THE HUMAN RESPIRATORY SYSTEM
Respiratory disorders can be caused by air pollution, allergies, bacterial or fungal infections, genetics, poor diet, smoking, toxins or an unhealthy lifestyle. There are many natural remedies that can alleviate the symptoms of respiratory disorders without the side-effects of conventional drugs.
When an asthma sufferer comes into contact with something that irritates their airways (an asthma trigger), the muscles around the walls of the airways (bronchial tubes) tighten so that the airways become narrower and the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell. Sometimes, sticky mucus or phlegm builds up, which can further narrow the airways, making it difficult to breathe and leading to symptoms of asthma. To find our more about asthma including symptoms, natural foods and tips to prevent, treat and cure asthma visit the Asthma page.
Bronchitis is a chest infection of the main airways of the lungs (bronchi), which causes them to become irritated and inflamed. The main symptom is a cough which may bring up yellow-grey mucus and this sticky mucus is produced by the body as a protection and to bind to the bacteria or viruses, causing the infection, and bring them up out of the lungs.
Bronchitis may also cause a sore throat, wheezing and a blocked nose. In most cases it will clear up by itself within a few weeks without the need for treatment. While you are waiting for it to pass, you should drink lots of fluid and get plenty of rest.The following symptoms must be investigated by a health professional.
Natural foods to consume to treat catarrh and bronchitis problems
Drink at least six glasses of bottled natural mineral water daily.
Teas can be made with herbs and spices by adding hot but not boiling water to them and leaving to steep for 20 minutes then strain and sip three or four cups a day slowly. Honey can be added to sweeten and freshly squeezed lemon juice for additional benefits. These teas can be reheated gently but do not allow to boil.
Drinking some freshly made fig leaf tea and eating some fresh figs daily can alleviate symptoms of bronchitis.
Raw juice therapy can successfully treat bronchitis. The best organic natural foods to juice are:
See more Natural remedies for all respiratory disorders below.
The name for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease. People with chronic bronchitis often develop another smoking-related lung disease called emphysema – where the air sacs inside the lungs become damaged, causing shortness of breath. People with COPD have difficulties breathing, primarily due to the narrowing of their airways, this is called airflow obstruction.
Typical symptoms of COPD
Stopping smoking, changing to a healthy nutritious diet and taking regular exercise can strengthen the lungs and reverse the damage that is done but it can take two years on a strict regime to repair.
In some cases, the smoker has left it too late and this can then lead to further disorders such as circulation and digestive problems. It can also lead to obesity and the related ailments due to being unable to take physical exercise due to shortness of breath.
Also known as CF or mucoviscidosis, cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease of the glands, including mucus and sweat glands. It mostly affects the lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, sinuses and sex organs but it doesn't affect the brain. There are around 9,000 people with cystic fibrosis in the UK although around one in 25 people carries the faulty gene which causes the condition. See the Cystic Fibrosis page for more information.
Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) involving damage to the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. As a result, the body does not get the oxygen it needs. Emphysema makes it hard to catch the breath. It may also be accompanied by a chronic cough and problems with breathing during exercise. The most common cause is cigarette smoking. Stopping can help prevent it from developing. If already suffering with emphysema, not smoking might keep it from getting worse.
Foods which have particularly shown to help protect against and treat lung cancer
Betulinic acid is a powerful antibacterial, antifungal, antivirus and tumour fighting compound which can treat actinic keratosis, breast, cervical, colorectal, lung, melanoma, prostate and skin cancers. It is also anti inflammatory and a natural diuretic. It can be found in thefollowing:
There are many more foods and nutrients that can prevent and treat all cancers see Cancer
Pneumonia is a chest infection which refers to the acute inflammation of the lungs. It is one of the most serious infectious diseases. A common complication of all kinds of pneumonia is pleurisy. Pleurisy is an inflammation of the pleura, a serous membrane which envelopes the lungs and also lines the inside of the chest. To find out more and what particular foods and remedies are good to treat these conditions see Pneumonia and pleurisy
When the heart is not working correctly, pulmonary oedema is likely to occur. The main job of the heart is to take pure oxygenated blood from the lungs that enters through the pulmonary veins. It is then delivered to various parts of the body through a large artery known as aorta.
In some cases, the heart becomes ineffective in delivering sufficient blood to different organs. Poor functioning of the heart causes the blood in the pulmonary veins to back up. The blood moving in the opposite direction puts excessive strain on these veins. Due to this excessive pressure, the veins start leaking.
As these veins pass through the lungs, the fluid that comes out, finds its way into the alveoli. This fluid disrupts the normal flow of oxygen through the lungs leading to shortness of breath.
People suffering from congestive heart failure, defective heart valves, cardiomyopathy or those with a history of heart attacks may also eventually develop pulmonary oedema.
What to avoid when suffering from pulmonary oedema
Because sodium aggravates fluid on the lungs it should be reduced in the diet.
Highest sources of sodium in milligrams per 100 grams
Diet for pulmonary oedema and fluid on the lungs
Red clover and golden seal herbs decrease congestion and thin the blood. Turmeric, ginger and cumin thin the blood naturally.
Foods containing magnesium, vitamin B1, vitamin E and Coenzyme Q10 will reduce fluid on the lungs and may be lacking in the diet especially if diuretic medication is being taken.
See Drugs dangers to find out what medications block nutrient absorption and cause other adverse side effects
See also Nutrients for healthy lung function below.
Rheumatoid arthritis does not just affect the joints, it can also damage the tissue surrounding the joints, as well as the eyes, heart and lungs. Besides the joints, the heart and lungs are the most commonly affected and can be potentially serious and even fatal.
Rheumatoid arthritis-associated interstitial lung disease, (RA-ILD), is the most serious lung complication for people with rheumatoid arthritis. This illness can be hard to detect, but occurs when lung tissue becomes inflamed and eventually scarred. Men are at higher risk than women for this disease. Although non-smokers can and do develop RA-ILD, smoking seems to increase risk.
RA-ILD may cause breathlessness and dry cough, but in many cases it causes no symptoms at all, making early detection difficult.
Inflammation caused by RA-ILD, can lead to pulmonary fibrosis or permanent scarring of the respiratory tissues. This can cause shortness of breath, as healthy air sacs are replaced by scar tissue. Supplemental oxygen can help make breathing easier, but will not reverse the damage done by pulmonary fibrosis.
NOTE: Methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall) is a medication often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis that can cause pulmonary fibrosis.
Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause nodules to form in the throat and on the vocal cords, causing complications like hoarseness and other changes. Nodules can develop in the lungs as well, but usually do not cause symptoms and patients may never notice them.
Damage to the lining of the lung, or the pleura, affects more than half of all people with rheumatoid arthritis, but few actually experience symptoms. Others may develop pleurisy, or inflammation of the pleural tissue that can cause chest pain and difficulty breathing. Effusions may also occur that is fluid build-up in the pleural space around the lungs and this can lead to a persistent cough, shortness of breath and, in some cases, a collapsed lung.
People that have rheumatoid arthritis and experience shortness of breath, coughing or other respiratory symptoms should see their health practitioner to be checked very quickly as these symptoms can become serious.
See also: Rheumatoid Arthritis
This is caused by biofilm bacteria which causes small patches of red and swollen tissue, called granulomas, to develop in the organs of the body. It can develop in any organs but usually starts in the lungs and lymph nodes. The cause of sarcoidosis is unknown. The disease can appear suddenly and disappear or it can develop gradually and go on to produce symptoms that come and go, sometimes for a lifetime.
Anyone can get sarcoidosis but it mainly affects people from 20 - 40 years of age. It occurs in all races and in both sexes. Nevertheless, the risk is greater for a young black adult, especially women or people of Scandinavian, German, Irish or Puerto Rican origin. The reason for this has not yet been discovered.
In 10%-15% of the patients, sarcoidosis can become chronic. When either the granulomas or fibrosis seriously affect the function of a vital organ. such as the lungs, heart, nervous system, liver or kidneys. it can be fatal. This occurs only 5%-10% of the time. Some people are more at risk than others but as yet no one knows why.
Sarcoidosis is usually not crippling. It often goes away by itself, with most cases healing in 24 to 36 months. It is not contagious either.
It is currently thought to be associated with an abnormal immune response. It is not known whether the trigger that initiates the immune disturbance is a chemical, drug, virus or some other foreign substance.
Symptoms of sarcoidosis
The first symptoms can be a cough that will not go away and shortness of breath. It can also show up suddenly with the appearance of skin rashes. Red bumps (erythema nodosum) on the face, arms or shins and inflammation of the eyes are also common symptoms.
Symptoms may also be more general. such as weight loss, fatigue, night sweats, fever or just an overall feeling of ill health.
The lungs are usually the first site involved in sarcoidosis. About 9out of 10 patients have some type of lung problem, with nearly one-third of these patients showing some respiratory symptoms usually coughing, either dry or with phlegm and dyspnoea. Occasionally, patients have chest pain and a feeling of tightness in the chest.
