The insider’s guide to breathing easier and living longer
Breathing is fundamental to human life. Humans can’t survive more than two to three minutes without drawing a breath of air.
But while breathing is instinctual, it also depends on healthy lungs. That’s why it’s so shocking that both mainstream medicine and the “natural-know-it-alls” of integrative medicine have neglected lung health for decades. Even lung cancer, the No. 1 cancer killer by far, gets much less attention—and research dollars—than other cancers.
This is inexplicable when you consider how critical lung health is for survival. But thankfully, that’s now changing.
New studies on lung health are being published regularly. That’s why, this month, I’m updating you on some of the most compelling research, including studies that found strong links between common respiratory ailments and nutritional deficiencies.
Plus, I’ll tell you how many fruits and vegetables you really need to eat each day for optimal lung health (an area where it counts the most of all)! And I’ll share new research showing how the all-important microbiome has a key impact on lung cancer.
So, let’s take a deep breath and dive right in…
Three key nutrients for lung health
We’ve known for a long time that nutrition plays a critical role in preventing diseases like cancer and heart disease. And now, researchers are finally taking a closer look at nutrition’s role in lung diseases, too. (I suppose we can partially credit the coronavirus pandemic for sparking some long-overdue interest in this subject.)
In fact, a large new study found that supplementing with just three nutrients—vitamins A, D, and E—can protect you against chronic bronchitis, chest infections, and other common respiratory ailments.
Researchers analyzed data from 6,115 adults in the U.K. who took part in a national health study between 2008 and 2016.1
The participants answered questions about their diets, supplement intakes, and respiratory complaints like breathlessness, bronchial issues, chest infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), coughing fits, lung damage from pneumonia, and wheezing.
Thirty-three of the participants reported suffering from some type of respiratory complaint. These participants were generally older. And they reported they were less likely to take vitamin supplements.
On the other hand, the study participants who reported a higher intake of vitamins A and E from their diet and/or dietary supplementation had lower rates of respiratory complaints. In addition, those who took vitamin D supplements had even fewer respiratory complaints.
How to apply this study to your daily life: I think it’s important to note that there wasn’t an actual association between consumption of so-called vitamin D-rich foods and better lung health in the study participants.
Part of this is likely due to the fact that there aren’t many foods anymore that contain healthy levels of D (as I mention on page 5). I think it’s also the result of the lower nutrient content found in even healthy, whole foods in the 21st century, thanks to industrialized food production.
Either way, this study finding reinforces my long-standing recommendation that people need dietary supplements. And vitamin D, especially. That’s why I regularly encourage you to take 250 mcg (10,000 IU) of vitamin D daily for overall health—including lung health.
In addition, you can (and should) supplement with 50 mg of vitamin E each day (as long as you also follow a healthy, balanced diet with meats and seafood). Just look for a supplement that ideally contains the eight active compounds that make up vitamin E—four tocopherols (alpha, beta, delta, and gamma) and four tocotrienols (also called alpha, beta, delta, and gamma).
You can also add more foods that are naturally rich in vitamin E to your healthy diet. This nutrient is found in many types of nuts and seeds, along with fatty fish like salmon and trout, avocados, mangos, red peppers, and leafy greens.
Now, when it comes to vitamin A, I don’t recommend taking it as a nutritional supplement. This nutrient is fat soluble, so supplements have the potential to build up to toxic levels in your body.
Fortunately, this is an instance where you CAN get enough from food alone. There are plenty of foods rich in vitamin A—including meat, fish, and full-fat dairy. Plus, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, carrots, and cantaloupe are loaded with carotenoids, which your body safely and naturally converts to vitamin A. Which brings me to my next point…
Just five a day for lung health
For decades, dietary experts have debated how many fruits and vegetables we should eat each day in order to obtain optimal nutrients and prevent disease.
And that number seemed to be going up. Over the years, we’ve heard about the importance of eating six, seven, and even eight servings of produce a day.
But an important new study found that just five servings of fruits and veggies per day substantially extends longevity—and especially promotes lung health.2
Researchers analyzed data from more than 2 million people in the U.S. and other countries. The people who ate two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables per day had the lowest risk of early death.
