Millions of people worldwide suffer from chronic respiratory diseases, many of which are preventable, according to the World Health Organization. Chronic respiratory diseases, including asthma, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, affect your airways, lungs and lung structures. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, sore throat and hyperventilation. A healthy diet with adequate vitamin intake may ease symptoms and improve lung function, helping you breathe better.
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Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant that can protect your lungs from damage caused by toxins and pollutants. It also supports your immune system and stimulates production of white blood cells in the lungs, which prevent inflammation and promote healing. The recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, of vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. Foods containing vitamin C include citrus fruits, red bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, cabbage and tomatoes. Vitamin C can be destroyed by light, air or heat, so eat these fruits and vegetables raw or lightly cooked.
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Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin linked to antioxidant activity in the body. It scavenges free radicals in your lungs, which are produced through natural metabolism or exposure to toxins, such as cigarette smoke. Vitamin E also aids in tissue production, reduces inflammation in the lungs and boosts immune function. Schoolchildren with low levels of vitamin E are more likely to have poorly controlled asthma, notes MayoClinic.com. Vitamin E is found in vegetable oils, nuts, green leafy vegetables and whole grains. The RDA for adults is 15 mg.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin essential for calcium metabolism. It is synthesized by your skin when you are exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D lowers your risk of developing respiratory tract infections, alleviates symptoms of childhood asthma and may help protect the lung function of smokers. In a 2012 study, published in the “American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine,” vitamin D-deficient smokers had lower lung function values over a 20-year period compared to smokers with sufficient vitamin D levels. Although the reason is unclear, supplementing your diet with vitamin D may improve your breathing. The RDA for adults is 15 mcg. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish and fortified foods, such as milk, eggs and orange juice.
Vitamin B-12, a water-soluble vitamin, supports red blood cell production. If you have a vitamin B-12 deficiency, your red blood cells may not be able to provide adequate oxygen to your muscles and organs. As a result, your breathing rate may increase leading to shortness of breath, especially when you engage in physical activity. The RDA for vitamin B-12 in adults is 2.4 mcg. Food sources of this nutrient include meat, poultry and fish.
Michelle Fisk began writing professionally in 2011. She has been published in the "Physician and Sports Medicine Journal." Her expertise lies in the fields of exercise physiology and nutrition. Fisk holds a Master of Science in kinesiology from Marywood University.