It is thought that sarcoidosis of the lungs begins with inflammation of the alveoli which are the tiny sac like air spaces in the lungs where carbon dioxide and oxygen are exchanged. Alveolitis either clears up spontaneously or leads to granuloma formation. Eventually fibrosis can form, causing the lung to stiffen and making breathing even more difficult.
Eye disease occurs in about 20%-30% of patients with sarcoidosis, particularly in children who get the disease. Almost any part of the eye can be affected; the membranes of the eyelids, cornea, outer coat of the eyeball (sclera), retina and lens. The eye involvement can start with no symptoms at all or with reddening or watery eyes. In a few cases, cataracts, glaucoma and blindness can result.
The skin is affected in about 20% of sarcoidosis patients. Skin sarcoidosis is usually marked by small, raised patches on the face. Sometimes, the patches are purplish in colour. Patches can also appear on limbs and buttocks.
Other symptoms include erythema nodosum (small red round lumps) to appear just below the skin, mostly on the legs and often accompanied by arthritis in the ankles, elbows, wrists and hands. Erythema nodosum usually goes away, but other skin problems can persist.
Because sarcoidosis may be triggered by an immune response the remedies to correct the immune system should be tried first. See Immune System.
A healthy diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits will obviously help the body heal from a sarcoidosis attack. See Nature Cures for all Respiratory Conditions below.
Tuberculosis (TB), a severe bacterial lung infection can also cause fluid to accumulate inside the lungs. But in most cases, TB causes excess build up of fluid around the lungs. Also referred to as pleural effusion or 'fluid on lungs', the condition is commonly diagnosed among TB patients. Normally, there is a small amount of fluid surrounding the lungs but in TB there is bacterial growth in the fluid filled space between the chest wall and the lungs. Hence, the quantity of fluid circulating in this space increases tremendously, thereby impairing the expansion of lungs needed while breathing.
Pleural effusion may eventually cause fluid to leak into the lungs. Also, many times the onset of TB is followed by pneumonia, a condition commonly referred to as tuberculosis pneumonia. This medical condition, too can cause water retention in lungs.
There are three important ways to describe the stages of TB. They are as follows:
Exposure This occurs when a person has been in contact, or exposed to, another person who is thought to have or does have TB. The exposed person will have a negative skin test, and normal chest x-ray, and no signs or symptoms of the disease.
Latent TB infection This occurs when a person has the TB bacteria in his/her body, but does not have symptoms of the disease. This person would have a positive skin test, but a normal chest x-ray.
TB disease This describes the person that has signs and symptoms of an active infection. The person would have a positive skin test and a positive chest x-ray.
The predominant TB bacterium is Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis). Several people infected with M. tuberculosis never develop active TB. However, in people with weakened immune systems, like the elderly or those with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), TB organisms can overcome the body's defences, multiply, and cause an active disease.
NATURE CURES FOR TUBERCULOSIS
A diet rich in anti-oxidant and bacteria fighting fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices can help ward off TB disease and help the body to recover once TB has become active.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis or the 100 day cough, is highly contagious and caused by an infection with a bacterium known as Bordetella pertussis. The bacteria attach to the lining of the airways in the upper respiratory system and release toxins that lead to inflammation and swelling. It afflicts children and adults, whether vaccinated or not, and although it used to be assigned to early spring and summer, recently it is appearing at nearly anytime of the year.
Whooping cough is contracted through air-borne particles, commonly from sneezing and coughing but also from surface contact. Symptoms start like the common cold, with congestion, runny nose, sneezing, mild fever or light cough, but turn into severe coughing after a week or so and persist with rapid, uncontrolled, spasmodic coughing with “whooping” sounds indicating difficulty breathing. It can develop into bronchitis or pneumonia, and quickly exhausts and dehydrates the sufferer without proper care and treatment.
Preventative measures include vaccination, ensuring vitamin D and vitamin C levels are adequate and hygiene practices such as frequent hand washing and not touching the mouth and nose.
Effective home treatment for whooping cough includes bed rest (but avoid lying flat, which can aggravate whooping cough spasms), keeping warm and avoiding chills and drafts, drinking plenty of clear, sugar-free fluids including water and fruit juice, avoiding milk and milk-based foods like yogurt, eliminating sugar and eating small meals every couple of hours to keep up energy and replenish nutrients.
Apple cider vinegar, echinacea root and flower, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, lemon and lime juice and turmeric are all useful remedies for whooping cough. The medicinal apple cider tonic is especially useful for both prevention and treatment of whooping cough. Click here for details and the recipe. Always make sure to dilute any remedies well for children and give one quarter of the dosage for adults.
