Lung Cleanse: Fact or Myth?

12/22/2021 | 6 min. read

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

Detoxification and cleanses are popular topics in the health and wellness world. New cleanses, and detoxification (detox) diets seem to pop up every year.

Cleanse diets and detox regimes come in various shapes and sizes; however, their claims and goals are very similar. Most cleanses and detoxes seek to remove toxins from the body to promote better overall health.

The detoxification process can involve a single method or various approaches, from fasting to juice cleanses, from dietary supplements to saunas.

There are cleanses for weight loss, liver cleanses, colon cleanses, and cleanses to help detox the body from sugar and caffeine — many of which prove beneficial.

But what about a lung cleanse? Is the lung cleanse fact or myth?

Cleanses and Detoxification

So, what do we need detoxing from? What is the point of cleanses? Well, aside from the laundry list of artificial ingredients found in processed foods, environmental toxins can also negatively affect our health.

Whether we realize it or not, exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants is more common than we’d like to imagine.

Here are some of the top environmental toxins and pollutants:

  • Heavy metals (lead, mercury, etc.)
  • Pesticides, fungicides, herbicides
  • Phthalates, BPA (bisphenol A), and other plastics compounds
  • Flame retardants
  • Mold and mycotoxins
  • Secondhand smoke from cigarettes

The list could go on. Sadly, many of these exposures come from the foods we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the products we use daily. Unfortunately, these toxins and pollutants are unassuming and are hardly even noticed until health issues arise.

Detox Programs

The detoxification market of the health and wellness world can be some murky water to wade through. Some detox programs are clinically proven — e.g., chelation therapy to remove toxic heavy metals — but many others simply lack the research.

One concern, especially when it comes to detox programs for weight loss, is the severe calorie restrictive methods used. Sure, weight loss may be achieved for a time, but results are rarely long-lasting.

Other cleanses and detox programs rely on laxatives to eliminate toxins from the body. However, sometimes these can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

The point is clear: There are no quick fixes. Detox and cleanse diets may provide temporary results, but their long-term effects are lacking, and most are not sustainable.

Cleansing Your Lungs?

It’s one thing to want to cleanse your body from the impurities of processed foods, but can you actually detox your lungs too?

Our lungs are part of our respiratory system — a group of tissues and organs that work together to help us breathe. The respiratory system helps move fresh air into the body and helps remove waste gases.

The lungs play a vital role in the respiratory system. The lungs carry oxygenated blood throughout the body and remove waste gases (carbon dioxide) through exhalation.

Lungs and Pollutants

Like the rest of your body, your lungs can also be exposed to pollutants and toxins. The air we breathe can contain pollutants and contaminants. Breathing in air pollution (both ambient and household), cigarette smoke, and other harmful toxins can damage the lungs and contribute to health conditions.

For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that there are nearly 4.2 million deaths every year that come from exposure to ambient air pollution. In the United States, secondhand smoke from cigarettes causes an estimated 41,000 deaths each year.

Exposure to ambient and household pollution can cause the lungs to become irritated. In response to pathogens and pollutants, mucus can gather in the lungs, leaving a heavy, congested feeling in the chest.

Lung cleansing techniques seek to relieve this congestion, as well as improve airways and lung capacity.

Natural Detoxification

Thankfully, there are natural ways to detoxify and cleanse your body that don't involve extreme dieting. There are two steps when it comes to natural detoxification:

  • Reduce your exposure.
  • Facilitate removal from your body in natural ways.

The same principles hold true for the lungs as well. The lungs are considered self-cleaning organs. In many cases, they will begin to heal themselves once the exposure to pollutants is removed, e.g., when someone quits smoking. — though some damage can be irreparable.

There are some natural ways to cleanse your lungs and promote clear breathing.

Give Steam Therapy a Try

Mucus buildup in the lungs is a common occurrence when exposed to irritants and pollutants. By inhaling water vapor, steam therapy (steam inhalation) seeks to help drain the lungs of mucus by opening up the airways.

Steam provides moist, warm air, which can help loosen mucus inside the airway and lungs, helping alleviate congestion. However, this is usually a temporary solution.

Saunas and steam rooms can also help. They are one of the best tools for eliminating toxins from the body, mainly through sweat.

Postural Drainage

You can sometimes alleviate congestion (mucus buildup) through postural drainage, which involves lying in different positions and allowing gravity to work its magic. Techniques include lying on your back, stomach, and side.

Each position involves using pillows to allow the hip position to be higher than your chest. Next, it involves slowly inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth — practicing a 1:2 breathing pattern (each exhale takes twice as long as the inhale).

Regular Exercise

Routine exercise is great for both physical and mental health. Plus, it can help decrease the risks of developing numerous health conditions. Physical exercise causes your body to increase its breathing rate, sending more oxygenated blood throughout the body.

As your body adapts to the demands of regular exercise, it will help improve circulation (improved blood flow to the lungs, too) and make your body more efficient at removing waste gases.

Antioxidant-Rich Diet

Adjusting your diet to include more antioxidant-rich whole foods can also help improve lung health, especially if you suffer from lung issues. Irritations in the airways are one symptom of exposure to irritants and pollutants; antioxidant-rich foods can help reduce these symptoms.

Antioxidant-rich foods include:

  • Leafy greens (kale and spinach)
  • Cherries and blueberries
  • Beans and lentils
  • Green tea

Lung Health

Overall, one of the most significant contributing factors to lung health is air quality. Avoiding harmful irritants and harmful pollutants in the air is always a first step. An indoor air purifier in the home could help. Also, changing indoor air filters regularly is another good practice.

Quitting smoking is another step to reduce harmful toxins and can help you avoid severe health conditions.

Bottom Line

So, is lung cleanse fact or myth? Well, the truth is there is no quick fix or fad to improve lung health long-term.

Our lungs are self-cleaning in a way, so reducing your exposure to irritants and pollutants in the air is always advised. That is one way to “detoxify.”

Thankfully, there are also natural ways to help facilitate normal lung function.

Sources:

“Detoxes” and “Cleanses”: What You Need To Know | NIH

Air pollution | WHO

Fact Sheet - Tobacco-Related Mortality | CDC

Healthy Directions Staff Editor