Have you seen the mountains lately? Neither have I.
Pollution is quite prevalent this summer with much of the wildfires in surrounding mountain areas. This can take quite a toll on our health when this is the air that we have to breathe in. In fact, the smaller the molecule the worse it is for our health. These molecules include particulate matter and gaseous matter.
When the air molecules become smaller it makes it easier for them to pass beyond our nose hairs, get to the smallest areas of the lungs, and then can cross over into our blood supply affecting other parts of our body. Much of this evidence is found to be for particle matter 2.5 micrometers or less (PM2.5).
Air pollution has been known to cause:
- Respiratory Inflammation
- Heart and Vascular Disease
- Jeopardize lung function in general
In the Harvard Six US Cities studies they found air pollution (even when controlled for cigarette smoking) was associated with death from lung cancer and cardiopulmonary diseases.
Pollution causes havoc by creating oxidative stress in the smallest areas of our body. Oxidative stress when not combated, leads to further increases in inflammation which you eventually feel.
In functional medicine, its commonly known that we are constantly having to tame inflammation in the body. The air that we breathe cannot be forgotten about and considered inert. We have to have oxygen to survive, duh, so the cleaner our air can be the better for us.
What can we do to help us stay healthy in times of poor air quality?
Get a HEPA air filter and leave it in the room you spend most of your time.
Make sure you have one that filters 2-3x the size of your room. Make sure your HEPA air filter filters out particles at least to the .3 micrometer size. Some will even filter out less than that. I think some of the best ones out there are Austin Air, IQ Air, Blueair sense. Careful when looking online as some sites like Amazon are not authorized resellers. When choosing think about size of your room, noise, energy efficiency, size of the machine. Also, make sure it does not generate ozone.
Start low pressure sinus rinsing, at least twice daily in times like this.
I usually recommend the Neilmed sinurinse. Some people prefer the Netipot. The rinsing will flush out the matter stuck in your mucous membranes in your sinuses that can causes inflammation. These are an inexpensive way of getting rid of crud stuck in your sinuses.
- Eat high quality, colorful foods. Foods highest in flavonoids may be best to protect lung function. These include deep red, blue, purple pigments such as those in berries, beans, and of course greens. Also one of the best sources for flavonoids is green and black tea.
- Vitamin C: We all know vitamin C is a great antioxidant to help neutralize inflammation and support the immune system. Read the label, avoid vitamin C supplements with added sugars, food colorings, and fillers that shouldn’t be in supplements. Too much vitamin C can cause loose stools, generally 2000-5000mg in divided doses is fine.
- Glutathione: The mother of all antioxidants. Found in every cell of the body, helps neutralize and detoxify toxins found in smoke. Difficult to absorb depending on the supplement. Choose liposomal forms in general.
- N-acteyl-cysteine (NAC): This is one of the best precursors to help raise your glutathione levels. It also helps break up mucous that may have trapped particulates in the lungs. NAC is helpful for many conditions but specifically can help asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis regarding lung issues.
If in a highly polluted area a particulate mask respirator may be beneficial if working outside.
Unfortunately, staying inside with the windows closed may have to be an option for some.
Run your air conditioner and make sure the filter is cleaned and well maintained.
Keep these in mind the next time you look up and can’t see the mountain across the way. That’s what we are breathing in as well.