Pine needle tea: collect some fresh pine needles and/or bark. Take two large handfuls and add to a stainless cooking pot . Add 4 oz (125 g) of dried monarda (bee balm) flowers and leaves if available. Cover with water and simmer until reduced to a thick liquid. Strain and mix with equal parts honey. Store in the refrigerator and use as needed, by the teaspoon. Take as a cough syrup or dilute and use drink as tea.
Use an aromatic oil vaporiser with eucalyptus oils to help with breathing difficulties but do not use if asthma is also present.
Eat well: Loose any extra weight and do regular gentle exercises to strengthen the heart and lungs.
Remove chemicals: Take all perfumes and artificial chemicals out of the home. Use only natural soaps, detergents, cosmetics and deodorants. See the Hygiene, Toxins and Health page for natural alternatives.
Drink ginger ale: Caffeinated beverages may irritate the stomach, so ginger can help. The carbonation release any trapped gas in the chest and the ginger helps with nausea that may sometimes accompany asthma.
Avoid stress: Avoid emotional stress s much as possible.
Take a hot showerwith the shower head on the most forceful and hottest setting. Sit down so that the back is to the water and allow it to 'beat on the back'. The water will relax you, the steam is good to breathe in and the pounding helps loosen the phlegm. Some fresh branches of eucalyptus can be tied up and hung in the shower and this will also help.
Drink tea: especially green tea. (three cups a day) Caffeine helps to dilate the bronchial airways. Avoid coffee though as it causes many adverse side effects. See Coffee Dangers.
Make a herbal tea
Mix all ingredients and let them stand for one hour. Then gently reheat and sip slowly.
To improve breathing make this tea
One teaspoon of
One teaspoon of passionflower leaves
Mix all ingredients and let them stand for one hour. Then gently reheat and sip slowly. Freshly squeezed lemon and honey can be added to all teas for taste and additional benefits to the lungs. Ingredients 400 ml. of water Two ripe organic bananas Half the juice of one lemon Two tablespoons of raw organic honey Method Heat the water in a pan until it reaches boiling point then let it cool for five to ten minutes. Mash the bananas in a bowl and add the water and mix. Then add the honey and lemon and mix again then store in the refrigerator in a large airtight jar. Shake the jar well then warm one tablespoon of the mixture gently (do not boil) and consume four times a day with one dose being just before bed.
400 ml. of water
Two ripe organic bananas
Half the juice of one lemon
Two tablespoons of raw organic honey
Heat the water in a pan until it reaches boiling point then let it cool for five to ten minutes.
Mash the bananas in a bowl and add the water and mix.
Then add the honey and lemon and mix again then store in the refrigerator in a large airtight jar.
Shake the jar well then warm one tablespoon of the mixture gently (do not boil) and consume four times a day with one dose being just before bed.
Natural foods to prevent and treat respiratory disorders
Berries are one of the richest antioxidant fruits, containing the polyphenols, anthocyanins and the flavonoids beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants protect the lungs from cancer, disease and infection. Dark coloured berries especially protect against lung cancer.
Garlic contains a high level of allicin which reduces inflammation and fights infection. It destroys free radicals and can help to improve asthma. Always allow garlic to stand for tenminutes after chopping to allow the chemical process that produces allicin.
Grapefruit contains flavonoids that can for clean out lungs that have been effected by carcinogens but be aware that grapefruit can interact with certain medications.
Marshmallow is a potent herbal remedy for cough, sore throat and other respiratory problems such as bronchitis and whooping cough (pertussis). This is due to the large amounts of mucilage found in the flower as well as the root.
Daikon, shittake mushrooms and kombu seaweed A tea made with these four ingredients can be used to lower fever and fight chest infections.
Radish and carrot juice The juice of radishes blended with carrot juice is a wonderful aid in cleansing and in healing the mucous membrane of the digestive system as well as of the respiratory organs.
Passion fruit contains components which have the ability to relax the nerves and relieve coughs, hoarseness and sore throats.
Pomegranate: The nutritionally dense properties of this antioxidant fruit can slow down the development of lung issues including tumour development as well as lower cholesterol, reduce plaque build-up on artery walls and aid in weight loss.
Turmeric is similar to ginger in its lung health benefits with anti-inflammatory properties. As an added bonus the high amounts of curcumin can lead to the elimination of cancer cells.
Medicinal herbs that can protect the lungs and help to treat respiratory orders
Foods that can help to prevent cancers in smokers
To reverse lung damage due to smoking
Making teas from the following herbs and inhaling the steam while they steep for ten minutes and drinking one cup two or three times a day can help to break-up the phlegm and remove the tar from lungs after years of smoking. These herbs are also useful for other lung disorders such as bronchitis etc.
Foods containing magnesium, vitamin B1, vitamin E and coenzyme Q10 will reduce fluid on the lungs and improve lung function and may be lacking in the diet especially if diuretic medication is being taken. See below.
Cruciferous vegetables (brassicas) have a very high antioxidant content which cleanses the system and protects the lungs. Choose at least one of the following to include in the diet at least once a day.
Highest sources of Coenzyme Q10 in micrograms per 100 grams
Magnesium rich foods are commonly recommended to people who suffer from asthma issues. It can increase lung capacity and build on the efficiency of the respiratory process.
Highest sources of magnesium in milligrams per 100 grams
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are particularly protective of the lungs and there are four types of these. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) fatty acids are among the most documented in nutrition research. However, a third key fatty acid, docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) has recently been shown to play probably the most powerful role in key health outcomes and all three are found in sea foods. Linolenic acid is the omega-3 fatty acid that comes from plants.
Highest sources of DHA, DPA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids in alphabetical order
NOTE: It is worth consuming coriander, leafy greens, sulphur-rich foods as well as algae and seaweeds when consuming sea foods to avoid the mercury contamination that exists in the oceans as these can chelate (bind to) mercury and eliminate it from the body.
Highest sources of linolenic omega-3 fatty acids from plant foods in alphabetical order
Most smokers have low levels of vitamin A and have problems with emphysema (air sacs damage). Sweet potatoes rejuvenate the respiratory system and prevent emphysema because of the high amounts of carotenoids that they contain. 100 g tuber provides 19218 µg of vitamin A and 8509 µg (micrograms) of beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A.
Natural sources of preformed vitamin A
Highest sources of pro-formed vitamin A in micrograms per 100 grams
NOTE: One µg is one microgram.
Highest sources of Vitamin B1 in milligrams per 100 grams
Vitamin B9 (folic acid, foliate) can help to eliminate lung carcinogens preventing various forms of cancer.
Highest sources of Vitamin B9 in micrograms per 100 grams
Foods that contain high amounts of vitamin C help the lungs effectively transport oxygen throughout the body and can effectively fight off the tuberculosis bacteria and other lung infections.
Highest sources of Vitamin C in milligrams per 100 grams
Foods rich in vitamin E must be taken in equal amounts to vitamin C-rich foods or an imbalance of minerals such as iron, manganese and zinc may occur. All these nutrients are important for good lung function and recovery from lung disorders.
Highest sources of Vitamin E in milligrams per 100 grams
To benefit from foods containing carotenoids like tomatoes and carrots always eat together with fat-rich foods like olive oil, nuts or avocado because carotenoids are fat-soluble, meaning they are only absorbed into the body along with fats and are then converted into the essential vitamin A nutrient.
NOTE Non-heme iron is found in tea and dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale. However, tea and green leafy vegetables also contain oxalates that block the absorption of iron. To assist the body in the absorption of non-heme iron eat a couple of strawberries, an orange, tangerine or some mango at the same time.
External remedies for respiratory disorders
To inhale the vapours from the remedies below pour boiling water into a small basin then add the remedies chopped up. Then place a towel over the head and the bowl and breathe in the vapours keeping the eyes closed. This will provide great relief from the chest pain that can accompany pleurisy and pneumonia.
There are various types of poultices that can be used to treat a wide variety of complaints from acne, arthritis and respiratory conditions to bruises and sprains. Some people advocate the use of porridge, carrot, bread, milk, potatoes, clay, cabbage and herbal poultices and many use poultices as a home remedy for their horses' ailments. A poultice will also help ease out anything that's embedded under the skin such as wood or metal splinters and can also bring boils or abscesses to the surface and draw out bee sting poison.
A homemade poultice is made by mashing herbs, plant material or another substance with warm water or natural oils to make a paste. Pure pressed coconut oil is especially good to use. The paste can be applied directly to the skin and covered with a piece of clean cloth. If the herb used is potent such as onion, garlic, ginger, mustard, etc., it is advisable to place a layer of thin cloth between the skin and the herb. The cloth can then be covered with plastic wrap to hold in the moisture. The poultice should be changed every 3 to 4 hours or more if it dries out. Then the area should be washed with soap and dried thoroughly and left uncovered.
What to avoid with respiratory disorders
Chemicals in household cleaners and cosmetics. See Hygiene and health
Table salt (use Himalayan pink crystals or unrefined sea salt only)
White flour (use wholegrain only),
White rice (use brown rice only)
Certain medications, such as diuretics and cholesterol lowering drugs, taken by patients with respiratory disorders can cause dangerous deficiencies of nutrients. See the Medication dangers page to find out which ones.
"Nature cures not the physician..." Hippocrates 460 BC
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