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If you’ve recently quit smoking, you’ve taken an important first step toward taking control of your health.

If you are considering smoking, you may be wondering what the benefits are. Can you clean your lungs after you quit smoking?

There are things you can do to help your lungs repair themselves after you stop smoking.

“Let’s look at some ways you can help your lungs.”

Once you’ve quit smoking, you may have the urge to “clean” your lungs to get rid of the toxins that have built up.

Your lungs are clean. They start that process after you stop smoking.

Your lungs are a remarkable organ system that can be repaired over time.

After quitting smoking, your lungs heal and grow again. The healing speed depends on how long you smoked and how much damage is present.

Smoking causes permanent damage to your lungs.

  • Emphysema. With emphysema, the small air sacs in the lungs, called alveoli, are destroyed, which decreases the lungs’ surface area. The lungs then aren’t able to exchange oxygen that your body needs.
  • Chronic bronchitis. With chronic bronchitis, the smaller airways leading to alveoli become inflamed, which prevents oxygen from reaching the alveoli.

Together, these conditions are known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (The COPD is a disease.).

Within 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, you may start to notice improved lung function as your lungs start the self-cleaning process.

Symptoms of coughing and shortness of breath decrease in the first year after quitting. Your lungs start to get better at cleaning themselves to reduce the risk of infections.

As your lungs heal and self- clean, you will continue to benefit from the health benefits of smoking cessation.

There are things you can do to prevent further damage and improve your lung health, even though there is no way to reverse scarring or lung damage that years of smoking can cause.


According to Dr. Keith Mortman, director of thoracic surgery at the George Washington Medical Faculty Associates in Washington, D.C., a smoker is likely to have a lot of mucus built up in their lungs. This buildup may persist after smoking cessation.

Coughing helps your body get rid of mucus and opens up the smaller airways to allow you to breathe.


The importance of physical activity is emphasized by Mortman. Staying active can help you maintain and improve lung function.

Walk outside and you can help the air sacs in your lungs. If the sacs stay open, they can exchange oxygen and get to where you need it.

Avoid pollutants

It may seem like a no-brainer, but avoiding secondhand smoke, dust, mold, and chemicals will encourage healthy lung function.

Animal studies have found that exposure to filtered air decreases mucus production in the lungs. Mucus can block those smaller airways and make it harder to get oxygen.

Before you go outside, check your local weather station for air quality reports. If it is a bad day, try to avoid spending a lot of time outside.

Drink warm fluids

According to the American Lung Association, staying hydrated is important for lung health. By drinking 64 ounces of water per day (eight 8-ounce cups), you’re keeping any mucus in your lungs thin, which makes it easier to get rid of mucus when you cough.

Warming up with a warm beverage, like tea, or even just hot water, can cause a thin of mucus in your airway.

Green tea has anti- inflammatory properties that may prevent lung disease.

“If you don’t like drinking warm beverages, try steam therapy. Reducing inflammation in the airways can be achieved with steam therapy.”

Eat anti-inflammatory foods

“A smoker’s lung can be inflammatory, which can make it hard to breathe.”

While there’s no scientific evidence to show that eating a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods will prevent lung inflammation, research has shown that it may reduce inflammation in the body.

In other words, eating anti-inflammatory foods can’t hurt. Anti-inflammatory foods include:

  • There are some things that are blue.
  • They have cherries.
  • There is a vegetable called spinach.
  • The plant is called kale.
  • olives
  • There are almonds.

Finding help to quit smoking

The decision to quit smoking is the first step in controlling your health. You are not alone. Reach out to the resources for support.

First, let’s talk about how the lungs work. When you inhale, air travels into your airway (trachea), which then splits into two airways, called bronchi, that each lead to one of your lungs.

The bronchi split into smaller airways called bronchioles. The small air sacs called alveoli are at the end of the bronchioles.

You inhale about 600 different compounds when you smoke. Many of the compounds can be broken down into thousands of chemicals that can cause cancer.

Smoking can affect your body. Here are some examples.

  • Heart. Blood vessels become narrower, making it harder for blood to circulate oxygen to the rest of your body. This makes your heart work harder.
  • Brain. Nicotine withdrawal can make you feel tired and unable to concentrate.
  • Respiratory system. Lungs can become inflamed and congested, making it hard to breathe.
  • Reproductive system. Over time, smoking can cause infertility and decreased sexual drive.

People who smoke are more likely to develop chronic diseases.

Smoking-related diseases can have a big impact on your life expectancy and quality of life.

Here’s a breakdown of what happens after you have your last cigarette, according to the American Cancer Society.

What happens after smoking cessation

Time after last cigarette Benefits
20 minutes Your heart rate and blood pressure return to more normal levels.
12 hours Your carbon monoxide levels return to normal.
48 hours Your sense of taste and smell start to improve.
2 weeks–3 months Your lung function starts to improve. You may find that you aren’t as short of breath as you used to be.
1 month–1 year Any coughing or shortness of breath you’ve experienced will start to decrease.
1 year You’ll start to notice a dramatic improvement in your breathing and exercise tolerance.
1–2 years Your risk for heart attack significantly lowers.
5–10 years Your risk of develop mouth, throat, and laryngeal cancer are cut in half, and stroke risk decreases.
10 years Your risk for developing lung cancer is cut in half compared to a smoker. Your risk of bladder, esophageal, and kidney cancer decreases.
15 years Your risk of coronary The heart disease is very serious. is similar to that of a nonsmoker.

One of the most important decisions you will ever make is quitting smoking. Smoking cessation is very difficult.

Your lungs begin to clean themselves after you finish smoking. There are things you can do to promote lung health, even though there is no one way to clean out your lungs after quitting smoking.