Quitting smoking is hard but living with damaged lungs is much worse. Maybe you’ve recently quit smoking, or you are still considering it; either way, your lungs need a chance to heal. So, here’s everything you need to learn about how to clean your lungs after quitting smoking.
How to Clean Your Lungs After Quitting Smoking – Can It Be Done?
As with all things in life, time is a major factor. Your lungs will need time to repair themselves after you quit smoking. Luckily, it starts happening quite soon after you decide to quit. In fact, the carbon monoxide levels in your blood return to normal just 12 hours after your last cigarette, helping your body attain the necessary oxygen it requires for proper functioning.
Healthy cilia, tiny hair like organelles, play a critical role in pulmonary health since they clean your lungs by sweeping out debris, mucus, and other pollutants. While lung improvement is felt anywhere between two weeks and three months after quitting smoking, lung cilia need one to nine months to repair.
There is no magic pill. Healing your lungs after quitting smoking will take time. It is normal to feel chest discomfort, cravings, coughing, and mucus build-up on your road to being smoke-free. But there are some ways to give your lungs the best chance at making a healthy recovery.
Are There Natural Ways to Clean Your Lungs After Quitting Smoking?
Yes, after you quit smoking, you can clear your lungs and aid their repair with various natural methods:
- Eat more foods with anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties
- Avoid exposing yourself to pollutants
- Practicing deep breathing exercises
- Exercising regularly
How to Clean Your Lungs Using Diet
Foods To Avoid
The following foods often produce mucus, and having more mucus in your lungs can make it harder to clean them after quitting smoking. So while many of these foods are nutritious, you might want to keep an eye on your intake of mucus-producing foods.
- Dairy products: including milk (all milk: skim, 1%, 2%, whole, and raw organic), cream, yogurt, cheese, butter, and kefir.
- Processed foods: Cured meats, such as jerky, bacon, ham, salami, sausage, hot dogs, canned meat and others.
- Fast food: Highly processed meals should be avoided. This includes processed vegan or vegetarian foods and meat or dairy substitutes.
- Packaged convenience foods: Frozen foods.
- Candies, sweets, & confectionery: Avoid candy bars, pies, cakes, pastries, taffy, gelatin, and other sugary confectionery.
- Caffeine: Try to cut back on coffee and highly caffeinated teas or sodas. Make sure to drink lots of water instead.
Foods To Eat
While there is no scientific evidence to prove that eating foods high in anti-inflammatory properties will prevent lung inflammation, research has shown it may reduce inflammation in the body.
- Pineapple: Pineapple is rich in bromelain, a compound that reduces inflammation and increases lung elasticity.
- Honey: An age-old kitchen remedy, evidence suggests a teaspoon of honey every day may help to remove pollutants from the lungs.
- Citrus fruits and berries: Citrus fruits and berries such as oranges, lemons, limes, kumquats, and blackberries are all rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Leafy greens and herbs: Celery, bamboo shoots, brussel sprouts, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, thyme, rosemary, oregano, etc.
- Radishes: Including horseradish, red, daikon, and others, help to eliminate excess mucus and decrease lung congestion.
- Spicy roots: such as ginger, garlic, onions, and turmeric are excellent natural anti-inflammatory food sources.
What Can I Drink to Cleanse My Lungs?
According to the American Lung Association, staying hydrated is important for lung health. By drinking enough water, you’re keeping the mucus levels in your lungs thin, making it easier to get rid of when you cough. Drinking warm liquids like tea may also help to thin the mucus.
Here are some detoxifying drinks to help cleanse your lungs:
- Honey and hot water
- Green tea
- Lemon water
- Carrot juice
- Ginger and turmeric
- Potassium-rich drinks, like smoothies with oranges, banana, spinach, and berries
Avoiding Pollutants to Clean Your Lungs
Lung clearing after quitting smoking will go a whole lot easier if you prevent other pollutants from getting into your respiratory system.
Avoid Other Smokers
Not only will the secondhand smoke irritate your lungs, but it could induce cravings. Smoke from other sources like fires should be avoided too.
Keep Your Living Environment Well Ventilated
Use an in-home air purifier to remove allergens and give your lungs access to clean air. Certain house plants, like a spider plant or peace lily, also aid with air purification. You should also sleep with your windows open to allow natural air from outside to circulate into your space.
Make sure you avoid cleaning products that contain harmful chemicals. For instance, ammonia is highly irritable to the respiratory system.
How To Clean Your Lungs Using Breathing Exercises
Many pulmonary rehabilitation specialists recommend diaphragmatic breathing exercises are to help the lungs regain proper function. While you might not have chronic lung disease, you may experience pain in your lungs after quitting smoking. These techniques will help to cleanse your lungs.
Pursed Lip Breathing
Begin by relaxing your head, neck and shoulders. Slowly inhale through your nose for approximately 2 seconds, and then exhale through the mouth for approximately 4 seconds, pursing your lips to constrict airflow. Breathe out slowly – the prolonged exhale is important.
- Makes it easier to breathe by opening up the air passages
- Moves old and stale air out of the lungs
- Promotes relaxation
- Relieves shortness of breath
Also called belly breathing, it is another breathing technique that helps boost lung health.
Similar to pursed-lip breathing, but it adds an element of diaphragm exercise.
Start by placing one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Upon inhaling, allow the hand on your belly to rise up, keep the hand on your chest in place. When you exhale, breathe out slowly through pursed lips, using the hand on your belly to help push the air out. Repeat this exercise three to ten times.
- Strengthening and lengthening of respiratory muscles
- Increasing cardiorespiratory fitness
How To Clean Your Lungs Using Physical Exercise
Overall, physical fitness is an essential component of a healthy body. Exercise provides a multitude of benefits to both proper body and mind functions. Exercising also releases endorphins and dopamine, which will help with those nicotine cravings and mood swings that often accompany withdrawals. If you aren’t used to physical activity, then take it slow.
Yoga is an excellent exercise method that incorporates breath work and total body exercise. Both of which are excellent for healthy lung function and improving your lungs after you quit smoking.
It is normal to experience coughing during exercise; this is due to the lung inflammation from smoking and potential unfitness. Exercising will help dislodge phlegm and mucus from your respiratory system, so keep going!
Can Your Lungs Go Back to Normal After Quitting Smoking?
While all these techniques may help repair pulmonary damage and improve lung health, the bottom line is that smoking, especially long-term smoking, causes severe damage to the lungs, which is often irreversible. However, continuing to smoke will only make matters worse and increase your likelihood of lung cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
If you have been smoking for decades, it will take decades for your lungs to repair themselves, and it is possible they will never return to normal. The sooner you quit smoking, the better your chances of lung repair are, since they are self-cleaning, and they will begin to heal themselves with time.
Get Support to Quit Smoking
If you are struggling to quit smoking, a doctor can help you. Most people who get support from a doctor have better chances of success than those who try to go it alone. In addition to recommending smoking cessation medications, a professional doctor can help create a quitting plan that suits your health requirements and lifestyle.
If you are ready to quit, make an appointment with one of our doctors now and get the help you need to beat your smoking habit and get back to your optimum health.