Our lungs are the gatekeepers of life, filtering oxygen from the air we breathe and distributing it throughout the body. But over time, exposure to toxic substances and environmental factors can take its toll and result in respiratory problems.
This is something I noticed first-hand while working with patients as a registered respiratory therapist (RRT).
However, the good news is this:
According to the American Lung Association, it is possible to improve your lung health with some simple, natural techniques.
In this article, you will learn the best and most effective methods to detox and cleanse your lungs naturally so that you can breathe easier and improve your overall health and well-being.
How to Detox and Cleanse Your Lungs
- Quit smoking
- Eat a lung-healthy diet
- Avoid damaging foods
- Monitor outdoor air quality
- Purify indoor air
- Quit vaping
- Prevent lung infections
- Drink lung-healthy beverages
- Clear mucus from your airways
- Avoid secondhand smoke
- Avoid obesity
- Perform breathing exercises
- Use steam therapy
- Perform controlled coughing
- Use chest percussion
- Change your home air filters
- Avoid artificial scents
- Get the essential vitamins for lung health
- Maintain good posture
- Do yoga
- Avoid allergens
- Try herbal remedies
- Try essential oils
- Use indoor house plants
- Avoid household toxins
- Stay hydrated
1. Quit Smoking
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, and it can have a profound and lasting impact on your overall health.
The chemicals and toxins in cigarette smoke can cause serious damage to the delicate tissues of your lungs, leading to chronic respiratory problems, such as bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer.
When you quit smoking, your lungs can begin to repair the damage and heal themselves. You’ll notice an improvement in your breathing and an increase in your energy levels as your lungs work more efficiently to deliver oxygen throughout the body.
Quitting smoking also reduces your risk of developing serious health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, and various types of cancer.
Exercise is an excellent way to support lung health and improve your overall well-being. Regular physical activity helps strengthen your respiratory muscles, improves lung capacity, and increases oxygen uptake.
During exercise, you naturally take deeper breaths, which allows your lungs to expand and take in more oxygen.
This explains why incorporating regular aerobic exercise into your routine, such as brisk walking, running, cycling, or swimming, can be especially beneficial for lung health.
These activities put good stress on the respiratory system and increase your lung capacity over time, leading to improved breathing and overall health.
3. Eat a Lung-Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy, balanced diet can have a significant impact on your lung health. Certain foods and nutrients have been scientifically shown to support respiratory function and reduce the risk of breathing problems.
Some examples include the following:
- Leafy greens
- Coconut oil
- Brazil nuts
- Olive oil
Backed by research, these foods have been shown to help reduce inflammation, limit mucus production, improve airflow, and protect against damage to lung tissue.
Therefore, by making smart food choices, you can support your lung health and enjoy the benefits of deep, refreshing breaths for years to come. Read our full guide on the best foods for lung health to learn more.
4. Avoid Damaging Foods
Just as there are foods that support lung health, there are also certain foods that can have a negative impact on the respiratory system. Here are some foods to avoid for optimal lung health:
- Processed meat
- Fast food
By avoiding these foods and limiting your intake of unhealthy fats and added sugars, you can support your lungs and reduce your risk of respiratory problems.
Read our in-depth guide on the worst foods for the lungs to learn more.
5. Monitor Outdoor Air Quality
Poor air quality contains harmful pollutants that can irritate the lungs and increase the risk of respiratory problems, such as asthma, bronchitis, and COPD. That is why it’s important to monitor the air quality where your live and avoid harmful pollutants, if possible.
You can use an online tool to check the air quality index (AQI) in your location. Consider staying indoors or wearing a respirator for protection on days when air pollution is a concern.
6. Purify Indoor Air
In addition to monitoring outdoor air quality, it is also important to purify indoor air for optimal lung health. Depending on where you live, it can be impossible to control the amount of pollution in the atmosphere. This is especially true if you live in a big city or near a factory.
However, one thing you can control is the air quality within your home. This is why you can consider investing in an air purifier to limit pollutants and improve the air you’re breathing while inside.
A high-quality air purifier can relieve allergy symptoms and improve the overall health of your respiratory system.
7. Quit Vaping
Most researchers believe that vaping poses less risk than smoking cigarettes, but the long-term health consequences are not yet fully understood.
While vapes do not produce tar and carbon monoxide like traditional cigarettes, they do send potentially harmful chemicals directly into the lungs.
This is why it’s best to approach vaping with caution and be mindful of the potential risks. Additionally, e-cigarettes are addictive, and their nicotine can be just as harmful to your overall health.
8. Prevent Lung Infections
When an infection is present in the lungs, they are unable to function optimally, leading to symptoms such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Increased mucus
- Chest pain
Furthermore, lung infections can worsen existing respiratory conditions and increase the risk of pneumonia, which can be life-threatening in immunocompromised individuals.
