Improve Lung Function Naturally


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Improve Lung Function Naturally


Lung and other respiratory tract problems are among the most common conditions seen in medical practices. Whether we’re talking about asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease, allergies, or the common cold, physicians’ waiting rooms are typically filled with individuals with these diagnoses.


Asthma is characterized by hyperactive airways that overrespond to stimuli and thus tighten up when they shouldn’t. More than 20 million people in the US have this condition. About seven million of them are children.

Some people with asthma are not even aware they have the disorder. For example, if you have a chronic cough, you may have asthma. Allergens (like dust mites, cockroaches, and cat dander) as well as cold, dry air are all common triggers for airway tightening in this condition. Exercise can also provoke an asthma attack. If you begin wheezing within 5 to 15 minutes of beginning physical activity, you may well have exercise-induced asthma.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is now the preferred term used to refer to three conditions chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic obstructive asthma. The reason for categorizing these various subtypes all under the COPD umbrella is simple: these three conditions often overlap. All of them cause airflow obstruction that leads to progressive difficulty exhaling. Chronic bronchitis manifests as a chronic cough with sputum (a mixture of saliva and mucus) production. To meet the diagnostic criteria, the cough must be present for three months in each of two consecutive years.

Emphysema, on the other hand, is defined by structural rather than functional changes. A patient is labeled as having emphysema if he or she has permanent enlargement of the lung’s airspaces due to destruction of airspace walls. If a person has asthma with permanent obstructive changes in their lungs, they too are categorized as having COPD.

The burden of suffering from COPD is enormous. Current data indicate it is the third leading cause of death worldwide, with mortality rates increasing 22% in the last decade alone.

Help for Asthma and COPD

The nine LifeStart principles promise help to those dealing with asthma and COPD. If you’re new to the LifeStart acronym, it directs us to the following: liquids (drinking more water), interpersonal relationships, nutritious food, exercise, sunlight, temperance, fresh air, adequate rest, and trust in Divine Power. Consider some of the following strategies based on these nine principles:

Nutritious Food. The Journal of Asthma and Allergy in 2014 published a summary report of 31 studies examining the connection between diet and asthma.1 The researchers found that people who ate more beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables had fewer problems with asthma.

An earlier COPD study published in a 2010 edition of the European Respiratory Journal came to a similar conclusion.2 A three-year study of patients with COPD found that those who ate an antioxidant-rich diet (provided by liberal intake of fruits and veggies) tended to log improvements in lung function. A comparison group who ate a higher portion of their calories from animal products showed worsening lung function over the same time period.

The take home message: replace animal-derived foods (like meat, milk, eggs, and cheese), and opt for more plant products.

Fresh Air. Poor quality air is known for its asthma- and COPD-worsening effects. Among the worst offenders are cigarettes. Indeed, tobacco smoke is one of the prime villains in the worldwide COPD pandemic. You see, smoking actually deranges one’s immune system, triggering immune cells to attack the elastic fibers in your lungs, rather than protecting the host from invaders. This lung structural damage is irreversible but the symptoms of COPD can often be at least partially reversed. Smoking cessation puts a person on the road to healing.

Consider this also: 70 to 90 percent of individuals with asthma have documentable allergies (and remember, those with COPD often have an asthma component as well). Allergens that trigger asthma typically reach a person’s lungs through the air he or she breathes. All of the following can introduce potentially asthma-worsening allergens into the air: indoor pets (especially cats), dust mites, and cockroaches. Making your cat an outdoor cat or taking dust precautions in the home (frequent hot water washing of bedding, encasing mattresses and pillows with impermeable fabric, hard wood floors, etc.) may sound relatively simple conceptually, but how do you deal with roaches—especially if you live in an apartment? Even if your flat is thoroughly clean, you can still be exposed to cockroach waste (the most allergenic substance) from adjacent dwellings. Keep roaches away using extermination procedures or—better yet—employing non-toxic strategies like keeping your environment clean (leaving no food out, taking the garbage out promptly, etc.).

Temperance. Temperance refers to the use of things that are good in moderation but total avoidance of things that are harmful. For example, a small percentage of individuals with asthma have an aspirin-sensitive variety. That’s right, even small amounts of aspirin (ASA) can be triggering their problems. If you have been prescribed aspirin by your doctor, talk with him or her about this possibility. If you are taking ASA on your own, consider a month without this common drug to see if your symptoms improve.

Another application of temperance comes by recognizing a surprising connection: gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the common cause of heartburn, can worsen breathing problems in some individuals. Look at the strategies for GERD below. You’ll notice a number of them relate to either complete avoidance of certain substances or moderation in other habits (e.g., not overeating).

What to For About Acid Reflux

  • Don’t overeat
  • Drink liquids BETWEEN, not with meals
  • Sit up while eating, elevate your head when lying down (preferably by putting four- to six-inch blocks under the head of your bed)
  • Wait at least three hours after eating before lying down
  • Wait at least two hours after eating before any moderate or vigorous exercise (light exercise after a meal may help)
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing
  • Stay away from foods, beverages, and over-the-counter meds that worsen heartburn. These include:
    • Caffeinated beverages and even decaf coffee
    • Alcoholic beverages
    • Pain relievers
    • Mints
  • Avoid calcium-based antacids. (These OTC preparations can make you feel better in short-term, but within an hour or two, calcium stimulates the stomach to secrete more acid. This can lead to an obvious vicious cycle. If you need medications, your doctor can prescribe a stronger prescription agent. However, natural products like aloe vera juice, slippery elm bark, and fresh cabbage juice appear to have healing effects on the gastrointestinal tract. Industrial strength magnesium-containing antacids can also be helpful.)
  • Stop all use of tobacco products
  • Lose weight if overweight


Natural, lifestyle-based strategies summarized in the LifeStart acronym are calculated to help you improve your lung function in the face of asthma and other chronic lung problems. To learn more about the nine strategies behind the LifeStart program, download our FREE LifeStart eBook. For best results, consult with your healthcare providers and find a local support center where you can surround yourself with a community of supportive peers. Our online directory will help you locate such individuals in your community. Also on our website you’ll find a variety of resources to help you on your journey to a healthier blood pressure. These resources include books, DVDs, and other health services that I and other medical professionals have endorsed.


  1. Lv, Nan, et al. “Dietary pattern and asthma: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Journal of Asthma and Allergy, 7 (2014): 105–121.
  2. Keranis. E., et al. “Impact of dietary shift to higher-antioxidant foods in COPD: a randomised trial.” European Respiratory Journal, 36(4) (October 2010): 774–80.

Take the Next Step...

Join the LifeStart Clinics 30-day Program and get daily motivation plus personalized support to help you live sharper, leaner, longer, and better—in 30 days or less!

About the Presenter

David DeRose, MD, MPH
Host, LifeStart Seminars

For over 25 years Dr. David DeRose has been helping people improve their health through motivational presentations and natural therapies. He brings solid credentials as a board-certified specialist in both Internal Medicine and Preventive Medicine in addition to holding a master’s degree in Public Health with an emphasis on Health Promotion and Health Education. Known for his engaging presentations, Dr. DeRose is an award-winning public speaker, published medical researcher, syndicated talk radio host, and experienced college teacher.

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