Eating for Respiratory Health

Years from now I hope we’ll all look back on the great quarantine staycation of 2020 with nostalgic memories of how we learned to do more with less, turn our social networks into circles of mutual aid and concern, and catch up on sleep and cuddle-naps with family in a time of social distancing.

But that is then. And this is now. And its panic-fucking-weirdos-hoarding-basic-necessities go time, fam.

“I don’t need much. All I need is this thermos… and this chair… and this ping-pong-paddle… and this book… and this falcon…”

My purpose in this post is to underscore the usefulness of some common items you probably already in your kitchen for cultivating respiratory health through diet. For those with other chronic health problems (especially if we’ve been working on them together with acupuncture at Mend) send me an email and I’ll write out a quick list of home remedies to help you maintain in the absence of treatment. We may be physically alone in this age of social distance, but that simply means cultivating connection in other ways is more important than ever. So if I’ve ever been there for you before, consider me here for you now.

[For background on how disease generally, and covid-19 specifically, is understood in a CM lens, see this post.]

There are two primary components to eating for respiratory health: general strategies for happy digestion (nourishing the child through supporting its mother), which falls more into prevention, and strategies to help the lung itself, which tend to me more useful when the lung is actively impacted by a cold.

The great news about eating for prevention is that these strategies tend to be cheap and simple, favoring limited pantries and “low and slow” cooking techniques: exactly the sort of thing people trapped at home all day have time for now, but not typically (at least not without an instapot). For general principles of eating to benefit digestion, see this post.

Some Foods that Support Lung Function

  • Acrid foods: Onion, Scallion, Ginger, Garlic, Pepper, Chilis, spices; in early stages of a cold, eating lots of these can induce a sweat, helping speed recovery. On a contrary note, eating too much of these can increase heat in the body, leading to problems with insomnia, skin irritation, or subjective sensations of heat.
  • Honey to moisten and soothe throat; hyper-local honey also acts like a mild inoculation against seasonal allergens.
  • Asian Pear – especially good for dryness
  • Lily Bulb (it’s a stretch I know) – very good for dryness; also calms anxiety/nervousness and moves qi of chest
  • Pineapple – good for dryness
  • Anything that Supports Digestion

Some Foods that Transform Phlegm

  • Radish, especially Daikon/Asian Radish
  • Papaya
  • Kumquats