Does drinking water help your lungs?

We often don’t consider the critical role our lungs play in keeping us strong and well. It’s not until we experience problems breathing that we take notice. But the truth is, like the rest of our body, our lungs need daily care and attention.


Breathing feeds oxygen to every cell in the body. Without sufficient oxygen, people are more prone to health problems, including respiratory illnesses, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and even heart disease.


But ordinary, regular breathing isn’t enough to keep the oxygen flowing through the body at peak levels, experts at Rush University Medical Center say.


“Lungs at rest and during most daily activities are only at 50 percent of their capacity,” says Jennifer M. Ryan, PT, MS, DPT, CCS, a certified specialist in cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy. “Like the rest of your body, lungs thrive on movement and activity.”


Since regular day-to-day activity doesn’t help you use your lungs to full capacity, you need to challenge the lungs with more intense exercise. “And to help counteract the build-up of toxins and tar in the lungs caused by environmental pollutants, allergens, dust and cigarette smoke, you need to help your lungs cleanse themselves,” Ryan explains.


Your lungs have an essential job. All cells in your body need oxygen to survive and function properly. The lungs bring in oxygen-rich air and remove waste gases, such as carbon dioxide, out of the body. So, you want to keep your lungs as healthy as possible. Here are five ways to improve lung health and promote healthy lungs.


Water is our life force. We all know that we should drink water regularly to maintain our overall health. And while the consumption of water is on the rise, it is only the second most popular drink – soft drinks still reign supreme.


For people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), staying adequately hydrated can be challenging but is an integral part of managing COPD. For example, many people with COPD experience increased mucus production. The excess mucus becomes thick, sticky and difficult to cough up. However, drinking enough water can thin mucus and make mucus easier to clear out from the lungs. So with your health in mind, the Lung Health Institute has put together a few facts and tips about staying hydrated with COPD to help you breathe easier.


While it may not be the most common phrase one might be used to seeing and the association isn’t immediately apparent, the fact is that good hydration habits make a significant positive impact on our ability to breathe well. And as we are all acutely aware, breath is life!


If someone said the words “healthy living” to you right now, what would you think of?


Most of us would probably immediately think about our diets, and how they affect our weight, our heart’s health or risk of developing diabetes. We might also think about how exercising keeps our waistlines thin and our hearts strong and healthy. But how soon would you feel about tips for a healthy respiratory system?


No one can deny just how vital this organ system is. Composed of our airways, lungs, and the muscles and blood vessels connected to them, the respiratory system carries oxygen throughout our body and makes everything we do possible. So when something goes wrong with our respiratory systems, our entire body suffers because of it.


Since the body continually loses water – 2.5 to 3 litres per day – through normal body functions, this water needs to be replaced to keep the body healthy. Ironically, the sensation of thirst occurs only after the body has started to become dehydrated. For this reason, it is imperative to drink water often, without waiting to feel thirsty. By the time you begin to feel hungry, the body is already dehydrated to a level of 0,8% to 2% of body weight. Here are just a few of the many essential roles water plays in the functions of the body.

Staying hydrated

Getting enough water is as crucial for the lungs as it is for the rest of the body.


“Staying well hydrated by taking in fluids throughout the day helps keep the mucosal linings in the lungs thin,” Ryan says. “This thinner lining helps the lungs function better.”


One easy way to improve lung health is to drink more water. Water makes up approximately 60 percent of your body weight. Staying hydrated helps ensure that all of the organs in the body function correctly.


We get water from the foods and drinks that we consume each day, but it’s essential to drink water, too. Not everyone has the exact same hydration needs, but the National academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggest:

  • Men need 125 ounces of fluid a day
  • Women need 90 ounces of fluid a day


Research has shown that dehydration vastly affects all of the systems in your body, including your respiratory system. Drinking water helps to thin the mucus lining your airways and lungs. Dehydration can cause that mucus to thicken and get sticky, which slows down overall respiration and makes you more susceptible to illness, allergies and other respiratory problems.


A histamine reaction in the body causes allergies. If you are allergic to pollen, your body views pollen as a danger and overreacts, causing your immune system to produce histamines to fight the irritants.


Histamines also have other functions, including regulating the body’s water supply. A 1995 Dutch study confirmed that dehydration triggers histamine production as a defensive mechanism to preserve water remaining in the body as well as to prevent future loss. When we are dehydrated, histamine production increases and can cause us to have the symptoms of seasonal allergies such as the runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes, this accelerated histamine production to compensate for the body’s lack of water is easily avoided by only drinking more.


Staying hydrated with COPD isn’t just about drinking enough water. It’s also about eating foods rich in water and maintaining a healthy balance of your electrolytes.


When you become dehydrated, you may also experience an imbalance in your electrolytes. Electrolytes are electrically-charged minerals, which aid in regulating water quantities, muscle activity and pH levels in your body. If you’re trying to replenish your electrolytes while you hydrate as well, try eating foods that contain potassium, magnesium, calcium and some sodium.


For example, bananas, sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, oranges, almonds, raisins are rich in potassium. Excellent sources of magnesium include bran cereal, brown rice, almonds, molasses, bananas, okra and Lima beans. When it comes to calcium, try foods such as sardines, salmon, kale, mustard greens, dried figs, hazelnuts, almonds as well as both dairy milk and fortified almond, rice or soy milk.


