What vitamins are suitable for your lungs?

People who take vitamin E supplements regularly for years—whether they are smokers or nonsmokers—may lower their risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This lung condition is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.


COPD includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis and is often, but not always, caused by smoking.


While the risk reduction is relatively small, 10%, COPD is a common and life-threatening condition in which a decline in lung function can be slowed down but not reversed. COPD symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, and fatigue.


“The effect appears to be modest. But for something for which there isn’t really any effective therapy and tends to be a degenerative condition, anything that would reduce the risk even somewhat is not an insubstantial benefit,” says Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University in Boston who was not involved in the study.


The research, from the government-funded Women’s Health Study, included 39,876 women 45 years and older who were free of COPD before they were randomly assigned to take a placebo, vitamin E supplements (600 IU every other day) or aspirin (100 mg per day), either alone or in combination. At the end of 10 years, 760 of the 19,937 women who took vitamin E alone or with aspirin developed COPD compared with 846 of the 19,939 who took a placebo or aspirin apart—a 10% risk reduction. Vitamin E did not lower the risk of asthma, a condition associated with a higher risk of COPD.


The researchers took into account factors such as cigarette smoking and age, which can affect COPD risk. The study, conducted by Cornell University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers, is to be presented this week at the annual American Thoracic Society meeting in New Orleans.


The idea that vitamin E can reduce the risk of developing COPD is “biologically plausible,” says Yvonne Kelly, PhD, an associate professor in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London. Experts believe vitamins A, C, and E—the so-called ACE antioxidants—combat oxidative stress in the lungs that can lead to COPD.


Several studies have shown that these vitamins, as well as vitamin D, may help improve lung health. In a 2003 study, Kelly and her collaborators found that men and women with diets high in vitamins C and E had greater lung capacity and produced less phlegm, respectively. Phlegm production and wheezing are also COPD symptoms.


One limitation of the study is that the researchers relied on the women to report whether or not they had been diagnosed with COPD, says Michael Sims, MD, an assistant professor in the pulmonary critical care division at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. He points out that people with asthma may think they have COPD, or vice versa since the symptoms are similar. Besides, early diagnoses can be inconclusive or due to lung problems that don’t turn out to be COPD.


In future studies, Dr. Sims says that the researchers should diagnose COPD using a breathing test called spirometry. “If you showed in a similar study with a gold standard outcome [like spirometry], among smokers and nonsmokers, that you could affect the incidence of COPD, I would imagine the committees that meet on this would take a serious look at increasing daily recommended intake [of vitamin E] for the general population,” he says.


Currently, no vitamin supplements are recommended to prevent or treat COPD. The best way to avoid the disease is to quit smoking, says Dr. Sims. About 24 million people in the U.S. have COPD—12 million who’ve been diagnosed with the disease and another 12 million who have COPD but don’t know they have it. In the study, women who smoked were four times more likely than nonsmokers to develop COPD.


The daily recommended intake of vitamin E is about 22 international units for those 14 and older, and is relatively easy to obtain from oils such as sunflower, almonds, peanut butter, and spinach.


The vitamin E intake in the study was far higher, at 300 IU per day. However, Blumberg says this is within the range of most over-the-counter vitamin supplements, which deliver 100 or 400 IU daily. “This study is still five times below the highest dose at which no adverse effect has been found,” he says.


Vitamin E intake is generally a concern only at very high doses, above 1500 IU per day. Several studies have suggested that these levels promote hemorrhaging and interfere with normal blood clotting. For this reason, high doses of vitamin E are not recommended for people taking blood-thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin) and aspirin.


The growing number of patients who have the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other chronic lung diseases is an excellent reason to pay more attention to your lung health. One way you may be able to improve the health of your lungs is with vitamins, and the Lung Health Institute reveals two vitamins that are good for your lungs.


Are you looking for the best vitamins for lung health, breathing support, and clear airways? If so, then you’re in the right place, because that is what this article is all about.


You may be wondering if it’s possible to cleanse and detox your lungs. The answer is yes, you can — with limitations, of course.


The best methods for cleansing your lungs can occur naturally. You can do things like quit smoking, drink lots of water, eat a healthy diet, monitor air quality, and avoid secondhand smoke.


While the best methods for cleansing your lungs can occur naturally, there are some vitamins and supplements that may help. With that said, it’s essential to speak with your doctor before taking any supplements. 


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a collective term for a group of chronic lung conditions, including chronic bronchitis, refractory asthma, and emphysema. However, there are a number of supplements and remedies available that may help ease the symptoms of COPD.


People with COPD find it increasingly difficult to breathe. Among other symptoms, they may experience coughing, wheezing, and a feeling of tightness in the chest.


What you eat on a daily basis impacts every system in your body, including your lungs. Citrus fruits, leafy greens, fatty fish, walnuts and other whole foods provide the nutrients needed for optimal lung health. Some may lower your risk of respiratory infections. Others improve your breathing and keep your airways clean. A balanced diet should include vitamins for the lungs, especially during the cold winter months.



Nutrition is essential for 15.7 million people in the United States with a COPD diagnosis. According to the COPD Foundation, people with COPD may need 430–720 more calories per day than other people, due to the effort they need to exert while breathing. In fact, 25–40% of people with COPD are also dealing with malnutrition, which interferes with their long-term prognosis.


At present, there is no cure for COPD. However, the American Lung Association suggest that eating a high fat, low carbohydrate diet can be helpful for people with breathing problems. There are also many different supplements and remedies that people with COPD can try to support their medical treatment and help them manage their condition. Keep reading to learn more.


Many people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) turn to dietary supplements and herbal medicine, as well as conventional Western medicine, to treat the lung disease.  “The curiosity is definitely there,” says Cleveland Clinic pulmonologist Umur Hatipoglu, MD. “And there is pretty convincing emerging data that we should look into.”


Of the many remedies touted for COPD, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), ginseng, and vitamin D “are the three big ones,” says naturopathic physician Jeremy Mikolai, ND, a researcher at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Ore.


Vitamins That Are Awesome for Your Lungs

Vitamin C 

Vitamin C is best known for its ability to boost immune function and promote collagen formation in the skin. According to a 2014 review in the journal Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, this nutrient may also improve lung function and cut the incidence of respiratory symptoms by half during and after exercise. These health benefits are due to its antioxidant power.


Strenuous exercise, such as running on the treadmill at high speed, increases the levels of free radicals in your body. Vitamin C, which is a potent antioxidant, scavenges oxidative stress and keeps your lungs functioning optimally. Eat citrus fruits, chilli peppers, guava, kiwi, broccoli, kale and berries to get more of this nutrient in your diet.

NAC (N-Acetylcysteine)

NAC is an antioxidant supplement that has shown promise in some studies but not in others.

“NAC is a robust treatment for COPD that reduces phlegm and cough, thins mucus, and eases expectoration,” says Mikolai. It’s supposed to decrease the deterioration of lung function. However, the evidence to support that claim is weak, according to a research review done in 2006 on how NAC affects COPD. That review said the design of the study in question did not allow for “firm conclusions.”


Meanwhile, a large, three-year research project known as the BRONCUS study found that NAC did not prevent a decline in lung function.


The BRONCUS study also looked at NAC from another angle. Could the supplement, the authors asked, cut the number of COPD flare-ups people get in a given year?


The authors report that NAC did not prevent flare-ups, but additional analysis suggested that the rate of flare-ups might be less in people not taking an inhaled steroid. Despite that limited positive result, Hatipoglu says, NAC was “almost buried for dead after that study.” Still, he does often recommend NAC for its ability to loosen sputum, although its effectiveness hasn’t been fully established.


“If my patients say they are doing better on it, I keep them on it,” says Hatipoglu, who adds that NAC is quite safe. Though NAC is safe, it does contain sulphur, which gives it an odour “like rotten eggs,” he says. In the BRONCUS study, researchers reported no side effects from NAC use.


