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The lungs themselves are not directly involved in detoxification like the liver or kidneys, but they do play a role in removing some waste products from the body. When we inhale airborne dust and pollutants in our environment, the mucus in our lungs traps it. Hairlike projections called cilia then move them into the throat, where we either cough them up or they get swallowed and go to the gut.

From an Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, the lungs are also a storage site for unprocessed emotions, especially grief. “For the lungs, the first thing you need to deal with is grief,” says Bhaswati Bhattacharya, MPH, MD, PhD, a board-certified and licensed physician with advanced training in pharmacology and Ayurveda practicing integrative medicine in New York City. “And how do you do that? You breathe.” She recommends a daily practice of pranayama — a breathing exercise said to help clear physical and emotional ama from the body.

Autumn is a notoriously challenging season for the lungs, as respiratory viruses and allergens circulate. It’s also the season symbolically associated with grief, death, and letting go. “If you get bronchitis every year in November, October is a good time to start doing something preventive and supportive for your lungs,” Bhattacharya says.

How to Support the Lungs:

The first way to support the lungs is by breathing deeply more often. “Breathing is one way that we move lymph,” notes Sara Jean Barrett, ND, a Minneapolis-based integrative practitioner who treats patients with chronic health conditions. “Having good posture and taking nice, deep breaths helps to oxygenate our tissues and help with digestive motility because the diaphragm pushes on the intestines.”

Deep breathing also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, putting us into the relaxed state that supports all the body’s other detoxification processes.

Additionally, you can support the lungs with herbs and spices such as licorice root, pippali, tulsi, cinnamon, and vasaka.

Yoga classes, which usually involve some pranayama or other breath work, are another good way to open the lungs and keep your energy flowing. (To learn more about how to support the lungs, check out “Take a Deep Breath: Understanding Lung Health and Immunity.”)

Go Deeper

The body already knows how to clear toxins — but you can give your detoxification system a helping hand. Learn more at “How to Support Your Body’s Natural Detox Organs,” from which this article was excerpted.

Mo Perry

Mo Perry is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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