By taking measures to prevent lung infections, such as practicing good hygiene and avoiding exposure to sick individuals, you can reduce the risk of developing serious respiratory complications.
9. Drink Lung-Healthy Beverages
Drinking the right beverages can play a significant role in boosting the health of your lungs. While sugary drinks and alcohol can have a negative impact on respiratory health, there are some healthy beverages that can help.
Some examples backed by research include the following:
- Green tea
- Turmeric tea
- Green juice
- Blueberry juice
- Ginger tea
- Elderberry tea
- Pomegranate juice
Water, for instance, helps to keep the mucus membranes in the respiratory tract hydrated, making it easier to breathe and reducing the risk of lung infections.
Juices and herbal teas have antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in the airways and protect against harmful free radicals. So if you’re looking to cleanse your lungs, avoid soda and drink water or one of the other healthy beverages instead.
10. Clear Mucus from Your Airways
By clearing mucus from the airways of the lungs, you can reduce the risk of infections and respiratory problems while also making it easier to breathe.
Drinking plenty of water, performing breathing exercises, and engaging in physical activity are effective ways to clear mucus from the airways and promote optimal respiratory health.
11. Avoid Secondhand Smoke
Second-hand smoke contains toxins and harmful chemicals such as carbon monoxide, benzene, and formaldehyde. That is why you must avoid it if you want to protect your lungs.
Studies have shown that second-hand smoke leads to an increased risk of respiratory diseases, coronary heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
Furthermore, second-hand smoke can also be inhaled by children, pregnant women, and people with existing health conditions, who are especially vulnerable to its harmful effects.
12. Avoid Obesity
Believe it or not, obesity can have a significant impact on lung health. Excess fat and body weight in the thoracic region place a heavy strain on the diaphragm and lungs.
Fat tissue can limit the lungs’ ability to expand and contract, leading to decreased lung compliance and reduced oxygen intake with each breath. This can lead to various problems, such as shortness of breath, wheezing, and hypoxemia.
Additionally, obesity can increase the risk of developing sleep apnea, which can cause further health problems that affect far more than the lungs and respiratory system.
So if you are struggling with your weight, it’s important to make lifestyle changes to support your lungs and overall health and well-being.
13. Perform Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises are not just a way to calm down; they’re also essential for maintaining healthy lungs. By incorporating simple yet effective techniques into your daily routine, you can increase your lung capacity and overall lung health.
Diaphragmatic breathing is a technique that involves taking a deep inhalation, almost as if you were trying to breathe into your stomach. This is why it’s often referred to as “belly breathing.”
As air fills the lungs, you will feel the diaphragm contract. Then you can exhale slowly and naturally through pursed lips. This creates back pressure in the alveoli, which is great for expansion and improved lung compliance.
14. Use Steam Therapy
Steam therapy is a simple yet effective way to help improve lung health. Inhaling moist air helps loosen mucus and secretions in the airways, making it easier to cough up and remove.
Therefore, this method is highly recommended for individuals who persistently accumulate mucus and phlegm.
Bonus tip: Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to maximize airway clearance. Not only will you feel the refreshing, cleansing effects on your lungs, but the aromas can also help calm your mind, making steam therapy a great addition to your wellness routine.
We will further discuss essential oils later in this article, so keep reading if you want to learn more about their respiratory benefits.
Whether you suffer from a respiratory condition or simply want to maintain good lung health, incorporating steam therapy into your routine can be incredibly beneficial.
15. Perform Controlled Coughing
Controlled coughing is a technique used to help clear mucus from the airways and improve lung function.
The technique involves coughing in a way that’s controlled and deliberate, with the aim of increasing the force of the cough in order to expel anything that may be present in the airways.
To perform controlled coughing, simply take a slow, deep breath through your nose and hold it in for 2 seconds. Lean forward slightly and perform 2 short cough maneuvers. Relax for up to 10 seconds, and then repeat as needed.
16. Use Chest Percussion
Chest percussion is an airway clearance technique that applies mechanical energy to the chest wall to help loosen up secretions for easier clearance. This is often performed by respiratory therapists on patients with conditions such as cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis.
However, it’s also a powerful method that you can try at home to improve your lung health.
The technique involves cupping your hands and striking the chest wall with rhythmic percussions. Perform a circular pattern back and forth over a targetted area for 3–5 minutes.
These vibrations and percussions loosen mucus from the airway walls so that they’re easier to cough up for removal. This helps keep your airways clear, making breathing much easier.
17. Change Your Home Air Filters
Maintaining clean air filters in your home is essential for the health of your lungs. The filters in your heating and cooling system trap pollutants, dust, and other harmful particles that would otherwise circulate in your home’s air.
Over time, these filters can become clogged with debris, reducing their effectiveness and causing air quality to deteriorate.