Duffy MacKay, ND, says that he found NAC, which can also be inhaled via a nebulizer, to be similarly useful in his practice. “The constant buildup of mucus — that’s where NAC seems to be most active,” says MacKay, vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade group that represents the dietary supplement industry.


Vitamin D

People with COPD may not have enough vitamin D. That could happen for several reasons:

  • Not enough time outside. (Sunshine helps the body make vitamin D.)
  • Because of their age. “Most COPD patients are older,” Hatipoglu says, and with age, it’s harder for the body to make vitamin D.
  • Not enough vitamin D in their diet. Vitamin D is added to milk and some other fortified foods. It’s also available in supplements.


Higher levels of vitamin D have been linked to better lung function test results, Mikolai points out. But does that mean that supplements will help treat COPD? We don’t know yet, Hatipoglu says.


In a 2012 study, high doses of vitamin D did not reduce the number of flare-ups for most COPD patients. The only people who benefited were those who had deficient levels of vitamin D. The study was small, though, so it’s not the final word.


Hatipoglu checks his patients’ levels every one to three months and recommends supplements if their vitamin D levels are lower than average.


Studies have suggested that many people with COPD have low vitamin D, and that taking vitamin D supplements helps the lungs function better.


Taking vitamin D-3 supplements for COPD can also protect against moderate or severe flare-ups.


You’ve probably heard that vitamin D keeps your teeth and bones healthy by regulating calcium levels. What you may not know is that this nutrient also protects against respiratory infection and may lower the risk of COPD flare-ups, according to a 2014 study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.


According to the Busselton Healthy Ageing Study, which involved over 5,000 subjects, low levels of vitamin D may increase the risk of wheezing, bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory problems. High levels of this nutrient were associated with improved lung function.


The human body produces this fat-soluble vitamin on its own when exposed to sunlight. Some foods, such as tuna, mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring, oysters and egg yolks, are naturally high in vitamin D.



A herb with a long history of use in Chinese medicine, ginseng has shown some promise in treating COPD symptoms. However, studies touting its benefits have been questionable, Hatipoglu says.


“There have been ten or twelve such studies, the quality of which are inferior,” he says. “It may have a use, but I don’t use it for my patients. It really requires good quality … studies, but I remain curious about it.”


Mikolai says ginseng may improve lung function. But, he stresses, it should only be taken after consulting with a doctor or other health professional, because it interferes with several types of medications, including blood thinners, stimulants, diuretics, some antidepressants, and drugs that suppress the immune system.


“You and your doctor have to decide if the benefits outweigh the risks,” Mikolai says. He also points out that most ginseng studies lasted no longer than three months. “We don’t know about its long-term safety,” he says.

Vitamin E

Our health care team at Lung Health Institute is aware that specific vitamins can be useful for the lungs. However, we’re also aware that you may not know which vitamins support your lung health the best.


 One vitamin that effectively supports lung health is vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, and this quality may be particularly helpful if you have a chronic lung condition. Oxidative stress caused by free radicals and toxins is one factor that often causes damage to your lung tissues if you have a chronic lung disease. Still, antioxidants, like vitamin E, may help the body remove free radicals and toxins before they can cause more damage to your lungs.


 Vitamin E may also help to reduce lung tissue inflammation, and it’s available in supplement form or foods such as:

  • Almonds
  • Avocado
  • Spinach

Studies suggest that people experiencing a flare-up of COPD symptoms tend to have lower levels of vitamin E than people whose COPD is stable. Other studies suggest that long-term use of vitamin E supplements may help prevent COPD.



1 thought on “What vitamins are suitable for your lungs?”

  1. I had emphysema in 2009 when I was 45 years old. I smoked for 11 years, but quit smoking as soon as I was told that I had COPD. Quitting smoking was the hardest thing I have ever done. But I knew I would die if I didn’t. My health was getting so bad that I needed oxygen 24/7 and was down to 92lbs. Thankfully, in 2019 I got a natural herbal prescription from a friend. It saved my life. I no longer needed oxygen and was able to climb stairs, dance, and travel the world. This is their website www multivitamincare org

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top