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How Can I Clean My Lungs? | Lung Detox

Marion Sereti

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July 29, 2020
CoughPro is not a medical product. It is a wellness app intended only for users to obtain a better understanding of their cough. It is not intended to diagnose, monitor, or treat any illness.

We at Hyfe, Inc., are a company devoted to working on tools to better understand the importance of cough. It is Hyfe’s intention in the future to seek regulatory approval for medical products that analyze cough in order that they may be used to diagnose, monitor, and facilitate better treatment of respiratory illnesses.

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Have you ever wondered if your lungs can get “dirty” like your car or your house? 

Your lungs don't get dirty from breathing in air – they don't get tiny dust or pollen granules lodged inside of them acting as a filter or blockage. It just doesn't operate that way (you can read about how the lungs work here). Instead, lungs can become clogged with extra mucus, inflammation, or fluid accumulation, which can make breathing challenging. 

So, is it possible to clear your lungs?

What Is Lung Detox?

Lung detoxification, commonly referred to as a lung cleanse, is the process of removing harmful and toxic compounds from the lungs or bronchial tract1. Detoxification aids in eliminating harmful bacteria and allergens from the surroundings.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 4.2 million deaths occur annually due to air pollution exposure globally2. Additionally, for one out of every five males who die in the US, tobacco use is to blame3. Therefore, it is wise to be conscious of lung detoxing and cleansing as a crucial treatment and this article covers the question, “How can I clean my lungs?”

How Do I Purify My Lungs Fast?

While there is no quick fix to detox your lungs, there are ways you can accelerate your lungs cleansing. Here are 15 simple tips that you can apply immediately to optimize your respiratory system functionality:

1. Quit Smoking Now!

First, quit smoking. Did you know that cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals4? And if that isn't scary enough, persistent smoking can speed up the aging process of your lungs and cause lung cancer. It's like your respiratory health is being ruined one puff at a time, day by day, little by little. So, if you want to live a long and healthy life, stop smoking and let your lungs breathe easily! 


Secondly, avoid second-hand smoke. The harmful compounds found in secondhand smoke, including benzene, chromium, carbon monoxide, arsenic, polonium, formaldehyde, and cyanide, all pose serious health risks such as raising your risk of developing lung cancer5. This occurs even if you don't smoke but breathe in other’s smoke.

2. Adjust Your Diet - Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods

You might be thinking, “Can I eat or drink something to detox my lungs?”

Breathing problems can be brought on by inflammation, which is where the tissues in your lungs become swollen due to your body’s immune system. Sometimes your immune system causes inflammation as it’s fighting an infection; other times it’s overreacting or inflammation has become a chronic state. Chronic inflammation is correlated with many health conditions6. While medication, like corticosteroids, decreases inflammation, eating anti-inflammatory foods can also help naturally reduce inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory foods include:

  • Turmeric7
  • Leafy greens
  • Cherries89
  • Eucalyptus10
  • Ginger11
  • Onions12
  • Garlic13
  • Blueberries14
  • Olives15
  • Walnuts16
  • Beans17
  • Lentils18

3. Drink Water and Plenty of Fluids

Water is the key to life and this applies to your lungs as well! But the obvious question is, how can drinking water and lung health be related?

Some fluids that help in lung cleansing include:

  • Water – Hydration is intensely important in clearing mucus from the lungs. Being dehydrated makes it very hard to clear any mucus at all19. Drinking more water to be fully hydrated means there is more water available for your body to mix with the mucus, making it easier to clear20.
  • Green tea– Research has found that people who increased their intake of green tea decreased their likelihood of developing COPD21. This may be because, beyond the hydration factor of the water in it, green tea is thought to have antioxidant and antiinflamatory properties, which may reduce the effects of smoking on lung tissues, as well as other damage to your body’s cells.
  • Honey tea – Honey is a well-known and proven cough remedy, found by some research to be superior to some OTC cough medicines22, and excellent at soothing sore throats, which you may develop if coughing up a lot of mucus. In addition, gelam honey has been found to aid in mucus clearance23.
  • No-added-sugar fruit and vegetable juices – These are a more fun and tasty way of getting water into your body, alongside a host of nutrients that will generally contribute to your health. Go for the ones without added sugar, as too much sugar can damage your teeth and the health of your mouth affects the health of your lungs.
  • Warm broth – Your grandma’s advice to drink warn soup (particularly chicken soup24 was right; it makes your nose feel a lot easier to clear out25 and helps you get over colds26.