Specifically, this group had 13 percent lower risk of death from all causes, 12 percent lower risk of cardiovascular deaths, and 10 percent lower risk of death from cancer.
They also had a whopping 35 percent lower risk of death from respiratory diseases. The researchers cited evidence suggesting that fruit and veggies’ antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may be what improves lung function.
Interestingly, the study participants who ate more than five fruits and vegetables per day didn’t have any further decrease in mortality. Meaning that five servings a day seems to be the “sweet spot” for optimum health.
This new research really shakes up what the experts have said for years about how many fruits and vegetables to eat—and takes some pressure off of people who have been struggling to eat enough produce each day.
How to apply this study to your daily life: It’s important to note that the researchers also found that not all fruits and vegetables were protective.
The most beneficial were cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, spinach, and kale), other leafy greens, and fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids (as we just discussed) and vitamin C (like citrus fruits, berries, and carrots).
Meanwhile, starchy vegetables (such as corn, peas, and potatoes) and fruit juices were not associated with a lower risk of death. The researchers believe this may be because starchy vegetables and fruit juices spike blood sugar levels, compared to other types of vegetables or whole fruits.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever eat starchy vegetables or enjoy a glass of fruit juice. Just consume them in moderation, and try to fill your plate with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables to keep your diet balanced. (And if you do opt for juice, I typically recommend a modest glass of freshly squeezed orange juice or tart cherry juice, rather than commercialized varieties lining grocery store shelves.)
Just remember, it doesn’t even have to be a large plate. I’ve reported before about how most Americans eat far less than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. But when you consider how small a serving actually is, it’s actually not so hard to consume five a day.
A single serving of fruits and vegetables is 4 to 6 ounces, which generally works out to be about one cup of raw vegetables, half a cup of cooked veggies, 2 cups of raw, leafy greens, a cup of fruit like berries, or one medium-sized whole fruit like an apple or banana.
Of course, there are many ways to incorporate at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables into your daily diet. For example, if you’re enjoying a meal-sized serving of a classic stew (like my recipe for French ratatouille), or something similar, it may even count towards three or four servings of vegetables all by itself!
As for me, I also like to keep fresh fruit out in a bowl so that they’re easily accessible when I’m ready for a snack. And I encourage you to do the same. After all, you’ll find yourself breathing easier and living longer!
Your microbiome affects lung disease risk
Now, with all of these strong findings about diet, nutrients, and lung disease, it’s no surprise that a healthy microbiome is critical for lung health.
Of course, I often write about the gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome, which refers to the environment in your GI tract where healthy bacteria thrive, and is strongly influenced by diet. But in addition to the GI tract, the skin has a microbiome, too. And so do the lungs.
Basically, any place on or in the body that comes into direct contact with the outside environment has a microbiome.
All of these microbiomes host so-called “good” probiotic bacteria that help keep out the “bad,” disease-causing bacteria. Which is key, because research shows “bad” bacteria can lead to inflammation, infection, and many chronic diseases—including cancer.
For the new study I mentioned earlier, researchers focused on the lung microbiome and its connection to lung cancer. (It’s important to note that both “good” and “bad” microbes [bacteria] enter the lungs through the mouth and nasal cavities. And there are lots of places to hide in the lungs. In fact, when laid out flat, tissue from one set of human lungs can cover an entire tennis court!)
Specifically, researchers analyzed lung tissue samples from 83 men and women newly diagnosed with lung cancer.3
They found that the people with advanced-stage lung cancer carried more harmful microbes than those with early-stage disease. The researchers also discovered that those “bad” bacteria were linked to dangerous inflammatory response in the lungs, tumor growth, and significantly reduced survival time.
The researchers think testing the lung microbiome for the presence of these harmful bacteria could one day be used as a biomarker for lung cancer risk. It could also help assess the progression (or regression) of the disease, and used as a treatment guide.
