Breathe Deeply and Relax: Lung Health in the time of Coronavirus
How the lungs work and ways to keep them healthy
With the Coronavirus having a very real impact on each of our lives, it’s helpful to get a deeper understanding of key organs affected by this disease, in this case, our lungs. It’s also helpful to have recommendations for ways to support lung health and function, today we’ll provide both.
The lungs play a critical role in our lives, but we rarely think about the important work they do or the way they work because for most healthy people, they just do. While we technically need only one lung to lead a normal life, having two is helpful for arduous exercise and play.
How our lungs work
Lungs swap gases, exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen. This activity occurs inside the alveoli, those little sacs that look like clusters of grapes. Being only one cell thick, they allow gases to pass easily between themselves and the capillaries that will carry O2 throughout the body. One cubic millimeter of lung tissue carries over one hundred fifty alveoli so there are millions of them in total. In fact, if laid out flat, they’d cover two sheets of plywood!
Each alveolus has two kinds of cells: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 pneumocytes make the actual gas exchange while Type 2’s repair any damage that may occur from smoking or a viral/bacterial/fungal/pollution attack and act as a surfactant. A surfactant helps the alveoli to keep their shape, so they don’t deflate and get flat after we exhale. For example, imagine trying to re-inflate a deflated rubber balloon that gets all twisted and gnarly when moisture from your breath makes it stick to itself.
There are several things that can adversely affect alveoli and cause them to become inflamed or to fill with fluid (water, pus, or blood). Surfactant dysfunction can cause alveoli to collapse and get dried out, and then “crack.” COPD, asthma, infant respiratory distress syndrome, interstitial fibrosis, and some genetic disorders can also create these problems.
The major components of surfactants are lipids—almost 90% by mass—with proteins comprising the rest. This combination accounts for pulmonary compliance, which is the lung’s ability to stretch, expand, and remain pliable. The surfactant also has non-biophysical properties in that it can protect the lungs from invasion by inhaled particles and microorganisms. Of the lipids that comprise the surfactant, over 80% is phosphatidylcholine aka PC. The surface tension modulation by surfactant is absolute at normal body temperatures. Cold air is dry and irritates the lining of the lungs, causing cracks and swelling.
Everyday Diet and Supplement Support for Lungs
Fortunately, there are ways to help keep your lungs healthy during this difficult time. Since the lungs are made up largely of PC or Phosphatidylcholine, ensuring that your cells are healthy with the use of a supplement like BodyBio PC can have an impact on overall wellbeing.
Natural agonists—which activate receptors in the brain—for resolution of pulmonary inflammation are known as resolvins. The discovery of these lipid-derived mediators has widened the window of exploration in the pathobiology of inflammatory diseases. Resolvins are enzymatically generated from n-3 fatty acids and can prevent uncontrolled neutrophil activity, thus decreasing the generation of pro-inflammatory cytokines and reactive oxygen species.
In the presence of DHA, a low dose of aspirin triggers the manufacture of resolvins that contain infection and mitigate lung inflammation. Because people over the age of thirty are inefficient at converting the mother n-3 fat to its downstream metabolites, EPA and DHA, taking a preformed DHA from a marine oil is a wise decision. BodyBio Kirunal Fish Oil is derived from supercritical CO2 extraction to present pure and potent n-3 metabolites.
Diet also plays a key role in lung health. One of the most reliable and powerful antivirals able to address lung health is quercetin, a bioflavonoid common to apples, onions, cherries, lemons, broccoli, red grapes, and hawthorn. Of all the bioflavonoids, quercetin is the most active, especially when combined with rutin, a lesser-known bioflavonoid available in kale, asparagus, spinach and lemons. Both are on the market as supplements as well. Quercetin has gained fame as an anti-tumor agent, one that inhibits specific enzymes that are over-expressed in lung cancer. But was also found to impair the vigor of the enzymes that promote the action of pulmonary pathogens, including those that cause pneumonia and its accompanying biofilm.
Finally, we’ve talked extensively about the virtues of Vitamins C and Vitamin D on our blog previously, but the importance of both on lung health can’t be overlooked.
Hopefully, after reading this post you feel you’ve improved your arsenal of immunity boosting foods and have a better understanding of how the lungs function. Any opportunity to stay healthy during this pandemic should be top of mind so take care of yourself, and don’t forget to wash your hands!
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