One important flu-fighting strategy: keep those lungs healthy

Fight the Power

Want to fight off the flu this season?

Ridiculous question, right? This year, more than any year in recent memory, the seasonal flu and its troublesome sidekick H1N1 have taken center stage in the world’s health consciousness.

If you want to help your body strengthen the barricades against influenzas, protecting your lungs is an excellent first step. Because the respiratory system is where it all goes down. And if you’re elderly or bedridden or a smoker or have asthma, emphysema or COPD, the flu increases risk of pneumonia – an additional attack on the lungs that can turn fatal.

Fortunately, there are simple strategies for keeping your lungs strong and healthy.

Three (mostly) easy steps

You can fight the power of the flu with the power of health in three ways…

Lung Power Strategy #1: Stop smoking. I know. It’s hard. But I did it and you can too.

Lung Power Strategy #2: Exercise. A brisk daily walk is all you need to improve lung capacity.

Lung Power Strategy #3: Eat your antioxidants.

New research from the University of Alabama shows that the H1N1 virus attacks the inner lining of the lungs with a protein known as M2. This protein inhibits fluid removal from cells that line the lungs.

But the UA research also shows that antioxidants from plant foods appear to impede M2 and reduce risk of damage.

These results aren’t surprising to anyone who follows lung health research.

Two highlights from past e-Alerts:
* In an eight-year study of more than 500 subjects, those who increased intake of beta-carotene sustained far better lung function than those with low intake of the antioxidant
* A nine-year follow up of about 2,500 subjects showed that those with the highest intake of vitamin C had significantly better lung function than subjects with the lowest C intake. This link was even strong among asthma and COPD patients when they combined high intakes of C and magnesium.

Lung Power Bonus Strategy: Keep your vitamin D level up.

In 2005, Australian researchers gave lung capacity tests and blood tests to more than 14,000 subjects. Analysis revealed a strong link between high levels of vitamin D and healthy lung capacity.

Of course, you know how to get plenty of D: Moderate daily sunlight exposure. But with sunlight in shorter supply for so many of us these autumn days, D3 supplements and/or cod liver oil will have to do.

Keeping up antioxidant intake year round is easier. Just make sure you have plenty of those colorful, phytonutrient-loaded fresh fruits and vegetables on your plate at every meal.

To Your Good Health,
Jenny Thompson

“Influenza Virus M2 Protein Inhibits Epithelial Sodium channels by Increasing Reactive Oxygen” The FASEB Journal, Vol. 23, No. 11, November 2009,

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