Best Vitamins for Lung Health and Breathing

13 Best Vitamins for Lung Health and Breathing (2024)

by | Updated: Jan 27, 2024

The lungs are a vital organ responsible for taking in oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide. This process is known as gas exchange and is essential for survival. Therefore, keeping your lungs healthy is essential for maintaining a good quality of life.

There are many ways to promote lung health, such as quitting smoking, avoiding exposure to pollutants and toxins, and exercising regularly.

In addition to these lifestyle changes, our lungs also require certain vitamins and nutrients to function optimally. This article breaks down some of the most essential vitamins for healthy lungs and easier breathing, according to experts.

Best Vitamins for Lung Health

Best Vitamins for Lung Health Illustration

As a registered respiratory therapist (RRT), I used my knowledge and expertise to research and compile a list of the best vitamins for lung health, including the following:

  1. Vitamin C
  2. Zinc
  3. Vitamin A
  4. Beta-Carotene
  5. Vitamin D
  6. Resveratrol
  7. Vitamin E
  8. Selenium
  9. Omega-3
  10. Medium-Chain Triglycerides
  11. Magnesium
  12. Curcumin
  13. N-Acetylcysteine

When writing this article, I found studies and academic research to support each of these vitamins’ benefits for the respiratory system.

Keep reading if you want to learn more about how each vitamin can improve your lung function and help make breathing easier.

Note: We’re a small team of respiratory therapists who are licensed to treat patients with lung conditions; however, we are not doctors. Please speak with your doctor first before taking any vitamins or supplements. Some of the links in this article are affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

1. Vitamin C

Vitamin C has been shown to increase the body’s resistance to viral and bacterial infections, including the infections that cause pneumonia.

Research published in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease shows that the vitamin may also protect against chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a group of inflammatory lung diseases that block the flow of air through the lungs.

This protection stems from its antioxidant properties, which protect the lungs from the unstable free radicals that damage cells. This study supports the findings of earlier research that suggests diets rich in vitamin C may help preserve lung function and lower the risk for COPD.

Other research published in Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology suggests the antioxidant properties of vitamin C may help reduce bronchoconstriction and other respiratory symptoms caused by vigorous exercise.

Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EID), also known as exercise-induced asthma, is a condition in which the airways of the lungs narrow as a result of physical activity.

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2. Zinc

Zinc plays a role in inflammation, immunity, blood pressure, and how tissues respond to a lack of oxygen. Some research suggests that zinc may even help stop the rhinovirus, which is the virus responsible for the common cold.

In fact, scientists published a study that found how taking a daily dose of zinc at the onset of cold symptoms may reduce the duration of the illness by 33%.

Zinc may also help ease respiratory symptoms in patients with other lung problems.

A study found that it may reverse lung damage and improve survival rates among patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a deadly age-related lung condition. IPF leads to fibrosis, or scarring of the lungs, making it progressively more difficult to breathe.

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3. Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble micronutrient critical to the formation of alveoli, which are the tiny air sacs of the lungs where gas exchange takes place. This alveolar development occurs during pregnancy and for several years after birth.

Research suggests that taking in higher amounts of vitamin A during mid-childhood is associated with better lung function and a lower risk for an asthma diagnosis in adolescents. Another study found that taking vitamin A may lower the risk of developing emphysema.

In addition to supporting lung development, vitamin A also plays an important role in the maintenance and regeneration of lung tissue. This means vitamin A can help your lungs grow and maintain healthy tissue for a lifetime of easy breathing.

Vitamin A is an important micronutrient that may play a role in enhancing the immune system.

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4. Beta-Carotene

Beta-carotene is a carotenoid that gives red, orange, and yellow vegetables their color. The human body can convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, which can help improve lung function.

A study performed on more than 2,500 people found that eating fruits and vegetables rich in beta-carotene and other carotenoids may have protective effects against lung cancer.

Other research found that beta-carotene helps preserve lung function in older adults. This plant pigment has powerful antioxidant properties that prevent oxidative stress, which is serious damage caused by free radicals.

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5. Vitamin D

Research shows that vitamin D deficiencies may negatively affect how well the lungs function. Specifically, a vitamin D deficiency can negatively affect lung volume, which is the total amount of air the lungs can hold while breathing.

It is believed that vitamin D plays an important role in lung development. Researchers found that babies born to mothers who have vitamin D deficiencies during pregnancy may experience changes to their lung structure and function later in life.

Research also suggests that chronic vitamin D deficiencies may be associated with pulmonary fibrosis. This is a condition that causes lung scarring and stiffness, resulting in shortness of breath.

Furthermore, another study found that there may be a relationship between vitamin D and emphysema. This limits the volume of air someone can force out of their lungs in one second, referred to as FEV1.

Vitamin D has several important roles in the body, including potentially helping with lung development.

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6. Resveratrol

Resveratrol is a polyphenol compound present in the skin of the grapes used to make red wine. It functions as an antioxidant in the body, which offers plenty of positive health benefits.

In fact, researchers believe that resveratrol can help lower blood pressure, decrease cholesterol levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and potentially even suppress cancer cells.

One study found that resveratrol can help decrease inflammation in the epithelial cells of the lungs. This is useful in preventing certain respiratory inflammatory illnesses from occurring.

Researchers also believe that resveratrol may be beneficial for lung impairment associated with COPD. Studies found that it may help improve patients’ FEV1, which is indicative of bronchodilation and improved airway expansion.

Furthermore, other research shows that resveratrol may have great potential in treating respiratory conditions by controlling the death of body cells, fibrosis, and the development of tumors.

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7. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that functions as an antioxidant in the body by protecting cell membranes. Scientists believe that it plays a role in preventing certain chronic inflammatory diseases.

