The lungs, more so than most other organs, deserve a few words because they are exposed to the outside world more than any other internal organ.

The lungs are the body’s quickest method of taking in and expelling products.

Excretion of the main waste product of metabolism – carbon dioxide – is performed through the lungs and the balance of acid/alkali within the body is governed by the lungs and kidneys working in harmony. Any damage to the lungs will prevent the fuel of life (oxygen) from getting in and the toxins from getting out.

I find it amazing that 5,000 years ago the Eastern philosophies were drawing the same conclusions. All Eastern medical beliefs stem from ari understanding that the lungs are the main organ of energy input as well as being a major elimination centre. The scientific knowledge of how the lungs and kidneys control the acid/base balance is reflected by the connection in Eastern philosophies that the lungs pull energy into the body and the kidney energy is the store.

According to Eastern medicines the lungs are the organ that represent grief, loss and sorrow, which is perhaps why we sigh when saddened why and a few deep breaths can restore a sense of well-being.

The formation of the lungs takes up to 25 years and persisting infections or the self-assassinating habit of smoking are more damaging the younger we start. Like a house with poor foundations, any damage to the lungs at an early age will reflect throughout our lives not only in our breathing and tendency to recurrent infections but in every aspect of our energy flow. Pollution, including passive smoking by children in the homes of smoking adults, will be taking its toll. Asthma is on the increase and although no definite scientific evidence has been shown to incriminate air pollution I am dubious of the trials done to date.


Above all other organs, pay the lungs respect from as early an age as possible.

City dwellers should spend as much time as possible in the country even if it is simply a day trip to the seaside.

Everyone should be taught and should practise a breathing technique and a yogic nasal washing procedure should be employed.

Any lung problem, such as an inflammation or infection should be treated swiftly especially in those under the age of 25 years.

Carrots, swedes, yam or sweet potato and deep-green leafy vegetables should be eaten regularly for the vitamin A content. Vitamin A has a profound effect on the lung membranes. Supplements should not be needed but can be used if the diet is poor. Take lmg of beta-carotene per foot of height as a basic maintenance dose and treble this at times of lung infections.

Any grief or sadness should be dealt with through counselling as swiftly as possible because these emotions will drain the lung energy.


A pneumothorax is the presence of air in the space between the lungs and inner chest wall. A haemoth-orax is the presence of blood in the same space.

Air enters this space either through a puncture wound or through an injury that tears the lungs allowing inhaled air to pass through the damage. Air is inhaled into the lungs by the negative pressure created by the diaphragm contracting downwards, thereby pulling air in through the mouth and nostrils. A small puncture or tear in the lungs may mean it takes some time for the pleural sac to fill, but as it does the air causes the lung to collapse. A large hole may create an instant or spontaneous pneumothorax. A spontaneous pneumothorax can occur in apparently healthy individuals due to asymptomatic lung disease.

The symptoms are of a gradual or sudden onset of shortness of breath with or without pain on the affected side. Recognition is by failing to hear lung sounds on one side of the chest and a noticeable lack of movement in comparison to the other side. This is not easy to recognize. Confirmation is often required by a chest X-ray, especially if the pneumothorax is developing. A bilateral pneumothorax is, of course, extremely serious if not dealt with rapidly.

A haemothorax develops in the same way but is caused by a damaged blood vessel pouring blood instead of air into the pleural space. Treatment is a minor surgical procedure and should be performed at a local hospital.

An onset, sudden or otherwise, of a shortness of breath must be reviewed by a doctor.

Keep the patient as still as possible and reassure them that the other lung will deal with breathing as long as they stay calm. This is true for most cases for a short period of time.

If a doctor is not available or a bilateral pneumothorax is suspected, and the patient is in respiratory distress, losing consciousness or has passed out, an emergency ‘chest drain’ is recommended.

Emergency insertion of a chest drain

Do not start this procedure unless the following are available: a sharp blade or instrument; tube or piping at least one foot long; and a container and some fluid.

With the patient on his/her back, find the lowest rib on the affected side in a line down from the front of the armpit. Count up two rib spaces.

At this point insert the blade through the skin and, keeping it on the top of the lower rib, penetrate until any resistance appears to give. The tip of the blade is now in the pleural space.

Insert the tube. Place the other end in the fluid in the container.

Secure the tubing and seal, with whatever means possible, any obvious injury that is allowing air to penetrate.

As the patient breathes, the lung will expand and air in the pleural cavity will be pushed out through the fluid. The fluid will act as a valve and prevent air from re-entering and after a few breaths the lung will expand again.