When there is a respiratory problem, the doctor is the one who must decide what is the most appropriate treatment and offer some lifestyle guidelines.
However, maintaining a good nutritional state, which guarantees the necessary supply of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients, is an excellent health strategy in general, and for lung function in particular, as confirmed by different studies.
In addition, there is also scientific information on the benefits of certain vitamins and minerals in the lungs, so it may be a good idea to take a supplement. These are the ones that accumulate the most evidence.
It is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulator, and these three properties justify its usefulness for lung health.
Its effectiveness in preventing colds is a mantra that has been repeated for decades, although many question its veracity. What is proven is that vitamin C supplements shorten the duration of respiratory infections and reduce mortality from diseases of the respiratory system.
The usefulness of vitamin C to prevent and treat covid-19 is confirmed, and smokers with high levels of ascorbic acid in the blood have better lung function.
The recommended daily amount is 90 mg for men and 80 mg for women (100 g of orange have 50 mg, 59 milligrams for kiwi and 44 mg for cooked broccoli), although the Linus Pauling Institute is committed to reaching 400 mg in older age 50 in order to strengthen your immune system.
However, the amount can be increased – safely – up to 2 or 3 grams per day if there is a viral infection since the levels of ascorbic acid in the blood decrease rapidly in stressful situations (infections, trauma or surgical interventions).
An investigation proposes taking vitamin C in liposomes (small spheres) because its bioavailability is greater.
Its fame has grown exponentially in the wake of the pandemic and studies on its impact on immunity have multiplied. A meta-analysis including 4,818 COPD patients correlates lower vitamin D levels with more severe lung disease and exacerbations. And in covid, a direct relationship has been found between infection and low levels of this vitamin.
Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent throughout the world, and many people would benefit from a supplement, especially those at the highest risk of deficiency, such as those with obesity or diabetes and smokers over 65.
This mineral is involved in vital functions in the body, including the lung. Magnesium helps to relax the smooth muscle cells of the bronchi and reduces lung inflammation, therefore it may favor people with lung diseases.
Those affected by respiratory problems are more likely to have magnesium deficiency. A study of 50 people with chronic asthma found that 10% had a lack of it. Furthermore, lung function was significantly lower among those with magnesium deficiency than among asthmatics with normal levels.
Another work on 120 people found that asthmatics with low levels of this mineral have more severe asthma symptoms and more frequent attacks.
Taking magnesium supplements can help maintain healthy levels of the mineral. Some forms of magnesium are more absorbable than others, for example, magnesium glycinate is better absorbed than magnesium oxide.
The benefits of this type of fatty acid are related to cardiovascular prevention, but also to certain types of cancer (breast, colon, prostate) and to reducing chronic inflammation. But there is other research, such as the CARDIA study, that links low levels of omega-3s with an increased risk of asthma, and conversely, a good intake of these fats reduces the possibility of developing COPD.
However, as almost always happens, other studies do not find any benefit in this regard, such as the one published in the journal of the ‘American Thoracic Society’, which after testing the supplements in young adults with obesity and asthma did not find any positive effect; therefore, the authors of the article say, they cannot be recommended for preventing asthma.
Magnesium, zinc and selenium are minerals considered beneficial for lung health, among other reasons for their antioxidant effect. It is proven that people with asthma or COPD have lower levels of zinc and selenium, but, in addition, they are also associated with more and more severe respiratory infections and mortality from covid-19.
Zinc levels are also linked to lung cancer. The analysis of data from 5,435 participants (all over 55) of the Rotterdam study found that a higher intake of dietary zinc is associated with a reduction of 42% of the possibility of developing lung cancer.
N-acetylcysteine is an antioxidant that occurs naturally in the body. It helps reduce asthma-related inflation and there are studies that say supplements are an aid to COPD treatments.
It is present in many mucolytic medications (those used to clear mucus).
Vitamin E helps improve some asthma symptoms and lung function. The B-side is that according to Italian scientists in a paper in ‘Scientific Reports’, vitamin E supplements can increase the risk of prostate cancer.
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