Researchers also believe that the anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin E may also help patients improve their forced expiratory volumes. This explains why consuming vitamin E is believed to improve lung function, as their findings suggest that taking vitamin E may reduce chronic lung diseases in women.

A separate study found that vitamin E helps protect lung surfactant, which is an important substance that coats the alveoli to prevent them from collapsing.

Furthermore, several studies found that a vitamin E deficiency is associated with more frequent COPD exacerbations and worsened symptoms.

Vitamin E has antioxidant properties that help eliminate free radicals in the body.

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8. Selenium

Selenium is a mineral present in water, soil, and some foods. It functions as an antioxidant in the body and helps protect cells from oxidative damage. Some studies suggest a high level of selenium in the bloodstream is associated with a lower risk of lung cancer.

Another study found that people with asthma who have higher blood levels of selenium had better overall lung function than those with lower levels of the mineral. Therefore, selenium is believed to help fight inflammation and oxidative stress in patients with mild to moderate asthma.

Furthermore, researchers found lower levels of selenium in people who have non-small cell lung cancer compared with those who do not have this type of cancer.

Selenium also has antioxidant properties that help protect cells in the body from oxidative damage.

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9. Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that is present in cold-water fish, certain plant oils, and some fortified foods. They offer a variety of health benefits, including the ability to reduce inflammation throughout the body.

This is important because long-term inflammation is associated with worsened asthma episodes and other breathing problems. In fact, some researchers believe there to be a connection between omega-3 consumption and a lower risk of asthma in children and young adults.

Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids may also help lower the amount of medication asthma patients need to take to control their symptoms. This fatty acid may also improve respiratory function and recovery from acute lung injuries.

Lastly, a study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology found that there may be an association between omega-3 fatty acids and interstitial lung disease (ILD).

Researchers found an association between higher levels of omega-3 and a lower risk of hospitalization and death from ILD. They also found that people with higher levels of omega-3 may have fewer lung abnormalities found on computed tomography (CT) scans of the lungs.

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10. Medium-Chain Triglycerides

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are a type of saturated fat that is present in coconut oil and other plant-based oils. Unlike other types of saturated fats, MCTs are metabolized differently and are believed to offer a variety of health benefits.

One study found that MCTs have anti-inflammatory properties that can help protect the lungs from certain respiratory problems. MCTs are also believed to help improve lung function and reduce inflammation throughout the body.

These are just a few of the many reasons why you may consider adding coconut oil (and more MCTs) to your diet.

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11. Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that is present in some foods, supplements, and medications. It’s necessary for many biochemical reactions in the body and offers a variety of health benefits.

Studies have shown that people with chronic asthma and poor FEV1 measurements often have low levels of magnesium in their bloodstream. This explains why some researchers believe that magnesium sulfate can help relax the airways in people who are having severe asthma flare-ups.

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12. Curcumin

Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric and is responsible for giving the spice its flavor and yellow color. It has long been used in traditional medicine and is believed to offer a variety of health benefits.

Researchers found that curcumin can help treat acute lung injuries and chronic inflammatory respiratory problems by improving oxidative stress and reducing inflammation.

In addition, a different study found that it may be effective as an add-on treatment for patients with bronchial asthma, which is a condition that affects the airways of the lungs.

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13. N-Acetylcysteine

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a compound derived from the amino acid cysteine. It’s available in supplement form and it’s even sometimes prescribed by physicians to treat asthma.

Not to mention, N-acetylcysteine has been used to treat cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that causes thick, sticky mucus that blocks the airways of the lungs.

Studies found that it may even be effective in the treatment of COPD. That is because its antioxidant effects help reduce oxidative stress that causes structural changes to the lungs caused by the disease’s obstructive effects.

While more research is needed to confirm the effects of NAC on the lungs, this supplement may be worth trying if you’re looking for something to help improve your respiratory health.

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FAQs About Vitamins for Lung Health

Are Vitamins for Your Lungs Safe?

Yes, vitamins for your lungs are safe. However, as with any supplement, it’s important to speak with your doctor before using, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

Some vitamins and supplements can interact with other medications you’re taking or make certain conditions worse. Therefore, it’s always best to get the okay from your doctor before trying anything new, even if it is natural.

Additionally, it’s important to be aware that vitamins and supplements are not regulated by the FDA in the same way that medications are. This means there is no guarantee of the quality, safety, or efficacy.

When purchasing vitamins and supplements, always look for products that have been certified by an organization like the USP or NSF International. These organizations set strict manufacturing and labeling standards to ensure quality and safety.

What are the Best Vitamins for Weak Lungs?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best vitamins for weak lungs will vary depending on the person. However, some vitamins and supplements that may help improve lung health include magnesium, curcumin, and N-acetylcysteine.

If you’re looking for something to help improve your respiratory health, it’s always best to speak with your doctor before trying anything new. They can help you determine if a certain supplement is right for you and make sure that it won’t interact with any medications you’re taking.

Can Vitamins Help Smokers’ Lungs?

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. In fact, it’s estimated that smoking causes about 480,000 deaths each year.

Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your lungs, but vitamins and supplements may also offer some benefits. Several of the vitamins mentioned in this article may benefit smokers, including magnesium, vitamin C, and curcumin.

Vitamins for Smokers Lungs Illustration

Final Thoughts

There are many vitamins and supplements that may help improve lung health. Some of the best include magnesium, vitamin C, N-acetylcysteine, and the others mentioned in this article.

As previously mentioned, if you’re looking for something to help improve your respiratory health, it’s always best to speak with your doctor before trying anything new. This is especially important if you have an underlying health condition or are taking any medications.

However, eating a lung-healthy diet, quitting smoking, and staying active can also help improve your respiratory health. Thanks for reading, and, as always, breathe easy, my friend.

Written by:

John Landry, BS, RRT

John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.


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