Newer homes are airtight to save energy, but this prevents a healthy exchange between stale indoor and fresh outdoor air, so run ventilating fans in the bathroom and kitchen to prevent mold and air out your home periodically.
In addition to an energy audit, consider an air quality assessment (or perform your own). Invest in carbon monoxide detector, if you don’t already have one. Those who live where radon is a concern need to test for this odorless gas (a kit costs about $35).
If you don’t already, leave your shoes at the front door and put on some cozy slippers (that may also help you keep the thermostat down). Wearing outdoors shoes indoors increases levels of lead, pesticides, and other contaminants in the home—not to mention dirt. Vacuum with a low-emissions machine or HEPA filter, and dust frequently. Cut down on clutter, which only attracts dust, and use spider plants that help clean the air. Change or clean air filters in heating/cooling systems at least once a month.
Select environmentally-friendly household cleaners. Otherwise, you’re adding unwanted toxins to indoor air and dumping the rest down the drain, where they pollute water supplies. Also, choose natural and organic fabrics for clothing and furnishings. Synthetic fibers (e.g., acrylic, nylon, polyester) are coated with formaldehyde finishes that gives off vapors that can lead to allergies and trouble breathing.
Protect Your Lungs
Benzene, dust mites, feathers, formaldehyde, molds, radon, toxic chemicals in many home furnishings and household cleaners, as well as smoke, wreak havoc on sensitive lungs. Incidence of allergies and asthma has skyrocketed in recent years, while as many as 24 million Americans may have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which, in addition to asthma, includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
The good news is that diets high in fish, fruits and veggies, poultry, and whole grains appear to protect against chronic lung problems. Probiotics support the immune system, while methysylfonylmethane (MSM) fights allergies as effectively (or better than) antihistamine drugs. Quercetin is a natural antihistamine. Older people with COPD may be low in magnesium, and supplementation significantly strengthens muscles involved in breathing, promoting better oxygenation.
Antioxidant coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) enhances oxygen in the lungs, making it useful in COPD. Another antioxidant, zinc helps protect the lungs, but don’t take more than 100 mg daily. Chlorophyll in green food supplements aids clear breathing.
Medicinal herbs are useful, too. Antioxidant nettle reduces inflammation in the sinuses, helping to prevent allergy attacks. Astragalus promotes better breathing and speeds healing of the bronchial tubes, while cordyceps appears to inhibit lung degeneration. Also consider alfalfa, fenugreek, fresh horseradish, mullein tea, rosemary, and thyme.
Don’t forget homeopathy. Homeopathic belladonna relaxes the bronchioles in the lungs, alleviating wheezing in asthma. Allium cepa is a popular homeopathic remedy for indoor allergies. Or look for combination formulas that treat dust, mold, and other indoor allergens.
Daily breathing exercise can improve lung function. Try inhaling deeply through the nose, pulling in the abdominal muscles and then exhaling slowly through the mouth with the tongue pressed between the roof of the mouth and the top of the teeth. Repeat for approximately 10 minutes, several times a day.
Regular exercise, particularly walking, may also lessen breathlessness, but start slowly, gradually increasing in intensity. Yoga and t’ai chi are also recommended. But should exercise induce asthma, watch your salt intake. Asthmatics on a high-sodium diet have more trouble breathing while working out than do those who use less salt.
Last but never least, anyone with sensitive lungs wants to avoid smoke. Also, get plenty of fresh air.
The Gut Flush Plan by Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS
Living Green by Greg Horn
“The INDEX Project . . . on Indoor Air Pollutants” K. Koistinen et al., Allergy, 7/08
“Prevent Your Air from Harming You” by Keith Pandolfi, www.cnn.com, 6/27/08
“Nutrition: A Healthy Diet May Keep Chronic Lung Disease at Bay” by Nicholas Bakalar, New York Times, 5/22/07
“Recent Advances in the Assessment and Management of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease” by P. S. Shankar, Indian J Chest Dis Allied Sci, 1-3/08
Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC ($24.95, Penguin Group/Avery, 2006)
“Quality of Indoor Residential Air and Health” R. Dales et al., CMAJ, 7/15/08
“Exposure to Indoor Mold and Children’s Respiratory Health . . .” T. Antova et al., J Epidemiol Community Health, 8/08