Regularly changing your air filters is an easy and cost-effective way to ensure that the air you breathe inside your home is fresh, clean, and healthy.
Not only will this help to prevent lung issues such as asthma, but it will also improve your overall quality of life.
18. Avoid Artificial Scents
Artificial scents can be found in many everyday products, from perfumes and scented candles to air fresheners and cleaning supplies.
However, these synthetic fragrances contain a mixture of chemicals that can irritate and harm the delicate mucous membranes in our lungs.
Over time, exposure to these artificial scents can lead to respiratory problems such as allergies, asthma, and bronchitis. It’s important to protect our lungs from these potential irritants by avoiding artificial scents and opting for natural and organic alternatives.
19. Take Essential Vitamins for Lung Health
Maintaining adequate respiratory health requires a holistic approach, and taking vitamins can play an important role. Some examples include the following:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
For instance, vitamin C and zinc help boost the immune system, keeping harmful infections from reaching the lungs. Vitamins A and D play a role in lung development, while beta-carotene and selenium can help prevent lung cancer.
Incorporating these vitamins into your diet through foods or supplements can help boost lung function and ward off lung-related illnesses. Read our full guide on this topic to learn more about each vitamin.
20. Maintain Good Posture
Believe it or not, poor posture can negatively affect your respiratory system. Hunching over your desk or computer causes compression of the thoracic cavity, making it more difficult for the lungs to expand and contract.
Limited expansion results in shallow breathing, limited ventilation, and decreased oxygen consumption. This can be detrimental to all cells within the body.
Maintaining good posture ensures that the lungs have enough space to expand, making it easier to breathe.
Additionally, good posture reduces strain on the neck, back, and other muscles. So, make sure to stand tall and sit up straight to help keep your lungs (and body) healthy.
21. Do Yoga
Yoga is more than just a physical workout. It’s a holistic practice that can help soothe both your body and mind. Certain yoga poses promote bronchodilation, which helps air (and oxygen) flow freely throughout the lungs.
By combining deep breathing exercises with physical movements, you can effectively support the overall health of your respiratory system.
So whether you’re a seasoned yogi or a beginner, incorporating yoga into your routine can help you breathe easier and live a healthier life.
22. Avoid Allergens
Avoiding allergens is an important step in maintaining the health of your lungs. This is especially true for people with respiratory problems such as asthma or COPD.
Some examples of the most common allergens include:
- Dust mites
- Pet dander
The inhalation of these allergens can trigger symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. That is why it’s important to minimize your exposure as much as possible.
Strive to keep your home clean, use air filters, and avoid spending time outdoors on high-pollen days. By taking these precautions, you can help keep your lungs healthy and reduce the risk of an acute exacerbation.
23. Try Herbal Remedies
Herbal remedies have been used for centuries to support respiratory health. This explains why they are often touted as a natural way to treat inflammatory lung diseases.
Some examples of the best herbs for lung health include:
- Osha root
- Camellia sinensis
The natural world contains plant-based remedies to help soothe and support the respiratory system.
Although more research is needed, various studies support the positive effects of herbal remedies on the respiratory system. Read our full guide to learn more.
24. Try Essential Oils
Essential oils, made from herbs that I just mentioned, have also been used for centuries to promote physical and mental well-being. They, too, can play a role in supporting lung health.
These potent plant extracts offer a variety of benefits, from soothing irritation and reducing inflammation to boosting the immune system. Some examples of the best essential oils for lung health include:
- Black seed oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Bergamot oil
- Ginger oil
- Mullein oil
- Peppermint oil
- Tea tree oil
- Rosemary oil
- Lavender oil
- Nettle leaf oil
For example, eucalyptus oil has a long history of use to treat respiratory tract infections, and tea tree oil can be used to treat respiratory infections such as the common cold, influenza, and bronchitis.
Therefore, incorporating essential oils into your lung-health regimen can be a natural and effective way to keep your respiratory system healthy and functioning at its best.
Read our full guide to learn more about the benefits and risks of essential oils.
25. Use Indoor House Plants
The cells and major organs of the human body must receive oxygen to function properly. Therefore, oxygen is required for survival.
Plants are actually mass producers of oxygen, which explains why the air we breathe is often fresher and cleaner near trees, forests, and other areas of large vegetation.
This is why you should consider adding indoor house plants to improve the quality of air in your home.
While most plants give off oxygen as a by-product of photosynthesis, there are some that are more efficient at it than others. Some examples include:
- Boston fern
- Weeping fig
- Aloe vera
- Spider plant
- Gerbera daisy
- Areca palm
- Peace lily
- Golden pothos
- Money plant
- Snake plant
These plants are easy to maintain and make great indoor plants to help purify the air in your home. Read our full guide on this topic to learn more about each type of plant.
