Updated: Mar 28
Staying strong and building our immune system is very important at all times, but with COVID-19 spreading around us, paying attention to our respiratory health is more crucial than ever. COVID-19 challenges our immunity, putting a heavy strain on respiratory health with symptoms such as cough, fever, and in more serious cases, difficulty breathing, pneumonia and severe pulmonary issues.
Having recently come out of a two-month long respiratory illness myself that ended in pleurisy, I experienced first-hand what may trigger symptoms and what can promote clearer breathing. While strengthening our immune system and improving our overall health is pivotal, reducing the factors that may be compromising our lung capacity is essential in these difficult times.
One of the biggest environmental triggers for respiratory issues and immune response is mold. Mold can be found in bathroom corners, kitchen sinks, washing machines or basements just to name a few hot spots. Whether it is visible or not, mold can cause pulmonary and sinus problems. It is a fungus that reproduces through spores and when airborne and inhaled it can be a major inflammatory trigger for many people. Mold spores also produce mycotoxins which are secondary toxins that can cause further issues such as hypersensitivity, allergy, sore throat, itchy nose, difficulty breathing as well as worsening asthmatic symptoms - all which can play into the hands of the virus that’s going around.
While some foods are high in histamine, others cause histamine release. Either way, if histamine is not broken down by our body, it can trigger digestive and immune reactions, one of them being more mucus in our system. Beer, wine, fermented foods, vinegar, mature cheeses, nuts, shellfish, smoked or processed meats, cocoa & chocolate and beans are some of these foods.
Gluten and grains can be difficult for our body to digest. They can increase intestinal permeability and inflammation, and trigger an autoimmune response as they pass through our system. As such our bodies can produce more mucus, increasing our chances to develop coughs and sinus problems. Wheat, as a major source of gluten, is also often contaminated with mycotoxins.
Sugar feeds viruses, yeast and unwanted strains of bacteria. It can also directly impact our immune system, wreak havoc with our blood sugar levels, increase inflammation and may promote mucus production. And if that’s not enough, sugar is often contaminated with fungi. Unfortunately dried fruits have concentrated amounts of sugar and can be contaminated with mycotoxins as well.
Corn is high in mold and generally contaminated with mycotoxins. From thousands of processed food items to animal feeds, corn is everywhere in our food supply. It may be gluten-free but still can trigger the release of histamine, causing itchy, watery eyes, runny nose or sneezing.
Peanuts and cashews can contain dozens of different types of fungi that produce mycotoxins. If you are concerned about exposure to mycotoxins, think twice about your trail mix and granola bars and perhaps reach for a fresh fruit instead.
Dairy items may be delicious and tempting for many, but they cause phlegm and mucus to thicken, so if you already have an underlying case of cough and sinus problems, you may want to take a closer look at how much dairy you are consuming. If you feel like it’s a challenge to give up your favorite cheese, know why it may be difficult; casein in dairy causes it to be addictive. When casein is digested, it releases casomorphins (an opiate) into the bloodstream that produces similar effects to morphine or heroin.
Whether you’re smoking traditional cigarettes or vapes, you’re still being exposed to nicotine, which can have harmful effects on your immune system and lung capacity. Vapor from inhalants can severely damage the lungs, causing airway inflammation and impaired responses to bacteria and viruses.
We may not be able to change our stressors but we can always control the way we respond to them. Holding onto grief and sadness can manifest themselves in respiratory issues and will weaken the lungs. If we are unable to let go of these negative emotions or feel overwhelmed by them, they will compromise our lungs main function; respiration. Set time aside to meditate, try yoga, find a skilled therapist or seek other self-regulation techniques such as HeartMath.
I must admit, dealing with my own respiratory issues that ended in pleurisy was worrying and challenging all at the same, but it pushed me to step up my game for a better recovery plan.
It was important to address the root causes as over the counter drugs didn’t seem to do much. Here is what worked for me, which continues to be part of my daily routine:
Nourish. I still juice every morning and eat lots of raw and some cooked veggies with healthy fats. I have been avoiding sugar and starch as much as possible.
Supplements. Clean, food-grade vitamins and supplements to aid healing and support the immune system.
Exercise. Daily power walks, fresh air and deep breathing.
Indoor allergens. Less dust, less irritation. I also make a point of changing sheets more often.
Essential oils and steaming. Holding my head over steam worked wonders especially when I added some powerful essential oils to enhance the benefits.
Detox. I have experienced an amazing improvement to my health by using my favorite detox supplements, getting vitamin C IV and ditching sugar.
Stress. My HeartMath knowledge and skills came handy and have enabled me to work on my emotional resilience daily.
Water. Staying hydrated supports healthy lung functions so I try to make a conscious effort to drink plenty of water and herbal teas throughout the day
Dental health. Last but not least I started to have some dental issues taken care of and felt my sinus issues and thick mucus dissipate within days.
“Your health is what you make of it. Everything you do and think either adds to the vitality, energy and spirit you possess or takes away from it.”
- Ann Wigmore
Wishing you the best in health,
Certified Health & HeartMath Coach
Dr. Neal Barnard: The Cheese Trap