What do we know about our lungs? “Well, isn’t that where we store air to breathe… to, uh, stay alive and all?”
Yes, the lungs do indeed perform that vital function, but they’re pretty magnificent organs when explored. So, before we get into what harms these critical organs, let’s take a closer look at what they entail.
Our lungs are sponge-like in texture and serve as the refining organ in the consumption and breakdown of oxygen. When we inhale air through our nose or mouth, the air travels down into the larynx and through the trachea. This air then reaches our left and right bronchi, which transports the air to the lung. The air then moves to the alveoli – microscopic sacs that absorb oxygen from the air – via the bronchioles. The alveoli then transfer the oxygen into our bloodstream. Finally, the carbon dioxide waste taken in from the air is transferred back from the blood to the alveoli, where it is then exhaled.
What Happens When Someone Has Dirty Lungs
Okay, so the biology lesson over. It’s not as simple as just breathing in and out. Remarkably, such a complex process completes in a matter of just a couple of seconds. Unfortunately, any miscue in this complex process usually results in either chronic or acute lung damage.
If someone suffers from a lung condition, it’s usually a result of damage to the alveoli (the lung’s air sacs) of the bronchi (large airways of the lung). Three of the most common ailments of the lungs – bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema – result from an abnormality involving the bronchi or alveoli.
Smoking is so damaging because it stunts normal lung function. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, most commonly occurs in those that smoke. This damage to the lungs creates difficulty in breathing out, resulting in shortness of breath. Emphysema (a type of COPD) is usually the result of smoking, like tobacco smoke damages the alveoli, trapping air in the lungs and making it difficult to breathe normally.
While smoking is undoubtedly a cause of damage to the lungs in many cases, it’s not the only factor – infections and genetics also play a role. As mentioned, the lungs are only a part of a complex system, and damage to any part of this system can result in severe lung problems.
The positive news (finally!) is that the lungs can be repaired. Obviously, the extent to which the lungs can heal depends upon the circumstances. But there are certain actions that we can take to aid this healing process.
Let’s discuss six common signs of dirty lungs first:
If you have any of these symptoms, then your lungs might need some TLC.
Sign #1: Chronic cough
When a cough lasts for over a month, it is considered chronic in nature. In all likelihood, medication has been tried and failed. This should be taken as a sign that something is wrong with the respiratory system.
Sign #2: Persistent mucus production
When our airways are irritated or infected, they will produce mucus (or phlegm) as a defense. If this continuous mucus production lasts longer than a month, it may be a warning sign of lung problems.
Sign #3: Lasting chest pain
Chest pain that inexplicably lasts for longer than a month may be a warning sign. It’s a sign that the lungs are involved if the chest pain is brought on or made worse from inhaling, exhaling, or coughing.
Sign #4: Shortness of breath
When shortness of breath occurs, it is usually due to a heart or lung condition. This symptom can be narrowed down to either/or since both are involved in the transport of oxygen to tissues and remove carbon dioxide. When either one of these problems occurs, it results in shortness of breath.
Sign #5: Coughing blood
When coughing up blood occurs, it’s always a problem with either the lungs or the upper respiratory tract. Needless to say, this is something that requires immediate attention, as it may signal a severe health problem.
Sign #6: Wheezing
Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound that usually occurs when breathing out (exhaling) but may occur when breathing in. This is typically a sign that a foreign object blocks the normal flow of air into the lungs or constricts the lung’s airways.
Six Ways to Help Promote Healing of Your Lungs
Now that we know what to look for, here are six ways to help purify your lungs.
If it isn’t apparent by now, smoking is probably the worst thing someone can do to their lungs. Hopefully, an education on what this harmful habit does to the lungs is enough to get someone to quit; if not, seek out some people for support. There are plenty of terrific, free resources available online that could help. There’s even a smoking hotline.