Smoking could increase your risk of developing lung cancer by 25 times.1 Sobering statistics like this one might have firmed up your resolve to quit smoking, but how do you ensure your lungs get maximum benefit from your decision? As your lungs and your body get cleared of the by-products of smoking, certain steps can help make your detox thorough and effective. Here’s a look at these stage by stage.
The First Week After You Quit
The results from quitting smoking start to show up almost immediately. While your pulse rate slows down within 20 minutes of a smoke, if you go smoke-free for about 8 hours, your body’s oxygen levels are restored to normal levels and carbon monoxide and nicotine levels go down by half. Within two days, nicotine or carbon monoxide levels approach zero. Next, the body begins to purge itself of mucus in the lungs as well as any smoking debris. You should be able to smell and taste better by the end of day two. On the third day, as your bronchial tubes relax, you can breathe easier than when you smoked. You should also feel a perceptible rise in energy levels.2
While quitting smoking will take care of the internal damage smoke was causing your lungs, you also need to clear the external living space like your home or office space of any other toxins that could damage your lungs. Clean out your home – you can even consider a professional housekeeping service for this – to get rid of any residual particulates and smoke that could be lingering. In addition, you may need to get your space checked for the presence of radon, a gas that is produced by dirt or rocks trapped in buildings and which, along with cigarette smoke, is a leading cause of lung cancer.3
Taking extra care of your diet can help prevent excessive mucus in the lungs. Smoker’s cough has the unenviable reputation of causing congestion and mucus buildup among long-term and heavy smokers. When you quit, you can rid your body of this excess mucus bit by bit. One rule of thumb is to avoid any foods that you are allergic to. Common allergens like gluten are best avoided. If that can’t be done, watch for your body’s reaction when you consume these – look for signs like sneezing or congestion in the nose/nasal tract and steer clear of foods triggering these reactions. Stay well hydrated to prevent mucus from thickening up, making it difficult for your body to expel it. Also speak to your doctor about using eucalyptus oil for inhaling with steam to help ease congestion. Other congestion and cold remedies like a eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, or oregano oil can also help.4
[Also Read: Home Remedies For Allergies]
Getting Stronger: Weeks 2 To 12
Your body’s blood circulation will see a significant improvement. Leverage this to start an exercise regimen. Begin with a gentle exercise routine that might include more activity than you were used to before, like a short walk or swimming.5 To restore proper lung function after detox, you could consider breathing exercises that help boost lung capacity. The American Lung Association highlights two exercises used by pulmonary rehabilitation specialists to strengthen muscles and improve lung efficiency and heart function – belly breathing and pursed lip breathing. These exercises restore lung elasticity and help improve oxygen levels while clearing stale air otherwise accumulated in the lungs.6
Foods that help clear congestion may be useful to purge the mucus. Besides this, some foods can help improve lung health and keep your respiratory system in good form. Remember, while you might introduce these foods early on, these are not short-term fixes. Stick with this plan from this week onward for the rest of your life.
- Try taking in a teaspoon of honey every day or a couple of times a day. According to traditional Chinese medicine, honey has the ability to detox your lungs and ease any pain you might experience – because of the toll taken by smoking on lung health, weakening the muscles and their elasticity. The antioxidant action of honey makes it a popular herbal remedy for respiratory tract infections and a good addition to your post-smoking regimen.7
- Bromelain in pineapples is therapeutic, acting as an anti-inflammatory agent and helping your lungs and body build strength and return to normal. It also breaks up mucus and may even help improve lung function.8
- Grape seed extract too can be useful against free radical damage to lung tissue. Some researchers believe it could even help strengthen your blood vessels, keeping the lungs plied with a steady fresh oxygen supply.9
[Also Read: Breathing Techniques To Relax]
Moving On: 3 To 9 Months After You Quit
Lung function at this stage improves by as much as 10 percent. As a result, you should find breathing trouble or wheezing problems easing. Coughs should reduce too.10 As you feel your energy levels and stamina improve, work toward longer spells of exercise. You may not be able to run without getting tired at first, but after a few months you could build up to that as well.11
To stay healthy and fit overall, avoid eating processed foods, genetically modified (GM) foods, or any with a lot of additives and chemicals in them. Eat natural and get in plenty of fresh fruit and veggies to pack an antioxidant punch and keep those lungs happy. Berries like cranberries and blueberries, apples and oranges, vegetables like spinach, artichokes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and herbs like oregano and thyme are especially rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins, beta carotene, flavonoids, and vitamins.12
Changes For Life: A Year And Beyond
Now that you have quit smoking, keep those lungs clean by avoiding any sources of secondhand smoke courtesy family or friends who smoke. When you’re outdoors, steer clear of smoking zones. The added advantage is you won’t be tempted to have “just one” when you see someone else smoking a cigarette or cigar. Continue with healthy eating choices and keep the endorphin levels high with regular exercise.
According to the NHS, smoking-related deaths from lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and heart disease are responsible for half the early deaths of long-term smokers. Now, thanks to quitting, you have added several healthier years to your life.13 Now that’s worth cheering for!
|↑1||Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking, CDC.|
|↑2, ↑5, ↑10, ↑11||What happens when you quit? NHS.|
|↑3||Lung Cancer Awareness, CDC.|
|↑4||Page, Linda. Healthy Healing’s Detoxification: Programs to Cleanse, Purify & Renew. Healthy Healing, Inc., 2008.|
|↑6||Breathing Exercises, American Lung Association.|
|↑7||Pathare, Samrudhi, Padmini Ravikumar, and Ankita Mistry. “PROMISING PHARMACEUTICAL APPLICATIONS OF HONEY: A.” (2015).|
|↑8, ↑9||Schulman, Robert, and Carolyn Dean. Solve it with Supplements: The Best Herbal and Nutritional Supplements to Help Prevent and Heal More Than 100 Common Health Problems. Rodale, 2006.|
|↑12||40 foods high in antioxidants, Reader’s Digest Best Health Magazine. Jan-Feb 2009.|
|↑13||10 health benefits of stopping smoking, NHS.|