Remember to discuss your personal hydration needs with your doctor before you change your diet or treatment plan. If you’re looking for more tips on foods for your COPD diet, check out our article about COPD-friendly foods. With these tips and facts, staying hydrated with COPD will be more comfortable.


When you don’t drink enough water, excessive mucus builds up and produces a plethora of side effects in your body. The mucus that forms in the back of your throat (although maybe in your nose) triggers coughing, which is your body’s way of trying to expel it. Mucus build-up isn’t dangerous, but it is irritating. It can cause you to feel like you’re gagging or make breathing more difficult. Overproduction of mucus in the lungs occurs when the lungs become inflamed. The mucus that is created can become thick and sticky, which quickly produces illnesses in the body and wreaks havoc on the respiratory system.

Bronchitis is caused by inflammation of the mucous membrane lining the lungs, which congests the airways and causes coughing. Bronchitis involves the loss of copious amounts of water from the body. Those suffering from chronic bronchitis, most often deal with dehydration as well. A bronchitis diet should include lots of fluids and hydrating foods. These fluids also help the body to flush out toxins.


As counter-intuitive as it may sound, your body needs water to breath: the lungs consist of 85% water. To take in oxygen and eliminate carbon dioxide, our lungs must be continually moistened with water. The average person loses between half to one litre of water per day just by breathing. When the body is dehydrated, it tries to prevent respiratory water loss by producing histamines which close off the capillaries in the lungs. This reduces water loss but makes breathing more difficult.

Dehydration causes some of the white cells to convert the amino acid histidine into histamine, which triggers allergic reactions. Once re-hydrated, these cells decrease their histamine production, and breathing symptoms dissipate. Water is used in the nasal passages, bronchial tubes, and lungs and to keep them moist. But when you breathe out, moisture from these tissues is expelled and every breath in brings in drying air. Under hydrated conditions, water is rapidly replaced.


Asthma is a respiratory condition marked by spasms in the bronchi of the lungs, which causes difficulty in breathing. It usually results from an allergic reaction or other forms of hypersensitivity. When asthma occurs, a person’s airways become inflamed, narrow and swell, and produce extra mucus, making it difficult to breathe. Proper hydration keeps mucus thin, which reduces its ability to constrict airways further.


Research has shown that dehydration vastly affects all of the systems in your body, including your respiratory system. Drinking water helps to thin the mucus lining your airways and lungs. Dehydration can cause that mucus to thicken and get sticky, which slows down overall respiration and makes you more susceptible to illness, allergies and other respiratory problems.


You’ve heard this before, too: drink lots of water to keep yourself healthy. Staying hydrated plays a role in your lung’s health as well: drinking water helps to thin the mucus secretions that naturally accumulate in your lungs each day, which then allows you to breathe more easily.


The airways and lungs are coated with clear secretions that promote proper respiration. When you are water deficient, the linings of the sinuses and airways become dry and prone to irritation, when the airways become too dry, the risk of breathing problems, or breathing-related problems increases.


Why is water so essential to stay hydrated with COPD?

To stay hydrated, it’s essential to drink enough of the right kinds of fluids every day. Drinking water, of course, is an excellent way to stay hydrated. In fact, water is one of the most crucial nutrients the body needs and works with many of the body’s processes, including:

  • Hydration
  • Lubricating joints
  • Regulating body temperature
  • Protecting the eyes and mouth
  • Removing waste from the body
  • Transporting other nutrients throughout the body


Actually, water makes up more than 50 percent of the human body. Through sweating, urinating and breathing, a person can lose 2-3 quarts of water per day, so people must replace the water in their bodies by staying hydrated. Typically, doctors recommend that people with COPD drink around 64 to 96 ounces of water, which is about 8 to 12 glasses. Of course, it’s important to discuss your personal hydration needs with you, doctor, before drinking more water.


As previously stated, for people with COPD, excessive, sticky mucus can make breathing difficult. Drinking enough water can thin the mucus, making it easier to cough up. However, there are more benefits to staying hydrated with COPD.


How much should you drink per day?

  • This will vary depending on your size, how active you are, how warm you keep your house, and other medical conditions you may have. A useful rough guide is about eight glasses or between 1 and 2 litres daily. A good tip is – if your mouth feels dry, your airways are dry.
  • Drinking water is excellent, but other fluids can be just as good.
  • Limit drinks containing caffeine (tea, coffee, cola, energy drinks). Although it is a myth that they increase dehydration, they won’t give you as much benefit as a non-caffeinated drink. They can also make you pass urine more often meaning more trips to the toilet. Try decaffeinated versions.
  • If you do drink alcohol, be aware that your lungs will feel the hangover too! This is because of dehydration, and your cilia will not work as well overnight.
  • If you are in any doubt about whether you should be increasing the amount you drink, speak to your Nurse or Doctor. Some medical conditions may mean you have to restrict your fluid intake.



4 thoughts on “Does drinking water help your lungs?”

  1. I am 71 and have suffered all my life with allergies regular colds and bronchitis which has driven me to despair but as I have reached my sixties and later I have realised the importance of keeping hydrated to fight the problem of sleepless nights and being frightened to lie down in bed properly because of thick mucus collecting in the throat such anxiety, I also get the same problem after a medium sized evening meal. I have started drinking at least 5 pints of water with fresh lemons and limes squeezed into the water this has helped me a great deal I just wish I knew what was wrong with me.

  2. i had a test done showing only 36 percent of my lungs working if I drink more water and exercise will that help to increase my lungs function this is personal do not post please e mail me

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