4. Exercise

Daily exercise is a necessary part of a balanced lifestyle. The correct amount and various types of activities positively support your lung recovery. Cardio exercise, such as running or any movement that raises your heart rate, benefits your lungs by improving their efficiency over time. Exercise that focuses on breathing, such as yoga, can help you learn how to fully use your lungs’ capacity.

If you have a chronic lung illness, check with your doctor before changing your workout routine. 

5. Monitor Indoor Air Quality

Your lung health is significantly influenced by the air you breathe. Hence, it is important to be aware of and regularly monitor the quality of this air. Some ways to stay on top of it are;

  • Spend time outside – The smartest solutions aren't always the most complex. Go outside and take a breath of pure air. Fresh air is a fantastic way to clear your lungs and your mind, whether you go for a stroll in the park, a hike in the mountains, or just sit on your veranda and enjoy the scenery.
    • However, be aware of outdoor air pollution – Being conscious of the levels of dangerous pollutants in the air where you live and avoiding going outdoors when the levels are high will help to keep your lungs healthy. Look up if there is a local air quality monitoring station near you, or have a look at The World Air Quality Index Project.
  • Monitor Indoor Air Quality – Similarly to developing awareness of air pollution outside your home, keeping an eye on the quality of the air inside your home and office is important too. Some simple things you can do to enhance air quality at home include:
    • Investing in a good vacuum cleaner and vacuuming regularly
    • Eliminating artificial scents
    • Using an air purifier – Start clearing pollutants from your home’s air to give your lungs a chance to clear themselves. Purifiers assist in cleaning the air you breathe and reducing the possible negative impacts of pollution by filtering out fine particles27.  
    • Maintaining your air filters - Change your air filters following the device’s instructions to keep them functioning at full effectiveness. Do not take long to change filters as they are of no use after a certain period; on the contrary, these filters may harm or produce harmful effects on your health once they are clogged up.
    • Consider houseplants – Many houseplants help filter various air pollutants, as well as improve the look of your home. Head over to our article on air-purifying plants for a detailed discussion.

6. Use Air Purifiers

Any indoor space benefits from an air purifier to remove indoor air pollutants such as dust, dirt, or certain gases. Particularly people suffering from chronic lung diseases should use it regularly. This will help your entire body to function properly.

7. Avoid Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke contains dangerous chemicals like benzene, chromium, carbon monoxide, arsenic, polonium, formaldehyde, and cyanide, all of which pose significant dangers to health. As a result, even if you’re not a smoker, breathing in secondhand smoke increases the chance of contracting lung cancer.

8. Practice Breathing 

Breathing is a natural lifelong phenomenon. It's how your cells receive enough oxygen throughout your body, which is obviously necessary for the body to operate properly. However, many of us do not breathe as optimally as we could. You can use breathing techniques to improve. These breathing exercises include:

  • Consciously breathe through your nose – This is better for you than mouth breathing, as it is the way your body has evolved to breathe. However, we sometimes forget or fall into the habit of breathing predominantly through our mouths. Choosing to breathe only through your nose, when possible, will be better for your oxygen intake, as well as reducing bad breath and belching.
  • Resonant breathing – This is deliberately breathing slowly at a rate of 5-6 breaths a minute. You can do this by breathing in for five seconds and then breathing out for five seconds, making one breath take 10 seconds in total. This stretches your lungs, calms your brain, reduces your heart rate, and improves your mood28.
  • Controlled coughing – Muscles in the thorax and stomach are worked by controlled coughing to expel mucus from the lungs. Controlled coughing relies on stabilizing the core muscles to engage the diaphragm more effectively than a hacking cough, which primarily utilizes the chest muscles.
  • Yoga – A major focus of yoga is controlling your breathing, often by breathing deeply but sometimes by breathing in short, sharp breaths or exhaling with an open mouth. It can help you learn how to use your lungs’ capacity fully. Consider these two pranayamas (yogic breathing techniques):
    • Kapalbhati pranayama (ocean/victorious breath) – Sit comfortably and exhale. Slightly tighten your throat, then inhale. Hold your breath for twice as long as you inhaled. Exhale with your throat still tightened. Relax your throat and breath normally before repeating.
    • Kapalbhati pranayama (skull shining breath/breath of fire) – Sit comfortably. Breathe in through your nose using your diaphragm, so that your belly expands. Without pausing, exhale forcefully through your nose, using your abdomen to push in. Release your stomach muscles, and allow a passive inhalation. Repeat 5 to 20 times.

Improving your breathing today betters tomorrow's respiratory health. If you have a chronic lung illness, check with your doctor before changing your workout routine.

9. Maintenance of Air Filters

Change your air filters following the device’s instructions to keep them functioning at full effectiveness. Do not take long to change filters as they are of no use after a certain period; on the contrary, these filters may harm or produce harmful effects on your health.

