If you live in the beautiful “Golden State” of California, chances are you are some how and in some way affected by the many disastrous, epic fires raging across the state. With the combined smoky, dry, contaminated air quality, the already scorching summer temperatures, the typical drought this time of year and the lack of rain for another few months – these are challenging circumstances we are facing. It’s been a tenaciously tough year with one hurdle after another!
So what happens to our bodies when we inhale these toxic contaminants?
Our upper and lower respiratory systems comprised of the nasal passages, sinuses, lungs, bronchioles become drier and less lubricated, constrict/narrow and secrete more mucus to trap foreign airborne particles and clear them away. This is a powerful and important step as part of our defensive immune system. We then have difficulty breathing, inadequate oxygen is inhaled and the rest of our organs (that depend on oxygen) are at a deficit state and struggle. With this effect, we are more likely to suffer from nasal congestion, sinusitis, wheezing, sore throat, coughing and asthma.
Our moisture laden, tear producing eyes become dry and itchy, irritated and makes it difficult to focus, drive, work, be productive and see our world with clarity.
Our blood vessels throughout our bodies constrict, become a bit more inflamed with excessive immune cell buildup (i.e. inflammation) and this can lead to increased blood pressure and subsequently affect the heart.
Our liver, the primary organ responsible for detoxification, hormone and macronutrient metabolism, starts working more aggressively to try and metabolize and detoxify contaminants and potentially make them less toxic to the body. In the short term, it can become more congested, inflamed and more sluggish and affect our gastro-intestinal tract regularity and gut microbiome.
Our brains are unfortunately affected by fire smoke as well. With more polluted, contaminated smoky air that we inhale into our lungs and therefore into our blood/circulatory system, oxygen deficient and smoke laden blood is delivered to the brain. (All organs normally receive oxygen and nutrient rich blood for normal functioning). Some conditions that can ensue include headache, fatigue, cognitive brain fog, depression, anxiety, irritability and trouble focusing.
Likely the least of our worries during this time, our hair, skin and nails are negatively affected by fire smoke and can lead to those organ systems feeling drier, less healthy, dull, a lack of strength, integrity and vibrancy.
For those people that are feeling seriously threatened by fires in close proximity to their homes and neighborhoods and/or forced to evacuate (or have a family member/friend in that situation), they are feeling fear, insecurity, uncertainty, sadness and an overabundance of stress hormones secreted from the adrenal glands – cortisol and adrenaline. With that impending or occurring tragedy comes the stress induced symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, depression, heart palpitations, hypertension, weight gain (or loss) and more.
In order for our respiratory system and entire organ systems to function properly, they rely heavily on not only a healthy, clean, clear external environment of where we live and roam (i.e. air, home, garage, office, car, public buildings), but also a healthy internal environment. The internal environment includes all of our organs (especially our gastro-intestinal tract) and the food and beverages we add to our bodies.
Listed below are therapeutic ways that you can combat or offset the toxic effects of smoky air, breathe a little easier, feel greater energy, have a happier mood and experience an overall healthier body. (And by the way, these can be used any time, any day, any season!)
1.) Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate: Sufficient water intake is essential for every microscopic cell and organ in the body. We know that. Did you also know that mucus made by our respiratory organs is comprised of 95% water with the reminder containing proteins and lipids? An overabundance of water is not only needed to combat the excessive dryness brought on by smoke but also to produce mucus to help eradicate debris and toxins.
2. An Anti-Oxidant Rich Diet: Oxidation is occurring all of the time on our planet, within machinery, structures, FIRES, and also within our bodies. It’s a normal physiological process that occurs simply from being alive. Excessive oxidation without balanced refueling of anti-oxidants can be destructive, catabolic and cause illness and disease. Examples of anti-oxidants are vitamins minerals, phyto-nutrients and are found in fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs and many plant based foods. Eating a plant focused diet most of the time can nourish your body with many anti-oxidants to reduce smoke induced oxidation.
3. Exercise: Keep Moving – Inside! When we exercise, blood, oxygen, nutrients are delivered to every organ in our body – our lungs, sinuses, brain, liver, gut – literally everywhere. It also expands our upper and lower respiratory airways so we can breathe better, our blood vessels open up to deliver blood faster, harmful chemicals (smoke contaminants) are detoxified more efficiently by the liver, overall metabolism increases which help excrete waste regularly. Not to mention weight is more easily managed, mood is happier, sleep is restful and the list goes on. At home options? Home gyms, YouTube workouts, and a large assortment of fitness instructor websites with low, reasonable membership rates.
