The respiratory system is responsible for bringing life the the body. In Advanced Life Support or CPR, breathing is the first thing assessed. No breath, no life. The respiratory anatomy consists of the nose, mouth, sinuses, pharynx, trachea, bronchi, bronchioles, right lung with three lobes, left lung with two lobes, the diaphragm, cilia and alveoli. This beautiful, delicate network of channels carries prana, the vital life-force, and oxygen.
In Ayurveda, the respiratory system is referred to as the pranavaha srota and is governed by the kapha dosha. Kapha dosha is consists of water and earth. Ayurvedic pathophysiology specifies that excessive mucus or phlegm is produced in stomach due to poor digestion. This excessive kapha dosha and phlegm then circulates via the rasa (plasma) and accumulates in lungs. So Ayurveda first addresses digestion and diet when there are kapha related respiratory conditions. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) the lungs regulate water channels. TCM categorizes lungs as a yin organ partnered with yang large intestines. So again we see direct correlation between gut health and lung health.
Common eating habits that weaken or congest the digestion system are
- Over eating: In Ayurveda it is recommended that during a meal, the stomach should be 1/2 filled with food, 1/4 filled with warm liquid and 1/4 empty…. not stuffed full.
- Eating late at night: The digestive system can be compared to a day lily that opens early in the morning, fully opens mid day and closes at sunset. Our digestive system is strongest during the day. Late night meals are not digested properly and often sit in the gastrointestinal tract for a prolonged period of time, fermenting and creating aama, a metabolic toxin.
- Drinking cold liquid just before, during or right after eating a meal. Contemplate this. The average temperature of your stomach digestive juices is 99 degrees Fahrenheit. Freezing temperature is 32 degrees Fahrenheit. If ice water is consumed near a meal it causes the delicate villi capillaries to vasoconstriction. This state of vasoconstriction inhibits the absorption of nutrients and slows digestion, often creating excessive kapha and aama. The kapha and aama then circulate to the lungs.
Other causes of lung imbalances are:
- Polluted air: smog, occupational exposures, dust, fumes, chemicals, smoke
- Seasonal changes
- Poor posture
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive grief and sadness
Common manifestations of imbalance in the respiratory system and pranavaha srotas are:
- Sinus, nasal, throat or chest congestion
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing laying flat
- Excess mucus and phlegm
- Swelling and water retention
- Stagnation in the respiratory tract
Ayurveda has many ways to bring the respiratory system back into balance through diet, lifestyle, and herbal supplements.
- Follow a kapha-reducing diet. Watch my 2.5 minute YouTube Video on Kapha and kapha foods.
- Sip hot water with lemon with meals and throughout the day.
- Warm foods such as vegetable soup help clear the respiratory channels.
- Include warm digestive spices in your diet such as ginger, cloves and black pepper.
- Do not overeat or drink in excess.
- Make your mid-day meal the largest, eating a lighter breakfast and dinner.
- Try intermittent fasting a couple days a week till respiratory congestion clears. Here’s an article on intermittent fasting.
Common Ayurvedic Herbal remedies:
- Breathe Healthy capsules from Atreya
- Vasa (Adhatoda vasika), Kantakari (Solanum xanthocarpum), Pippali Fruit (Piper longum), Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Vibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica), Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)
- Dashamoola Haritaki
- ‘Dasha’ -means ten , ‘moola’ means roots, the ten roots individually provide health benefits to body and mind. Combined with haritaki (Terminalia chebula), the acclaimed ‘remover of diseases’, this formulation of the excellent for improvithe digestive system and lungs.
Always consult a formally trained Ayurvedic Practitioner or Ayurvedic Doctor before starting Ayurvedic supplements.
- Exercise is an important lifestyle habit to balance kapha and maintain lung health. Kapha is thick, dense, cold and sticky. Heating and mobilizing the body during exercise helps to liquefy and eliminate kapha. Exercise also purifies and strengthens the respiratory system.
- Pranayama are prescribed breath techniques that increase pulmonary vital capacity, strengthen respiratory muscles, allow breath to move more freely, expel mucous and clear respiratory toxins.
- Avoid smoking and air pollutants as often as possible.
- Meditate. Both Ayurveda and TCM understand the correlation between lung health and emotions, in particular deep seated sadness. Meditation can help dissolve negative emotions that are detrimental to your health. I have published numerous helpful meditations on YouTube, Insight Timer, I Heart Radio and HealthierVibrations.com. My favorite is a meditation that clears long held emotions from the subtle body. Try it today – here is the link.
- Yoga can effectively open the pranavaha srotas (lung channels), improve posture, strengthen the lungs and respiratory muscles. Sun salutations (surya namaskar) is the most prized yoga series. Here is my You Tube video link to help you learn surya namaskar.
Dr. Christie Smirl has over 25 years of medical experience. She completed a Doctorate of Ayurvedic Medicine from American University of Complimentary Medicine as well as Nurse Practitioner and Master of Science from Loma Linda University. Dr. Christie is also an E-RYT 500 Yoga Teacher Trainer YACEP, Reiki Master/Teacher, Tantric Energy Healer and Musician.
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