10. Chest Physiotherapy

One way how to remove mucus from lungs naturally, or without medications is chest physiotherapy (CPT), also known as “chest physical therapy”. It covers a range of airway clearance techniques29 that help the lungs discharge mucus and secretions. These techniques can be carried out manually or with the aid of mechanical equipment and they include:

  • Postural drainage – Lying in a specific posture to drain mucus from the lungs 
  • Percussion and vibration – Chest percussion helps remove fluid and mucus from the lungs, which is especially crucial for individuals suffering from chronic lung conditions like COPD and cystic fibrosis. This process involves a partner rhythmically tapping your back with a cupped hand while you assume different positions, whether sitting or lying down. 

To receive proper guidance on how to perform these techniques, it is recommended to consult with your primary care provider.

11. Avoid Using Artificial Perfumes or Scents

Artificial scent air refresher

Many of us like to fill our homes with sweet fragrances and smells by using sprays, candles, and other artificial scents. These are popular in areas that can get smelly, such as the toilet. While pleasant smelling, these products can damage our airways, cause headaches or migraines, and worsen asthma30. If you are having trouble with your breathing, try cutting out all artificial scents in your home and reducing unpleasant smells through regular cleaning and air circulation.

12. Steam Therapy

Taking a hot shower or inhaling steam from a boiling kettle of water poured into a bowl can help open the airways and facilitate the removal of mucus from the lungs. Those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who experience difficulty breathing may find brief relief by inhaling steam. Taking a hot bath or using a hot compress also helps relax the muscles, making it easier to clear mucus.

The conventional way of doing steam therapy requires at least the following equipment:

  • A bowl
  • Fresh water
  • A towel
  • A kettle, a stove, or a microwave – i.e., a way to heat the water

Then, you can dive into the process as follows: 

  • Begin by heating a pot of water or boiling the kettle until steam forms
  • Carefully pour the hot, steaming water into the large bowl and set it down on a flat surface
  • Put the towel over your head so it covers your face and the back of your head
  • Close your eyes and hunch over the bowl, about 10 inches away from the water, and use the towel to form a dome over yourself and the bowl
  • Start breathing in the steam
  • Keep inhaling until the water has cooled to the point that vapor formation stops
  • Uncover yourself slowly to maintain the body temperature – don’t fling the towel off

Perform this for 10 minutes two to three times a day.

You can also consider using a humidifier or a portal steam vaporizer. A humidifier adds moisture31 to the air in general, which helps loosen mucus, soothe a sore throat, alleviate coughs, reduce allergies, avoid asthma, assist with sinus pressure and congestion, and enhance sleep quality. Vaporizers are more specific, increasing the humidity in the air that you then breathe in through the attached mask. Provided they are cleaned regularly32, they also work to soften mucus for removal.

13. Have Green Tea 

Not only is green tea a flavorful source of water, which we discussed the importance above, but green tea is also a vital source of antioxidants. These powerful chemicals may reduce the effects of smoking on lung tissues, as well as other damage to your body’s cells. 

14. Vitamins for Lung Health

Make sure your diet includes sources of vitamins, as these support your whole body health and are essential for the best functioning of the respiratory system. Some also have benefits focused on the lungs. For example, according to a 2017 survey33, asthmatics with healthy vitamin D levels experienced fewer asthma attacks that required corticosteroid therapy than those with a lower vitamin D level.  Here are some of the essential vitamins and minerals for lung health and potential sources (sorted by richest sources first):

  • Vitamin A – This can be found mainly in parsley, carrots, tomatoes, beef liver, and mango34.
  • Vitamin C – This can be found in oranges and other citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and potatoes35.
  • Vitamin D – You can find it in fish and eggs especially and you can produce it by spending time in the sun36.
  • Vitamin E – This is found in sunflower oil and seeds, almonds, peanuts, asparagus, abnd magos37.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – The best source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish. It can also be found in walnuts, flaxseed oil, nuts, leafy greens, and animal fats38
  • Magnesium – You can find this in many different nuts and seeds, beans, brown rice, oats, beef, salmon, milk, and yogurt 39
  • Selenium – Brazil nuts are one of the best sources for this mineral. Other sources include seafood, organ meats, fortified cereals, beans, and lentils40.

15. Decrease the Use of Unsafe Household Products 

You likely employ several household products for daily cleaning purposes. However, you probably do not even think of the ingredients that you are expelling out in your house. Yet, many common cleaning products contain lung-injurious substances.

