Modern Problems, Ancient Wisdom
How to reduce the negative impact of pollution and lung congestion with diet and lifestyle
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Our lungs are very delicate organs. They are not made of matter like hard steel but are in fact porous in nature. Toxins can easily trap in these pores especially if one has a genetic pre-disposition of weaker lungs (which by the way – many of us have in this day and age!).
To think about the current situation of adverse pollution in urban India, we are giving our children a much weaker immune system and lung health. It is therefore, urgent to look at the health of the lungs for all of us regardless of whether we have asthma or any respiratory diseases.
The health of the lungs is largely impacted by four main factors:
Let’s look at each of these in detail with relevance to lung congestion and environmental pollution.
Nowadays, it is well understood and accepted that one’s diet affects one’s heart health, blood sugar issues, obesity and brain health. However, the impact of diet on the health of lungs is lesser known.
Let’s consider our lung tissues for a minute. Where is this tissue made from? How are one’s cells and tissues constantly replaced? This very question will solve the primary issues of lung congestion.
The food that we eat is absorbed into the blood stream from the small intestines and from there nutrients are carried to all the organs of the body including the lungs. Our cells and tissues are constantly renewed on a daily basis using these fresh nutrients from our daily food.
Foods that are high in fat, mucous such as cheese, butter, white flour, and oily foods promote phlegm production and congestion in the lungs. Whereas foods that are high in fibre and minerals such as brown rice, millets and dark leafy greens reduce the excessive fat and phlegm in the lungs.
Brown rice and millets have a drying effect of the excessive phlegm in the lungs while dark leafy greens act like a broom cleaning the gut as well as the bronchial tubes. Also, pungent and astringent foods such as mustard, turmeric, lemon and black pepper literally helps in melting down the excess mucous and fat in the lungs.
Now how is excess fat and mucous related to pollution? The answer is simple. Pollution toxins stick to and store more easily in the lungs if the bronchial tubes already have more sticky mucous and fat. So less mucous and fat in the lungs means toxins find lesser place to cling or stagnate.
Every individual has unique needs. Each person needs a different balance between activity and rest each day.
The level of activity is directly related to the level of fresh oxygen we get each day. Not having enough activity reduces our circulation of fresh nutrients and oxygen which would lead to a slower detox process. More oxygen means better detox function and hence improved lung health.
Hence more activity directly means better lung health and better daily removal of toxins from pollution. To reduce lung congestion and the negative impact of pollution on the lungs one must stay active through walking, yoga asanas, breathe-work, light aerobic exercises and massage.
Besides coming together in collective initiatives to combat air pollution and environmental pollution, we as individuals must also look at the pollution within our homes.
Since lungs are very delicate organs, they are easily impacted by chemicals and artificial ingredients. Chemicals from household cleaners, personal cosmetics, sprays and make-up, fumes from burning of plastic handles in the kitchen, toxins from non-stick or aluminium cookware, and synthetic clothing – all effect the health of the lungs and the circulation of the oxygen and nutrients in the body.
These in-house chemicals have a two way negative impact on the body. For one, they directly cause inflammation in the lungs which impacts the strength and resilience of the lungs. Secondly, these in-house chemicals get absorbed into the skin and blood stream.
When the body absorbs these artificial ingredients and chemicals, they act like fake estrogens (also commonly known as xeno-estrogens) in the body and play havoc with the whole immune and hormonal system. We must avoid these slow poisons hidden in commercial products we buy for cleaning, cooking or personal use.
According to the Vedic knowledge systems as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine (also popularly known as TCM), the lungs are associated with the emotions of sadness, worry and grief. So if a person’s emotional environment, personal relationships and work environment is negative or toxic, then their lungs will suffer more.
Likewise, if the lungs are already weak, one will feel these negative emotional states more easily. So as clichéd as it may sound, being happy, nurturing good relationships and a positive attitude helps strengthen one’s immune function, circulation and nutrients-absorption directly.
This connection is described in detail in ancient scripture. Lung congestion as well as the impact of pollution will be worse if we have more stress than joy in life. Keeping our body active and mind motivated and happy is essential for all health goals.
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