26. Avoid Household Toxins
From cleaning products to furniture, many of the items in our homes can release harmful toxins into the air we breathe. These chemicals can irritate the lungs and cause respiratory problems, especially for people with pre-existing conditions like asthma or allergies.
To protect your lung health, it’s important to be mindful of the household toxins you come into contact with and take steps to avoid them.
This can mean switching to all-natural cleaning products, using essential oils instead of synthetic air fresheners, and investing in high-quality, low-emission furniture.
At the very least, try to wear a mask while using cleaning products to limit the inhalation of particles into your lungs. With a few simple changes, you can breathe easier and enjoy the benefits of a healthy and toxin-free home.
27. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated helps support the mucus membranes of the respiratory tract. This is important because they are responsible for trapping dust, debris, and other harmful particles that we breathe in, preventing them from entering the lungs.
If the mucus membranes become dry, the secretions in the airways begin to thicken, making it difficult to breathe. This causes irritation and can make you more susceptible to lung infections.
So be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to help keep your respiratory system functioning at its best.
Can You Detox Your Lungs?
The lungs naturally cleanse themselves of harmful substances and pollutants through their mucus membranes and cilia, small hair-like structures that move in coordinated waves to remove particles from the airways.
However, exposure to cigarette smoke, air pollution, and other toxins can damage the delicate balance of the respiratory system.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all method to completely “detox” your lungs, there are ways to support their natural cleansing processes. This includes avoiding harmful substances, staying hydrated, doing breathing exercises, using steam therapy, and engaging in regular physical activity.
Additionally, some people may find relief from lung-related symptoms through herbal remedies or essential oils, but it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider before trying any new treatments.
How to Clean Your Lungs?
There is no definitive way to “clean” the lungs, as they are constantly filtering out pollutants and harmful substances through the air we breathe.
However, there are several steps you can take to support lung health and improve the functioning of the respiratory system, which are listed throughout this article.
Remember: It’s important to consult a healthcare provider before trying any new treatments or remedies for lung health, especially if you have a pre-existing respiratory condition.
Who Needs a Lung Cleanse?
A lung cleanse is not a medically recognized term and is not necessary for most people with healthy lungs. The body’s natural processes, such as coughing and mucus production, help remove harmful substances and keep the lungs clean.
However, certain medical conditions, such as COPD and bronchiectasis, can cause excessive mucus buildup in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.
In such cases, airway clearance techniques, such as chest percussion, controlled coughing, and breathing exercises, may be recommended by a doctor or respiratory therapist to help remove the excess mucus and improve lung function
How do the Lungs Handle Damage?
The detrimental effects of smoking on the lungs can be devastating and long-lasting. With each puff, you inhale harmful chemicals that cause inflammation in your airways, making it harder to breathe over time.
Smoking damages the tiny air sacs in the lungs known as alveoli, which affects the ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.
However, you should know that there is hope!
The moment you quit smoking, your lungs begin the process of healing. In other words, the lungs actually handle damage quite well and naturally repair themselves over time. The lung-supportive techniques in this article can help speed up the process.
How Often Should You Do A Lung Detox?
There is no established recommendation for how often one should do a lung detox, as the concept of “detoxing” the lungs is not widely accepted or supported by medical professionals.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding exposure to harmful substances, and following the other natural methods in this article are the best ways to support the health of your lungs.
Consulting a medical professional before starting any new health regimen, including a lung detox, is recommended to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the treatment.
It’s been well-documented that the health of our lungs is a crucial aspect of our overall well-being.
From quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet, to monitoring air quality and staying hydrated, there are numerous ways to improve lung health naturally.
By taking small, proactive steps, we can breathe easier and live life to the fullest.
So, let’s make a commitment to our lung health and work towards creating a healthier respiratory system for a better quality of life.
John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.
- “Can You Detox Your Lungs?” American Lung Association, 29 July 2019, www.lung.org/blog/can-you-detox-your-lungs.
- Susskind, H. “Does Detoxification Reverse the Acute Lung Injury of Crack Smokers?” PubMed, 17 Nov. 1996, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8971868.
- Babizhayev, Mark. “The Detox Strategy in Smoking Comprising Nutraceutical Formulas of Non-Hydrolyzed Carnosine or Carcinine Used to Protect Human Health.” PubMed, 12 Nov. 2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24220875.
- “The Treatment of Pulmonary Diseases and Respiratory-Related Conditions with Inhaled (Nebulized or Aerosolized) Glutathione.” PubMed Central (PMC), 1 Mar. 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2249747.
- “Harms of Cigarette Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting.” National Cancer Institute, 19 Dec. 2017, www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/cessation-fact-sheet.
- “Healthy Diets and Lung Health. Connecting the Dots.” PubMed Central (PMC), 1 May 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5018896.
- PubMed Central (PMC), 23 June 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5455070.