Your lungs are battling environmental pollutants every day so lung cleansing is essential for most of us. One in five in the UK suffer from a lung condition, and the good news is that your diet can protect your precious airways. (1)
Cigarette smoke can lead to cancer and deplete you of nutrients like vitamin C, calcium and iron.(2) It’s crucial to quit smoking and nourish your lungs by eating a wide variety of plants. Herbs are powerful lung cleansers, as are colourful fruit and veg because of their antioxidants. They ‘mop up’ free radicals produced by smoking that cause inflammation, mucous and disease.
Garlic is rich in allicin and antioxidants like selenium that protect your lungs from free radical damage. Eating garlic regularly reduces your cancer risk significantly (3), especially if it’s raw. It’s antibacterial so also flushes out toxic residues in your lungs. Get the most out of your garlic by crushing them and letting them sit for a few minutes. The therapeutic benefits increase and you can pop the garlic into meals at the end.
Broccoli is a great lung healer (no coincidence that its shape resembles the tiny branches that absorb oxygen inside your lungs). It’s full of sulforaphane, a compound that helps to clean up debris and pollutants in the lungs. (4) It’s a wonderful healing food. The vitamin C will help repair damaged tissue and fight infection in your lungs. Sprouting broccoli seeds in a sprouting jar gives you the most potent levels of sulforaphane, but there’s plenty in raw or steamed broccoli (also cabbage, kale and cauliflower).
Pineapple enzymes called bromelain protect the lungs by calming inflamed tissue and removing mucous deposits. This is because it helps your immune system tackle residues in your lungs. (5) Very high concentrations of it are found in the core so always make sure you eat that too. You can freeze chunks of pineapple with core to snack on at home. Add in grated ginger to your pineapple to super charge the lung cleansing benefits.
Water is probably one of the most important elements to consider when cleansing your lungs. Your lungs, including all the tiny alveoli sacs, are the size of a tennis court when spread out flat. It needs constant hydration so the cilia (tiny hairs) can stay buoyant and sweep out toxins and debris that have accumulated. Smoking damages these, so hydrating your cells is crucial to get them working properly again. Drink warm teas with turmeric and ginger, or flavour water with sprigs of mint, rosemary or cucumber to get you drinking your 1.5 litres of fluids daily.
Don’t worry if you develop mucous whilst toxins are being expelled. This is a sign of healing. Watch your sugar, processed food and dairy intake as they all contribute to inflammation and congestion. Lung cleansing also has a profoundly positive effect on your energy and mental health too, so enjoy!
4. Science Translational Medicine, DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3002042