proteins like chicken, turkey, and fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel
  • Nuts like almonds, cashews, and pistachios
  • Seeds like chia, pumpkin, and flax
  • Fruits like cantaloupe, berries, apples, mangos, avocados, and grapefruit
  • Vegetables like leafy greens, including kale and spinach, cauliflower, sweet potato, and broccoli

Also, adding spices like turmeric and ginger can help reduce chronic inflammation in the body. However, integrating a supplement into your diet may be the ultimate key in fighting inflammation — and curcumin is the one. Over 10,000 studies on turmeric and curcumin (which is the active ingredient inside turmeric) prove its inflammation-fighting ability. The inflammation-fighting effect of curcumin comes from is its ability to inhibit key enzymes in the body known to promote inflammation. So we should all be taking a curcumin supplement to give our systems a needed boost when it comes to combating inflammation daily. 

Now when shopping for a curcumin, you want curcumin in its most active form, so it goes to work in your body almost immediately. The active form of curcumin is pre-converted so it is almost immediately bioavailable in your body when you take it. It’s kind of like when you juice something and break the fiber bonds, your body just absorbs it better and faster. Dr. Nancy takes Smarter Curcumin every day, as it has the active form of curcumin you need and great support ingredients too. 

5. Do your best to avoid air pollution

Air pollution has a huge impact on your likelihood of contracting a lung disease. Air pollution includes pollution from:

  • Manufacturing plants
  • Natural disasters like wildfires, hurricanes, and floods
  • Vehicle emissions
  • Electric utilities that burn oil, coal, and natural gas
  • Industrial emissions

Breathing in toxic fumes and chemicals can be prevented. On days when you know air pollution is expected to be high, take steps to limit your exposure. You can do so by staying indoors as much as possible on those days. And if you have to go outside, limit the number of times you have to go out by combining your errands into one trip. 

Wait until evening to get gas for your car or do yard work that involves lawn mowers and tractors fueled by gas. On days when you know air pollution is going to be bad in your area, avoid exercising outside. Breathing in all that air pollution when you’re exercising can only increase your chances of exposing yourself to lung disease. 

6. Limit exposure to environmental toxins

We’ve already talked about this, but let’s take a closer look at what that actually means. 

As we mentioned previously, cigarette smoke is a leading cause of lung disease, but there are other environmental toxins at work, too. Secondhand smoke is a big one, as is radon. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer-related deaths in the U.S. It’s odorless, colorless, and tasteless, and exists in schools, homes, and other buildings. Radon is a naturally occurring gas, making it hard to avoid and prevent, especially when it occurs indoors. Luckily, there are radon test kits on the market that you can install yourself!

Radon isn’t the only environmental toxin to watch out for. Animal dander, coal dust, asbestos found in insulation, grain dust, and metal particles can all contribute to lung disease when inhaled repeatedly. Limiting exposure to these toxins is your best line of defense in preventing lung disease.

If you work in an environment where you’re continually exposed to environmental toxins, take precautions like wearing protective clothing and masks, as well as washing your hands and face frequently. Do all you can to prevent infections that could lead to lung disease. 

Household cleaners are another source of environmental toxins — obviously, we need to clean our house, but do we really need all the harmful toxins and chemicals? There answer is no! Try making this great, all natural, all-purpose cleaner that is safe and effective!

Scented Vinegar All-Purpose Cleaner

Here’s what you do:

  • Wash and dry large glass jars.
  • Fill the jar half full with citrus peels and herbs, or whatever essential oils you like. Try combinations like lime with mint, lemon with basil, and orange with cloves.
  • Heat white vinegar to nearly boiling. You can microwave it in a large glass measuring cup, or on the stove by putting a little water into a pan and setting the glass container in it. (Tip: use glass to heat vinegar — it does not react with the acetic acid in vinegar. Whatever you do not use an aluminum pan to heat the vinegar!)
  • Pour the vinegar over the mixture in the jar, seal and place the jar in a cool dark place.
  • Check the mixture after 24 hours, it should be ready to use. (Allow it to sit longer if you want to smell to be more intense.)
  • Strain the peels and herbs out of the mixture and discard. 
  • Store the scented vinegar in a cool dark location.

You can use your scented vinegars to make a simple, homemade cleaner by combining 1 cup of vinegar with 1 cup of water. This DIY cleaner is non-toxic, cuts through grime with ease, and naturally deodorizes. You can use it for almost every cleaning job in your house.

What is really great about this, is that you can use different scents over the course of the year: lemon in summer, cloves and orange peels around the holidays, mint and lavender for spring cleaning… you can really make any scent that fits your current mood!  

DIY ways to use your Scented Vinegar Cleaner:

  1. Clean the microwave: combine 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup water in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat the mixture for a few minutes and let the steam collect on the inside of the microwave. Carefully remove the bowl and wipe down your microwave.
  2. Window Washing: Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle, wipe down with a lint free cloth.
  3. Fabric Softener: add ½ - 1 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle to help remove detergent build-up, soften fabrics, and deodorize laundry. 
  4. All-Purpose Cleaner: fill a spray bottle, with ⅓ vinegar and ⅔ water. Use it to clean household surfaces.
  5. Washing Machine Refresher: Fill all compartments with vinegar and run your washing machine on the cleaning cycle.
  6. Pet Odor Remover: Clean pet stains and then spray with a mixture of ⅓ vinegar and ⅔ water to deodorize.
  7. Hard Water Spot Remover: scrub shower heads, faucets, shower doors and bathtubs with vinegar to remove hard water spots and mineral buildup. Add 1 cup of water to your sink and fill with water, soak cloudy glasses to remove mineral build up.
  8. Hard Floor Cleaner: use a mixture of ⅓ vinegar to ⅔ water to mop floors. Refill Swiffer cleaner bottles with this solution and never have to buy refills again. 
  9. Kill Weeds Naturally: spray weeds and areas where you do not want plants to grow with vinegar.

7. Make Regular Doctor Visits 

Statistics all show that early detection is key in either preventing an illness or catching a disease in its earliest stages. 

Getting an annual physical, as well as staying current with all your tests according to your age, are all absolutely vital in preventing lung disease, among other things. We cannot stress this enough! 

Lung disease in particular can go undetected and undiagnosed until it becomes a serious issue. It is so important, then, to make sure you stay up to date with your check-ups, and, of course, see a doctor right away if you find you’re having trouble breathing. 

Wrap-Up

Lung cancer is the presence of abnormal cells in one or both of the lungs and it can grow at an alarming rate. Lung disease affects tens of millions of Americans and includes 3 types of diseases:

  • Lung tissue diseases 
  • Lung circulation diseases
  • Airway diseases

Common lung diseases include asthma, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, and sarcoidosis. 

There are things you can do to prevent lung cancer and lung disease, including:

  • Exercise
  • Don’t smoke
  • Load up on anti-inflammatory foods
  • Reduce exposure to air pollution
  • Limit exposure to environmental toxins
  • See your doctor regularly for check-ups
  • Keep your immune system strong

There it is — Dr. Nancy’s top 7 ways you can prevent lung cancer and lung disease. See you next time!

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