Check the warning labels on the back of your cleaning chemicals to find out which are hazardous to your health. Replace any that you can, such as swapping cleaning spray for a mixture of malt vinegar and water. When you have to use hazardous cleaning chemicals, wear a mask to protect your respiratory system. Well-fitted surgical masks filter the air you breathe in as well as the air you breathe out.

16. Over The Counter Medications(OTC)

Several over-the-counter medicines, such as guaifenesin and pseudoepinephrine, can aid in clearing your airways of extra mucus. These OTC medications can be divided into two categories:

  • Expectorants – These contain a substance called guaifenesin that thins and loosens bronchial mucus to facilitate coughing up. They may also prevent the formation of the primary mucus protein (mucins). Expectorants can be purchased at a pharmacy or grocery shop, but some combination medications that contain both expectorants and other ingredients need a prescription from a doctor.
  • Decongestants – These contain pseudoepinephrine, phenylephrine, ephedrine, or a combination thereof. They activate receptors in your body to reduce inflammation in your mucus mebranes (such as your nose) so that it is easier to breathe.

Find out all you need to know about cough medicines here.

Causes of Congested Lungs

What causes congested lungs? There are several conditions that can lead to congested lungs, including:

  • Respiratory infections41 – These include the common cold, flu, and other viral or bacterial illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis; these can make the lungs inflamed and mucus- or fluid-filled.
  • Allergies42 – Allergic responses can swell the mucous membranes and produce mucus, which congests the airways. You can read more about reducing spring allergies here.
  • Environmental irritants43 – Over time, breathing in toxins, irritants, and other environmental factors, such as air pollution and smoke, can clog the lungs.
  • Chronic conditions, such as;
    • Asthma – A chronic respiratory condition that results in inflammation and airway narrowing, making breathing challenging and congested.
    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – COPD is a group of lung diseases, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, that can cause congestion in the airways and lung tissue.
    • Congestive heart failure – This is a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to satisfy the body's demands and as a result, the lungs may become congested from a fluid accumulation44.
    • Lung cancer – Lung cancer occasionally results in obstruction of the lungs or lung tissue.

Symptoms of Congested Lungs 

When the airways and lung tissue are clogged with extra fluid, mucus, or other substances, it is 

difficult for the lungs to perform their essential functions. This situation is referred to as having congested lungs. The following are typical signs of clogged lungs:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, especially with exertion
  • Wheezing or whistling sound while breathing
  • Coughing, which may produce mucus or phlegm
  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Bluish tint to the skin or lips due to lack of oxygen (in severe cases)
  • Fatigue

How Long Does It Take for Lungs to Heal After Quitting Smoking?

Once you quit smoking, it takes two weeks to three months to heal.

Improvement in your health condition will indicate healing – you will recover from the damages such as coughing and other respiratory problems. Since lungs play a crucial role in our general health, we should do all we can to help them function well.

Can I Cleanse My Lungs?

Although you can take active measures to cleanse your lungs, they do cleanse on their own. It is a natural process, provided you follow a healthy routine and stay away from pollutants. 

For long-term cigarette smokers, however, the idea of a lung detox or smoke detoxification should sound great.

How Do I Clean My Lungs?

So, on to answer that burning question, “How can I clean my lungs?” 

There are many ways to give yourself a lung detox, but you must be wise in your choice of how you go about it. 

Recently, there has been a wide variety of new lung cleansing products labeled “natural.” These products have been used by a large percentage of the population craving quick results.

But the truth is that the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has licensed none of these products nor has there been the appropriate clinical evidence to support their daily use for disease prevention. Moreover, even though many of them contain ingredients, such as vitamin D, that play an essential role in improving immune system responses and minimizing inflammation in the airways, quick fixes never really work.

How Do I Purify My Lungs Quickly?

There are numerous methods to give your lungs a detox, but you must choose your method carefully. Recently, a lot of brand-new, lung-cleansing products have carried the “natural” label. Many people have used these products because they are looking for quick outcomes without the use of pharmaceuticals.

The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has not authorized any of these products, and there is insufficient clinical data to back their regular use in disease prevention. 

Furthermore, quick remedies never really work even though many of them contain components, like vitamin D, that are crucial for enhancing immune system responses and reducing airway inflammation.

While there isn't a quick way to lung detox, there are methods to quicken the process. Here are some easy home remedies you can use right off the bat to improve the performance of your respiratory system.

Conclusion

As there are currently no drugs or therapies that are specifically designed to clear the lungs, it is better to try to steer clear of any possible pollutants. This can involve changing behavior, such as giving up smoking, to reduce exposure, or changing one's diet and engaging in regular exercise to improve lung health. If you are suffering from an acute condition, such as a cold, medication can also help.

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