Smoking has unpleasant effects on your overall health. Apart from affecting your lungs and heart, it increases your risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the liver, colon, rectum, and stomach. If you’ve been smoking for years, your lungs have likely turned black with tar deposits. Luckily, our lungs are self-cleaning. However, there are certain things you can do to help them function optimally. And this is not just for smokers. Our lifestyle exposes us to all kinds of pollutants and microbes, and regular detoxification can flush out the toxins and keep your lungs healthy.
Smoking and Your Lungs
When you smoke, cigarette smoke is deposited on your bronchial tubes and lungs. Over time, the lungs stop functioning optimally, and because the inhaled carbon monoxide disrupts the body’s oxygenation, your breathing is impacted.
Norman Edelman, MD, a professor of medicine at the state of New York at Stony Brook, says that smoking causes two kinds of long-term damage to your lungs: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Combined, these conditions are termed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
In emphysema, the tiny air sacs in your lungs, which are responsible for the exchange of oxygen, are damaged. In chronic bronchitis, inflammation occurs in the airways that lead to the air sacs. Once the air sacs are damaged, they can’t be replaced. If you smoke for too long, the damage to your lungs can be permanent. Hence, the sooner you quit, the greater chance you have of repairing the damage to your lungs.
The good news is that you can reverse the harmful effects of tobacco. Here are tips to help you cleanse your lungs after quitting smoking.
Become Active in Sports
Regular exercise is encouraged as part of a healthy lifestyle. After you quit smoking, your breath is restored and you can engage in several types of activity, which among other things, will help in the natural and healthy restoration of your lungs. Additionally, when you exercise regularly, you help improve your lung capacity. Some of the best exercises you can get into include:
- Dancing, such as Zumba
- Outdoor sports like tennis
Yoga is also a great alternative that combines physical and breathing exercises, both of which are good for your lungs. If you have chronic lung disease, it’s recommended that you talk to your doctor first before starting any exercise program, to get help finding a routine that suits you best.
A smoker’s lungs tend to be inflamed, which can make breathing difficult. Increasing intake of anti-inflammatory foods may help to reduce inflammation. While there’s no scientific evidence to support this theory, several studies have shown that eating anti-inflammatory foods is healthy. Some of the recommended foods include:
It’s also recommended that you try some steam therapy, which involves inhaling vapor to thin out mucus, hence reducing inflammation in the airways. Green tea is also a good option. It has anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent inflammation in your lungs. Doctors also suggest staying hydrated by drinking eight 8-ounce cups of water daily. This helps to keep the mucus in your lungs thin, making it easier to remove when you cough. Other foods that come highly recommended to consume after quitting smoking include:
- Leafy greens and herbs, like rosemary, broccoli, oregano, asparagus, and celery
- Spicy roots like ginger, onions, turmeric, and garlic
- Foods rich in chlorophyll, including spirulina and juiced wheatgrass
Keep Away from Pollutants
When you quit smoking, it’s important to avoid other pollutants that may get into your respiratory system. Second-hand smoke may not only irritate your lungs but is also likely to induce your cravings for smoking. Additionally, avoid smoke from firewood, burning stove, etc. On top of that, try to keep your living spaces well ventilated and clean. You can invest in a good home purifier to help remove allergens and particulate matter that may affect your lungs. Alternatively, you can accomplish this using certain plants like a spider plant, peace lily, and rubber tree.
Apart from cardio exercises, breathing exercises may help improve lung function. They are especially helpful if you just quit smoking and your lungs hurt. One technique is “Pursed lip breathing”. It involves slowly inhaling through the nose for approximately two seconds and exhaling through the mouth for about four seconds, making sure to purse your lips to constrict airflow. Be sure to breathe out steadily and slowly, and relax your head, neck, and shoulders throughout the exercise. Another technique is called “diaphragmatic breathing” (belly breathing). This breathing technique is similar to pursed-lip breathing, but it adds diaphragm exercise. To practice it, place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. When inhaling, let the hand on your belly rise up while the hand on your check remains in place. When exhaling, breathe out slowly through pursed lips, using the hand on your belly to help push air out. Repeat the breathing exercise three to 10 times.
Keep Your Lungs Healthy
Smoking is bad for your health. According to research, “for every six years you smoked, it takes one year to remove that amount of tar from your respiratory system.” Therefore, the sooner your quit, the better the chances of your lungs regaining full health. By staying healthy through proper diet, exercise, and avoiding pollutants, you’ll better protect your lungs and accelerate your recovery period.
All images by Shutterstock