Food for thought—and your lungs

Gerald W. Deas M.D., MPH | 2/9/2017, 10:59 a.m.

Taking up most of the space in our chests are two beautiful organs called the lungs. Yes, they breathe, providing our bodies with the needed oxygen to keep the other organs, such as the heart, kidneys, brain, etc., alive. To carry on their functions, the lungs need food to keep healthy, and that’s what I would like you to think about.

The small tubes deep in the lungs leading to the air sacs where oxygen and the waste product carbon dioxide are exchanged must be kept open and clean. If these tubes collapse because of inflammation and are clogged with mucus, air cannot enter or leave and the whole body suffers. To stay open and healthy, these tubes need certain vitamins and minerals that are found in food we eat each day.

For example, vitamin C is concentrated in the lungs and when it is absent, the small tubes are subject to collapse, which brings on wheezing. Vitamin C can be found abundantly in oranges and all other citrus fruits, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and strawberries. Vitamin C can also be taken as a supplement (500 mg to 1,000 mg per day).

The lungs also cry for vitamin E. Researchers at Harvard University have found that those persons who have an ample amount of vitamin E in their diets are less likely to have attacks of asthma. It has been shown that vitamin E relaxes the smooth muscle surrounding the small tubes in the lungs, preventing them from collapsing. Vitamin E can be found in such foods as wheat germ, almonds, sunflower seeds, whole grain cereals, spinach and kale. If your diet is low in these foods, a supplement of vitamin E (200 IU to 400 IU) may help to prevent asthma.

The wonderful element selenium also does a good job in keeping the lungs healthy. This mineral helps vitamins C and E to do their jobs better. Selenium is found in meats such as chicken and beef. Seafood and Brazil nuts are loaded with this mineral. If your diet is poor in this nutrient, a supplement of 200 mg may prove to be helpful.

Magnificent magnesium, which is found plentifully in spinach, halibut, oysters, mackerel, bluefish, salmon and sardines, can also benefit the lungs in combating asthma. If you are not a fish eater, 200 mg of magnesium daily can be helpful.

The lungs also love omega 3 oils, found in oily fish. In fact, magnesium and these oils are protective.

Remember the lungs need food to stay healthy, and you should think about vitamins and minerals to ward off asthmatic attacks. If you follow the above nutritional advice, you may live a lung time!