Many social media users, health bloggers, and product makers claim that foods can clean and detoxify the lungs. Multiple herbal and food products are touted as natural lung cleansers. We fact-checked and found that such claims are half true.
A number of health and diet-related articles and videos titled, “Health Foods that can detoxify a smoker’s lungs”. In another video published on Facebook, the poster claims, “With good food your lungs start healing as soon as you stop smoking.” Such posts can be seen here, here, and here.
A snapshot is given below.
Do smoking cause lung damages?
Yes. Smoking is one of the leading causes of lung damage.
Can diets improve health of your lungs?
Yes, to a certain extent.
Research has shown that some foods may help lung health. A study done in 2017 showed that drinking Green Tea twice daily resulted in decreased chronic obstructive lung disease in people over 40 years old. Another study in the same year showed Vitamin D supplements helped people with asthma with a reduced number of attacks. There are multiple studies that have established the importance of a good diet to prevent lung Cancers in smokers.
Similar studies about “Nutrition and Lung health” shows Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Zinc etc. can help prevent lung diseases. Researchers note, “High intake of fresh fruit and some vegetables appears to have a beneficial effect on lung health and their consumption should be recommended on a daily basis” but at the same time noted, “further studies are needed to determine the impact of diet on the incidence and evolution of lung diseases.”
Dr. Sarthak Rastogi, DNB (Pulmonology) says, “One of the ways diet and exercise can improve lung function is by reducing weight. Obese and overweight individuals once lose a significant weight can find it easier to breathe as the lungs can move easily and expand to their full potential. Also, exercise can lead to the training of the muscles as well increase in the muscle mass, people can perform better without getting breathless but lung function remains unaffected. Asthmatic individuals if can understand certain food or environmental stimuli that worsen their symptoms and maintain their diet accordingly can help in preventing deterioration of lung functions.”
Can diet help you cleanse your lungs or reverse damages?
No. There is very limited scientific evidence to claim that a smoker’s lungs can go back to normal based on diet.
There is only one research that we could spot so far where researchers found that tomatoes and apples could speed the healing of smoke-damaged lungs. But the study wasn’t designed to prove cause and effect, and researchers note, “diet should be seen as a helpful adjunct to medication, not a substitute.”
Dr. Rastogi agrees, “Finding a diet to detoxify or clean up the lungs of an active smoker is akin to finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Till now there is no evidence that any diet can reverse the lung damage of smoking or pollution.”
Can lung damages be reversed otherwise?
No. There is no evidence of any methods (diet included) reversing the lung damage.
Dr. Rastogi says, “There is no way to reverse engineer the damage is done to the lungs but by quitting one can hope the lungs recover naturally and prevent further damage. Once smoking has stopped the rate of lung function loss is slowed down and there is a gradual fall in the incidence of Cancer compared to active smokers.”
While there are medical procedures like bronchial lavage for lung cleansing and in certain health conditions like pulmonary alveolar proteinosis (PAP). But PAP is not related to and bronchial lavage is not effective against the damages of smoking, pollution, or diseases. In certain medical conditions, management of the inflammatory response can help the healing of lung damages.
Dr. Rastogi adds a concluding statement, “The only way to protect the lungs is to Quit Smoking TODAY. A diet rich in antioxidants may lead to certain benefits in the lungs but active smoking is far more deleterious to the lungs which no concoction can help the lungs to repair, recover or detoxify. Eating a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins. minerals, less fat and processed food, maintaining a normal weight for your body, quit smoking/ maintain a non-smoking lifestyle, and lastly, regular exercise can help the lungs to function optimally.
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