The ‘advice’ that is all over the internet about how to manage your health during these unprecedented times is almost as over-whelming as the virus itself. But the only people on the planet who understand the Coronavirus are the incredible Physicians and Nurses who are at the front-line of care. And I thank the Lancet Medical Journal for it’s discussion about the presentation of symptoms when people arrive in hospital.
The Covid19 virus is indisputably a respiratory virus. Symptoms include runny nose, sore throat, dry cough and fever. In the susceptible and immune-compromised, it proceeds quickly into pneumonia-like symptoms. The worst patients need to be ventilated to help their breathing.
When you take the approach that we all need to focus on our respiratory system and our lungs first and foremost, how we look after ourselves and our families, during this time of over-whelm and uncertainty becomes a bit clearer.
Once I began to wear my ‘respiratory system and lung-function hat’ then I headed for the research. And there it was – studies about how to look after our lung function through nutrition.
“Your lung function declines with age, like other parts of your body,” says Dr. Aaron Waxman, director of the Pulmonary Vascular Disease Program at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Your lungs finish development by age 25, and their function remains stable for about 10 years. After that, they begin to gradually decline. By age 65, you’ve typically lost up to a liter of lung capacity compared with when you were younger.”
As you age (and menopause is the biological gateway to our ageing), both the airways and blood vessels become stiffer, and the air sacs expand, which makes it more difficult for gases to move into the bloodstream. As such it is easier for us to accumulate inflammation in our tiny little airways called aveoli.
Several lung diseases have been associated with oxidative stress. Yes, for many people this is linked to insults such as cigarette smoke, air pollutants and infections.
Consequently, dietary factors and nutrients with a potential protective role in the oxidative process and inflammatory response have been researched.
These nutrients include fruits and vegetables, antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and other carotenoids, vitamin A, fatty acids and some minerals such as sodium, magnesium and selenium.
“Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies strongly suggest that long-term vitamin C intake is significantly associated with better lung function”says my report. But wait there’s more …
“In a recent study, Shaheen et al. reported that apple consumption was inversely related to the risk of asthma among English adults. Apples and pears have also been reported to be protective for asthma in young Australian adults. High flavonoid intake, such as quercetin, which is abundant in apples, has been related to lower risk of chronic diseases, including lung cancer. In a large study of 53, 000 French women, we recently reported that subjects with a high intake of leafy vegetables, carrots and tomatoes had a lower prevalence of asthma.” [Romieu, 2005].
When we follow the research and the science then we can take a calmer approach to keeping ourselves and our families well.
That’s why, if you head to the supermarket this weekend, then leave the crowds to the bread and pasta and go get some apples, pears and other vegies that will last a few days in your pantry as well.
Your lungs and the lungs of your family members will love you.
Harvard Health Publishing (2018). Breathing life into your lungs. Online Version.
Romieu, I. (2005). Nutrition and Lung Health. Int. J. of Tuberc Lung Dis. 9(4), 362–374