Why is the respiratory system important?
The respiratory system provides for ‘gas exchange’. This allows for essential oxygen to be taken in from the air and for the by-product of metabolism, carbon dioxide, to be expelled. This gas exchange occurs within the lungs in millions of tiny air sacs called alveoli. Alveoli allow for a large surface area of tissue with a rich blood supply to be exposed to the air to facilitate this transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
What are they made up of?
The organs of the respiratory system include the trachea (which takes air to the lungs from the nose, mouth and throat). The trachea then branches into the two bronchi which take air to smaller ‘tubes’ known as bronchioles and to the alveoli of the lungs.
Respiratory supporting ingredients in Good Green Stuff
The health of the respiratory system, is, like all systems, interdependent with all others. So, a diet that is rich in nutrients, and specific nutrients that support other organ systems will aid the health of the respiratory system. There are also some specific ingredients that help to directly support the health of the respiratory system.
Foods high in bioflavonoids like citrus, tea, coffee, red wine, pomegranate, and chocolate are beneficial to health overall and have been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidation. (1) Reviews of observational studies suggest that increased bioflavonoid intake reduces the incidence of upper-respiratory-tract infections, (2) and might have a protective effect against lung cancer. (3, 4)
Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) has been used in traditional eastern medicine systems and for culinary use for over 2000 years. It is thought to be calming, stress-adaptive, anti-fatigue, and helpful for control of blood sugar. Ginseng has also been demonstrated to aid immune responses (5) and inhibit respiratory diseases. (6)
Cocoa has been cultivated and used as a food, beverage, and medicine for at least 3000 years in the Americas, where it had been known as ‘the food of the Gods’. Cocoa is high in many plant phenols including antioxidant flavanols (including epicatechin), procyanidins, and many other flavonoids.
There are many purported benefits to overall health from the traditional use of Cocoa and Cocoa-containing foods and drinks for cardiovascular, neurological, oral, endocrine, immune, reproductive, and respiratory systems. (7, 8)
Slippery elm is a species of tree native to Eastern North America that has a long history in the traditional medicine of that continent for the soothing, anti-inflammatory properties of the inner bark, especially for the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts when taken orally. Anecdotal reports of the effectiveness of slippery elm for upper airway conditions are common and there is a strong scientific rationale for the soothing and anti-inflammatory properties of this herbal medicine. (9, 10)
Probiotics are various beneficial bacteria that help to repopulate the gut. They have been demonstrated to reduce the incidence and severity of respiratory tract infections, (11-13) and allergic rhinitis in children. (14-16)
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2. Braakhuis AJ, Somerville VS, Hopkins WG. Effect of Flavonoids on Upper Respiratory Tract Infections and Immune Function: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Advances in Nutrition. 2016;7(3):488-97.
3. Garcia-Tirado J, Rieger-Reyes C, Saz-Peiro P. Effect of flavonoids in the prevention of lung cancer: systematic review. Medicina clinica. 2012;139(8):358-63.
4. Bo Y, Sun J, Wang M, Ding J, Lu Q, Yuan L. Dietary flavonoid intake and the risk of digestive tract cancers: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Scientific Reports. 2016;6:24836.
5. Shergis JL, Zhang AL, Zhou W, Xue CC. Panax ginseng in Randomised Controlled Trials: A Systematic Review. Phytotherapy Research. 2013;27(7):949-65.
6. Shergis J, Zhang T, Zhou W, Xue C. P04.27. Panax ginseng in randomized controlled trials: a systematic review. BMC complementary and alternative medicine. 2012;12(1):P297.
7. Araujo QRD, Gattward JN, Almoosawi S, Parada Costa Silva MdGC, Dantas PADS, Araujo Júnior QRD. Cocoa and Human Health: From Head to Foot—A Review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2016;56(1):1-12.
8. Martín MÁ, Ramos S. Health beneficial effects of cocoa phenolic compounds: a mini-review. Current Opinion in Food Science. 2017;14:20-5.
9. Christopher RW, Bernard r. Slippery Elm, its Biochemistry, and use as a Complementary and Alternative Treatment for Laryngeal Irritation. A J Physiol Biochem Pharmacol. 2012;1(1):17.
10. Braun L. Slippery Elm. Journal of Complementary Medicine: CM, The. 2006;5(1):83.
11. de Araujo GV, de Oliveira Junior MH, Peixoto DM, Sarinho ESC. Probiotics for the treatment of upper and lower respiratory-tract infections in children: systematic review based on randomized clinical trials. Jornal de Pediatria. 2015;91(5):413-27.
12. Ahanchian H, Kianifar H, Ganji T, Kiani M, Khakshour A, Jafari S. Probiotics in childhood upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review. Journal of North Khorasan University of Medical Sciences. 2015;7(2):445-52.
13. Ozen M, Kocabas Sandal G, Dinleyici EC. Probiotics for the prevention of pediatric upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review. Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy. 2015;15(1):9-20.
14. Peng Y, Li A, Yu L, Qin G. The Role of Probiotics in Prevention and Treatment for Patients with Allergic Rhinitis: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy. 2015;29(4):292-8.
15. Güvenç IA, Muluk NB, Mutlu FŞ, Eşki E, Altıntoprak N, Oktemer T, et al. Do Probiotics have a role in the Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis? A Comprehensive Systematic Review and Metaanalysis. American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy. 2016;30(5):e157-e75.
16. Zajac AE, Adams AS, Turner JH. A systematic review and meta-analysis of probiotics for the treatment of allergic rhinitis. International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology. 2015;5(6):524-32.