4. Alcohol in moderation: Everything in moderation right? The same goes for these social, creative beverages. Alcohol, just like smoke is still a toxin at the end of day. It dries out our respiratory system, causes more inflammatory cells to be released, makes the liver work overtime, kills cells, adversely affects brain functioning, interrupts sleep, causes weight gain, increases depression and much more. During this upheaval time, use that smart brain to make good decisions.
5. Sinus Pulse Elite Nasal Irrigator & Breathe Ease XL Powder: This fantastic medley of products uses an electric pulsatile nasal/sinus approach to rinse, clean, moisturize and replenish the upper respiratory system to more efficiently flush out the nose and sinuses congested with smoke and other outdoor/indoor pollutants. This is by far more effective than your typical Neti Pot or your saline and water squeeze bottle. The Breathe Ease XL powder is better as it contains xylitol to help moisturize and clear excess mucus. Recipe: 16 oz of warm distilled water with 1 tsp of the powder per nasal side 1-2 times per day and you will be breathing like you were next to a waterfall! Both products are on Amazon.com.
6. HEPA Air Filters: High Efficiency Particulate Air filters are commonly used and designed to capture 99.97% of particles in an environment such as as dust, pollen, certain molds, bacteria, viruses and other particles of 0.3 microns – the most penetrating size. There is a huge plethora of varying qualities of size and depth of the filter, which specific particles it captures, square footage of room size and cost. Wildfire smoke inhaled for longer periods of time is dangerous. It contains many harmful chemicals and particles that are not intended to be taken into the human body. The HEPA filters that are specifically created to capture fire and tobacco smoke are of higher quality and expense than your typical HEPA filter. If you are in an area with severe, smoky air quality and it’s terribly affecting your breathing and overall health, you might consider investing in one of these HEPA filters found here: https://www.air-purifiers-america.com/collections/top-10-air-purifiers-for-wildfire-smoke and https://www.airpurifiers.com/pages/wildfire-cleanup
7. Essential Oils: These precious, fragrant and therapeutic oils are usually distilled from plants and possess a generous multitude of benefits to humans, pets and our environment. Certain oils can help with pain, sleep, digestion, energy, mood, breathing and indoor air quality and aroma, i.e. aromatherapy. Quality does matter significantly so please be sure to use a reputable brand like Rocky Mountain Oils, DoTerra or Young Living. I use and prefer Amrita Aromatherapy found on Fullscript: https://us.fullscript.com/welcome/ktompkins. While these oils don’t eradicate or detoxify fire smoke, certain “breathing” or “respiratory” single oils or blends can be used to improve breathing by opening respiratory airways. They can be added to diffusors with water, steamed water in a steady bowl or a small amount applied topically to tips of nose with carrier oils like almond, jojoba or grapeseed oil.
The next few essential items that should be part of your supplement arsenal – I have recommended to patients throughout the years and I have also used each one myself many times. Though they may not treat the root cause of fire smoke, they can help alleviate or reduce smoke induced symptoms. All products are found on Fullscript: https://us.fullscript.com/welcome/ktompkins
8. Xlear Nasal Spray: This amazing nasal spray contains not only saline, water and grapefruit seed extract, it contains xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol that can help clear, cleanse and moisturize the nasal airways throughout the day. This spray helps to release excess mucus and allergens and particles so you breathe more easily. You can carry this around in your purse, bag or car and use as needed.
9. Vitamin C: Any brand on Fullscript; capsule, powder or liquid; 500-2000mg per day; This antioxidant powerhouse is the all around most beneficial vitamin (in my opinion) for treating the whole body – the immune system, the skin, the joints, the respiratory system, the brain, the cardiovascular system, the gastro-intestinal system, the adrenal glands (stress!) and so much more. I use it daily and it helps keep my body looking and feeling healthier year after year. A tried and true vitamin that will always be essentially helpful.
10. Vitamin D: Any brand on Fullscript; liquid or gelcap; 4000-10,000 IU per day. This antioxidant champion is also excellent at supporting many organ systems in the body including the immune system, the respiratory system, the skin, the bones, the brain, the reproductive system, the cardiovascular system and more. It has substantial research showing the broad range of therapeutic advantages to the body.
Looking to reconnect as a Follow Up Patient or get started with becoming a New Patient? Please feel welcome to reach out and schedule that time: https://doctorkristi.com.
Everything is temporary, everything has a season, a beginning and an end. And I believe as with everything else in life – “This too shall pass.”
And please remember to practice gratitude for your current blessings.
Take care of yourself and others.