How to apply this study to your daily life: Rather than wait for disease to sneak up on you, there are four important steps you can take to protect all of your microbiomes, including the one in your lungs, starting TODAY…
1.) Avoid antibiotics whenever possible. Since antibiotics wipe out both “bad” and “good” bacteria throughout your body, try not to take them unless they’re absolutely necessary to clear a serious infection. Plus, I’ve reported before on research showing you need not follow the medical myth to always complete a full course of antibiotics. Instead, you can stop popping pills as soon as you start to feel better. Then, let your immune system do the rest.
2.) Stay away from sugar. Several of the “bad” bacteria pinpointed in this study feed on sugar (just like cancer does). So, avoid all processed foods and foods made with added sugars. Instead, follow a healthy, Mediterranean-type diet filled with fresh, whole foods.
3.) Eat your prebiotics. I don’t recommend taking probiotic pills because they’re ineffective and can even be dangerous. Instead, feed the naturally occurring healthy probiotic bacteria in your body with prebiotic foods—including fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi, as well as apples, asparagus, avocados, bananas, garlic, leeks, onions, whole grains like barley and oats, and yogurt.
4.) Mind your mouth. Several of the “bad” bacteria tend to proliferate in the mouth and beneath your gums. Then, they can make their way to your microbiomes. So, make sure to brush and floss your teeth daily, and get regular dental cleanings.
The natural way to breathe easy
At the end of the day, maintaining good lung health is imperative to longevity—and can be easy (and delicious) to do.
I seem to be one of the few who talk about the natural approaches to lung health, while others (both mainstream and “natural-know-it-alls” alike) just repeat the mantra “don’t smoke.”
But, as you just read, there’s so much more to lung diseases—and lung health—than not smoking.
In fact, I recently pulled together 40 years’ worth of research into the many effective, science-backed, natural approaches to preventing and fighting all types of lung disease (in addition to the findings reported here today). You can learn all about them in my online, comprehensive learning tool, my Breathe Better Lung Health Protocol. To learn more, click here or call 1-866-747-9421 and ask for order code EOV3X600.
SIDEBAR: Ask your doctor about this effective lung cancer screening test
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in much more screening for respiratory ailments and diseases. But doctors still rarely screen anyone but smokers for lung cancer…even though government figures show that 15 percent of new lung cancer cases occur in people who have never smoked.4
That’s why I recommend a low-risk lung imaging test called low-dose computed tomography (LDCT)— where an x-ray machine scans your body using low doses of radiation to make detailed pictures of your lungs.
This test can substantially reduce your risk of dying from lung cancer…and decrease your risk of dying from any cause.
In fact, several studies show that LDCT tests can find lung cancer early enough to treat and sometimes even reverse it.
At the very least, your doctor should be asking about your family history and discussing whether this test is right for you—whether or not you’re a smoker. But if your doctor isn’t on board, don’t be afraid to speak up or ask for a referral to your nearest cancer-screening facility.
And if you’re a current or former heavy smoker, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently changed the recommendations for annual lung cancer screening with LDCT.5
They now recommend the screening to begin at age 50, rather than 55. And it defines “heavy smoker” as having a 20 pack-year history (the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes daily for 20 years.) Former smokers are defined as people who quit within the past 15 years.
These new recommendations are expected to double the number of people eligible for lung cancer screening. And while that’s still not good enough, at least it’s a step in the right direction.
SIDEBAR: The benefits of fresh air: Inhale the outdoors
Did you know that one of the best things you can do to improve breathing and lung health is to spend as much time as possible outside in Nature?
In fact, one of my top health secrets is to seek out places where lichen (also known as moss) grows. Lichen thrives where the air quality is good, meaning you’re breathing in non-toxic air. So, seek places that grow blue-green, yellow, and even reddish lichen. Then, take in a deep breath and enjoy!
1“Association between vitamin intake and respiratory complaints in adults from the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey years 1–8.” BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health 2020;bmjnph-2020-000150.
2“Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Mortality: Results From 2 Prospective Cohort Studies of US Men and Women and a Meta-Analysis of 26 Cohort Studies.” Circulation. 2021 Mar 1.
3“Lower Airway Dysbiosis Affects Lung Cancer Progression.” Cancer Discovery, February 2021; 11(2).