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Air quality

Indoor Air Alert

This content originally appeared on 

Incidence of allergies and asthma has skyrocketed in recent years, while as many as 24 million Americans may have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which, in addition to asthma, includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Benzene, dust mites, feathers, formaldehyde, molds, radon, toxic chemicals in many home furnishings and household cleaners, as well as smoke, wreak havoc on sensitive lungs.

The good news is that diets high in fish, fruits and veggies, poultry, and whole grains appear to protect against chronic lung problems. But there are also other ways to support your health indoors.

How to Keep Air Fresh and Clean in Your Home

It's important to maintain a clean, healthy space for you and your loved ones. Follow these simple steps and breathe easy.

  • Keep Air Moving Inside and Out

    Newer homes are airtight to save energy, but this prevents a healthy exchange between stale indoor and fresh outdoor air.

    Run ventilating fans in the bathroom and kitchen to prevent mold and air out your home periodically.

  • Beware Common Toxic Gases

    In addition to an energy audit, consider an air quality assessment (or perform your own).

    • Carbon Monoxide

      Invest in carbon monoxide detector, if you don’t already have one.

    • Radon

      Those who live where radon is a concern need to test for this odorless gas (a kit costs about $35).

  • Cut Down on Particulates

    • Take Off Your Shoes

      If you don’t already, leave your shoes at the front door and put on some cozy slippers (that may also help you keep the thermostat down). Wearing outdoors shoes indoors increases levels of lead, pesticides, and other contaminants in the home—not to mention dirt.

    • Clean Regularly

      Vacuum with a low-emissions machine or HEPA filter, and dust frequently.

    • Cultivate a Healthy Space

      Cut down on clutter, which only attracts dust, and use spider plants that help clean the air.

    • Change Filters Regularly

      Change or clean air filters in heating/cooling systems at least once a month.

  • Reduce Chemical Exposure

    • Use Eco-Friendly Cleaners

      Select environmentally-friendly household cleaners. Otherwise, you’re adding unwanted toxins to indoor air and dumping the rest down the drain, where they pollute water supplies.

    • Stick to Natural Fabrics

      Choose natural and organic fabrics for clothing and furnishings. Synthetic fibers (e.g., acrylic, nylon, polyester) are coated with formaldehyde finishes that gives off vapors that can lead to allergies and trouble breathing.

How to Keep Your Lungs Healthy

It's also important to make sure your lungs are the healthiest they can be, to resist the ill effects of common irritants and toxins.

Natural Remedies for Lung Health

For specific conditions, you may want to consider trying a natural remedy.

  • Supplements for Respiratory Issues

    Targeted supplementation can help manage conditions and relieve symptoms.

    • Probiotics for Immunity

      Probiotics can support the general immune system, helping your body fight back.

    • Antihistamines
      • MSM

        Methysylfonylmethane fights allergies as effectively (or better than) antihistamine drugs.

      • Quercetin

        Quercetin is another popular natural antihistamine.

    • COPD Relief
      • Magnesium

        Older people with COPD may be low in magnesium, and supplementation significantly strengthens muscles involved in breathing, promoting better oxygenation.

      • CoQ10

        Antioxidant coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) enhances oxygen in the lungs, making it useful in COPD.

    • General Health
      • Zinc

        Antioxidant zinc helps protect the lungs, but don’t take more than 100 mg daily.

      • Chlorophyll

        Chlorophyll in green food supplements aids clear breathing.

  • Medicinal Herbs for Lungs and SInuses

    Medicinal herbs are useful for a variety of purposes.

    • Nettle

      Antioxidant nettle reduces inflammation in the sinuses, helping to prevent allergy attacks.

    • Astragalus

      Astragalus promotes better breathing and speeds healing of the bronchial tubes.

    • Cordyceps

      Cordyceps appears to inhibit lung degeneration.

    • Other Options
      • alfalfa
      • fenugreek
      • fresh horseradish
      • mullein tea
      • rosemary
      • thyme
  • Homeopathy for Allergies and Asthma

    Don’t forget homeopathy. Look for combination formulas that treat dust, mold, and other indoor allergens.

    • Belladonna

      Homeopathic belladonna relaxes the bronchioles in the lungs, alleviating wheezing in asthma.

    • Allium

      Allium cepa is a popular homeopathic remedy for indoor allergies.

Click to See Our Sources

The Gut Flush Plan  by Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Living Green by Greg Horn

“The INDEX Project . . . on Indoor Air Pollutants”      K. Koistinen et al., Allergy, 7/08

“Prevent Your Air from Harming You” by Keith Pandolfi, www.cnn.com, 6/27/08

“Nutrition: A Healthy Diet May Keep Chronic Lung Disease at Bay” by Nicholas Bakalar, New York Times, 5/22/07

“Recent Advances in the Assessment and Management of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease” by P. S. Shankar, Indian J Chest Dis Allied Sci, 1-3/08

Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC ($24.95, Penguin Group/Avery, 2006)

“Quality of Indoor Residential Air and Health”  R. Dales et al., CMAJ, 7/15/08

“Exposure to Indoor Mold and Children’s Respiratory Health . . .”       T. Antova et al., J Epidemiol Community Health, 8/08