As one of the hardest-working organs in the body, the lungs are essential for maintaining normal functions of the respiratory system and keeping us alive. Their main roles include transporting oxygen throughout our bodies and removing extra carbon dioxide. That’s why cleansing your lungs and occasionally doing a lung detox are great ideas.
If you’ve been experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, chronic coughs, mucus production or wheezing, there’s a chance your lungs are struggling. In fact these are among the most common early warning signs of lung diseases.
Is it possible to cleanse the lungs? The lungs actually have the ability to clean and heal themselves — as long as they are given proper nutrients, clean air and water and are not exposed to irritants and pollutants on an ongoing basis.
This means that to detox the lungs it’s important to give up smoking, pay attention to air quality, and remove allergens and other chemicals from your home. While it’s still possible to develop a lung disease even if you take these steps, they can greatly improve how well your lungs work into older age.
What Is a Lung Detox
A “lung detox” is a program or product that’s intended to help reverse damage to the lungs. In some cases, lung cleanses are also used to help improve breathing and reduce symptoms like coughing.
Who can benefit from a lung detox? People who are most likely to experience improvements in lung function and overall respiratory health by doing a lung cleanse include:
- Smokers who use cigarettes, smoke marijuana or use vapes.
- Those who are exposed to air pollution, chemicals, gases and irritants that can harm the lungs, such as chlorine, phosgene, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and ammonia.
- Those who have health conditions that impact the respiratory system, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, allergies, cystic fibrosis or interstitial lung disease (an “umbrella term” for a large group of disorders that cause scarring or fibrosis of the lungs).
- Those with lung cancer.
How to Do a Lung Cleanse
How do you flush toxins out of your lungs? While there are many supplements and other products available that claim to do this, most don’t actually work as a quick fix for clearing the lungs. It can take time and consistency to improve your lung function and heal any damage that’s been done.
Below are steps you can take to help take care of your lungs and do a “lung detox,” whether you’ve been experiencing respiratory symptoms or not:
1. Quit Smoking
The first step involved in doing a lung detox for smokers is to quit smoking. This is isn’t easy, but it’s hard to have healthy lungs when you constantly put toxic chemicals into them.
Even though rates of cigarette use have come down in the past two decades, cigarettes are still one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. every year. Believe it or not, about one in every five deaths in the U.S. is linked to cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are several ways to quit smoking, including gradually or going “cold turkey.” If you need help stopping, consider trying a smoking cessation program or working with a therapist or hypnotist who has experience with helping others quit.
2. Avoid Pollutants and Irritants
A number of harmful pollutants, chemicals and irritants are capable of causing lung issues or more serious damage, including gases and even some cleaning products.
Where do these lung irritants come from? The top sources include:
- electric utilities like burning coal, natural gas and oil
- vehicles and equipment used to move people, goods and fuel
- residential sources, including heating and cooling
- commercial and industrial processes that produce emissions
Take steps to avoid exposure to pollutants in your home and at work, such as by keeping your home clean and not spending lots of time outdoors when the air quality is poor.
The American Lung Association recommends that you check your local air quality index (AQI) using an online tool from AirNow.gov. When the AQI value is higher, there is more pollution in the air, which can cause problems for people with sensitive repository symptoms. This means you want to spend less time outside, especially in busy, urban areas.
At home, you can help limit irritation to your lungs by using organic/natural cleaning products, not using fragrant products or those with volatile organic compounds or aerosols.
Be sure to vacuum your home often to get rid of dust and dander. Ventilate your living space, keep the windows open when possible, and use an air purifier wherever you spend a lot of time.
3. Do Breathing Exercises
Breathing slowly and deeply helps move more oxygen through your lungs and body. Try deep breathing exercises regularly, such as belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing or boxed breathing. These exercises also have additional benefits for fighting stress and helping with relaxation and sleep.
4. Use Steam
Steam can help break up mucus that’s caught in your lungs and airways, making it easier to breathe and remove waste from your body. Try taking warm showers, sitting in a steam room and using a humidifier in your home/bedroom. This may not necessary heal lung damage, but it’s useful for reducing symptoms and feeling better almost right away.
5. Remove Mucus by Coughing
While chronic coughing is a sign that something may be wrong within your respiratory system, you can use controlled coughing to help remove some mucus from your lungs. Ask your health care provider if this is a good approach depending on your current health.
To do it, sit down and relax your shoulders, inhale slowly through your nose, lean forward and cough from your belly several times while exhaling. You can try placing your hands on your stomach for help. Do this for one to two minutes, but stop if you feel a lot of discomfort.
Exercise has many benefits for the respiratory system as well as the immune system. It helps boost circulation, supports detoxification and lymphatic drainage, and increases your breathing rate, which helps bring more oxygen to your muscles and elsewhere.
When you exercise and breathe a bit heavier than usual, you help your lungs remove more carbon dioxide from your body, which is important for cellular health and maintaining homeostasis. Exercise can also help improve the health of tissues in and surrounding the lungs.
Aim to do about 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, such as brisk walking or jogging, yardwork, cycling, swimming, dancing, etc.
7. Eat a Nutrient-Rich, Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The lungs benefit greatly from antioxidant-rich foods and those that provide essential vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamin C and vitamin A.
Some of the best foods for your lungs include:
- Leafy green veggies, like spinach, kale, etc.
- Other fresh veggies, like broccoli, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, green beans, etc.
- Fruits, such as berries, citrus fruits, kiwi, cherries and others
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans and lentils
- Wild-caught fish that provide omega-3s, such as salmon and sardines
- Green tea
- Turmeric, ginger and other spices
- Healthy fats, like olive oil and avocado
At the same time, you want to avoid foods that can worsen inflammation and allergies. These include processed products made with:
- trans fats
- processed meats
- sugar-sweetened beverages
- refined vegetable oils
Risks and Side Effects
If you have a chronic condition that affects your respiratory system, speak with your health care provider before making any drastic changes to your lifestyle, including your use of supplements or exercise routine. This includes people with COPD, asthma and cystic fibrosis.
Because these conditions can impact breathing, it’s best to get a doctor’s recommendation before trying new types of therapies or techniques that will affect how the lungs work.
Although some companies sell products that they claim can cleanse the lungs, most are not FDA-approved and may be dangerous for some people to use. Also be very careful about inhaling any kind of oil if it’s your first time using it.
- Is it possible to detox the lungs? While it won’t work overnight, there are steps you can take to improve your overall respiratory health and lung function.
- One of the most important lung detox steps is quitting smoking. Also eat an anti-inflammatory diet, limit exposure to chemicals pollutants, and use steam, exercise, breathing exercises and controlled coughing to break up mucus.
- Recipes to help clear your lungs include those with ingredients like green tea, spices and herbs, leafy greens, berries, nuts, and other antioxidant-rich foods.