One of the basic things we can do to improve our health and wellness is to protect our bodies from external insults (toxins). In Part Two of this series we discussed the role of the skin in this process and how to take care of it. The next organ system to consider is our LUNGS. Our lungs are designed to continuously bring oxygen into our systems and expel carbon dioxide. They are very efficient in this process. But there is a whole host of other gases and chemicals that can also transfer into our system circulation across these same lung membranes. So again, the first and best line of defense is to remove ourselves as much as possible from “polluted” air. Pollution comes in many forms: highway diesel fumes, highway carbon monoxide, second-hand cigarette smoke, household ammonia cleanser, perfume, smog, gasoline fumes, paint fumes, glue fumes, outgassing from plastics, and smoke from campfires to name but a few. I hope you get the point. If it’s not pure, clean air we breathe we are inhaling potentially harmful chemicals.
Yes, you can’t avoid inhaling a lot of this stuff but the extent to which you can avoid these and other substances the better off you will be. You can also be proactive in reducing pollution sources not only for yourself but for everyone else: keep your car tuned; don’t have a diesel car or truck; don’t smoke; tell your smoking friends to do it outside; wear a ventilator when painting or dealing with other fume producing substances; use glass vs plastic whenever possible; avoid perfumes. I know you can add dozens more.
Other than avoiding toxins what can you do to improve the health of your lungs? Actually you can do a lot! Aerobic exercise, eat well (more on what this means in a future blog), appropriate vitamin supplementation with emphasis on anti-oxidants, reduce stress, keep diabetes & high blood pressure under control, maintain an appropriate body weight, manage your asthma, get a flu shot each year, get a pneumonia shot if appropriate to your age, drink plenty of water every day, and good genes from your ancestors can’t hurt!
If you do have compromised lungs from asthma, emphysema, infection, fibrosis, there are very few medications you can inhale directly into the lungs that can help – broncodilators and steroids primarily. However, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests inhaling glutathione prophylactically or as an acute treatment can help. Glutathione (GSH) is the body’s main anti-oxidant. It is found in virtually every cell in the body but is more highly concentrated in the lungs, gut, liver, and kidneys (not surprisingly our main detox organs). GSH is not available commercially, i.e., is not manufactured by a drug company, but is available from compounding pharmacies properly equipped to produce a sterile inhalation solution. It appears that GSH, in some cases, can reduce the incidence and severity of infections, can help protect healthy lung tissue, and possibly may have an anti-bacterial effect, and few, if any, side effects. The jury is still out on glutathione but it continues to be studied for multiple conditions.
We will take a look at the GUT next time.