If you’ve recently quit smoking, you’ve taken an important first step in taking control of your health.
If you’re thinking about quitting smoking, you may be wondering what the benefits are. No matter which group you belong to, there’s a common concern: Can you clear your lungs after you quit?
There’s no quick way to restore your lungs to the way they were before smoking, but there are things you can do to help your lungs rebuild themselves after you’ve smoked your last cigarette.
Let’s take a look at some ways to help your lungs “cleanse themselves”.
Can you clean your lungs after quitting smoking?
After quitting smoking, you may feel the urge to “cleanse” your lungs to get rid of accumulated toxins.
Fortunately, your lungs are self-cleaning. They start this process after you smoke your last cigarette.
Your lungs are an amazing organ system that can, in some cases, repair itself over time.
After you quit smoking, your lungs slowly begin to heal and regenerate. The speed at which they heal depends on how long you’ve been smoking and how much damage you’ve done.
Smoking causes two types of permanent lung damage.
Emphysema. In emphysema, the small air sacs in the lungs are destroyed and the surface area of the lungs is reduced. The lungs cannot exchange the oxygen your body needs.
Chronic bronchitis. In chronic bronchitis, the small airways leading to the alveoli become inflamed, preventing oxygen from reaching the alveoli.
These conditions are collectively known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
How long will this last?
Within 2 weeks to 3 months of quitting smoking, you may notice an improvement in lung function, and your lungs may begin a process of self-cleansing.
In the first year after quitting smoking, symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath decrease. At this point, your lungs begin to clean themselves to reduce the risk of infection.
As your lungs clean and heal over time, you’ll continue to reap the health benefits of quitting smoking.
Are there natural ways to cleanse the lungs?
There is no cure for the scarring and lung damage caused by years of smoking, but there are things you can do to improve lung health and prevent further damage.
According to Dr. Keith Mortman, MD, director of thoracic surgery at the George Washington School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., a smoker’s lungs tend to accumulate more mucus. This accumulation can continue after you stop smoking.
Coughing helps rid your body of excess mucus, opening up the small airways and opening them up for oxygen.
Mortman also emphasizes the importance of physical activity. Being active is the best thing you can do to improve lung function.
Just going for a walk outside can help keep the air sacs in your lungs open. If those sacs are open, oxygen can exchange and get to where your body needs it.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but avoiding second-hand smoke, dust, mold, and chemicals will promote healthy lung function.
Animal studies have shown that exposure to filtered air reduces mucus production in the lungs. Mucus blocks those small airways, making it harder for oxygen to get in.
Before spending time outside, check your local weather station for air quality updates. If it’s a “bad weather day”, try not to spend too much time outside.
Drink warm liquids
According to the American Lung Association, staying hydrated is important for lung health. By drinking 64 ounces of water (eight 8-ounce glasses) a day, you keep the mucus in your lungs thinner, which makes it easier to clear when you cough.
Drinking warm beverages, such as tea, soup, or just warm water, thins the mucus and makes it easier to clear it from the airways.
Studies have shown that green tea has anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent certain types of lung disease.
If you don’t like warm drinks, try steam therapy, which involves inhaling water vapor. Steam therapy helps to thin mucus and reduce inflammation in the respiratory tract.
Eat anti-inflammatory foods
A smoker’s lungs may become inflamed, which can make breathing difficult.
There is no scientific evidence that eating anti-inflammatory foods will prevent lung inflammation, but research has shown that it can reduce inflammation in the body.
In other words, eating anti-inflammatory foods can’t hurt. Anti-inflammatory foods include: