Wildfire Smoke Inhalation: How To Support Your Body

The smoke in the valley is no joke this summer.  I could barely see the mountains today when I woke up, and we live right at the foot of Mt. Emily!

Breathing in wildfire smoke (or any smoke for that matter) can cause a host of health problems.  Most notably: sore throat, cough, sinus/chest congestion, stinging eyes, and headaches (yes, HEADACHES!).  

Luckily, the smoke that we’re getting around here is mostly from burning forests, NOT from burning buildings.

If you’re further south and getting smoke from the California fires where homes and buildings are burning – what you’re breathing in is actually a lot more toxic!  All those burning plastics, chemical-treated construction materials, batteries, electronics, paints, and even asbestos from old buildings have been released into the air.

All of this puts stress on your lungs, heart, and natural detoxification pathways.

If you already have underlying lung or heart disease, you may want to see a health professional to get personalized recommendations for how to take care of yourself during this time.  Keep an eye out for symptoms like heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, or trouble taking a full breath in – if you have any of these, make an appointment to be seen by your health care provider today!

Here Are A Few Ways You Can Protect Yourself (And Your Kids & Pets):
  • Stay indoors, with windows & doors closed
  • Use air filters indoors 24/7 – HEPA is best
  • If you have the AC on, set it to the “air recirculation” setting (at home or in the car)
  • Drive with your windows rolled up
  • Shower and change into clean clothes when you get home

DO NOT:
  • Exert yourself while you’re outside
  • Vacuum – it stirs up dust particules in your home and you end up breathing in more, not less
  • Smoke or burn things inside your home (including candles, cigarettes, marijuana, incense, etc.)
  • Wear a dust mask for protection – these are designed to keep out larger particles, but the small particles from forest fire smoke will get through anyway.  A better bet is to wear an “N95″ or “P100″ Disposable Particulate Respirator.  Click here for more guidelines on which respirators to buy.  In the La Grande area, these are available at ACE Hardware and D&B Supply.

 

Supplements to Support Your Body Right Now:

Nature’s Pantry has these in stock if you’re in the La Grande area.

Detoxification (and Cofactors)

  • Multivitamin
    • This will help support your overall health, of course, but there are also a lot of pathways in your body that are working overtime to prevent damage from all this smoke inhalation.  Many of those pathways can only function properly if they have enough B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.  So take a quality multi that will give your body all the goods it needs to keep things functioning how they’re supposed to right now!!
  • B-complex
    • As I said above, B vitamins are essential to a lot of your body’s natural detoxification routes, which are being overloaded with all this smoke in the air.  If you have a good B vitamin on hand, this is the time to be taking it!
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
    • This is safe for adults and kids alike.  NAC is a molecule that aids in the main detoxification pathway of your body.  It also helps break up mucus congestion, so if the smoke is affecting your lungs and breathing, you should definitely be taking NAC right now!
    • The standard adult dose is 600 mg by mouth, 3x/day.  If you already have lung issues, continue this through the smoky season.

 

Antioxidants

Smoke particles cause “oxidative stress” to your blood vessels and cells, which means that they’re actively being damaged when you breathe in smoke – this can keep your cells from being able to function normally!

Oxidative stress is one of the main ways that your body gets injured when you have heart disease, diabetes, or even cancer.  The “antidote,” if you will, to oxidative stress, is ANTIOXIDANTS.  

Your body naturally has a ton of antioxidants that are working around the clock to keep your cells from being damaged – but in times like these, taking extra doses can really help!  That being said, here are two of the top-player antioxidants in your body that you should be taking additional doses of right now:

  • Reduced glutathione
    • The #1 antioxidant in your body.  There is a lot of glutathione in your lungs, where it works to process all the toxic or harmful particles that you breathe in.  When there’s this much smoke in the air, your glutathiones are doing double-duty, and there may not be enough to go around!  This is where taking a glutathione supplement can be SO helpful to help boost your body’s natural resources and take care of those toxins!  This is especially true if you have any underlying liver issues.  You can also get building blocks for glutathione in foods like: onion, garlic, kale, cabbage, and broccoli.
    • A standard adult dose is 100 mg by mouth, 2x/day.
  • Vitamin C
    • This is one of your body’s most widely-used antioxidants.  Vitamin C helps prevent the damage to blood vessels that can occur when you inhale smoke – this is particularly important for anyone who has an underlying heart condition!
    • The recommended dose of vitamin C is highly individual.  If you take “too much” vitamin C it won’t hurt you, but your body will start to get rid of the excess.  You’ll know when this happens because you’ll start to get diarrhea or looser stools.  So the right amount of vitamin C is the dose where you’re just on the edge of getting loose stools.  In the medical world, we call this taking vitamin C “to bowel tolerance.”
    • For adults, start with a dose of 2000 mg by mouth, and take an extra 1000 mg every hour or so until you begin to get loose stools.

 

Teas

All of these teas listed below have herbs that will:

  • Protect your respiratory tract
  • Soothe sore throats and coughs
  • Break up any mucus congestion in your sinuses or chest

Throat Coat by Traditional Medicinals is my all-time fav, but there are several other good-quality teas that have a similar mixture of herbs, including:

  • Breathe Easy by Traditional Medicinals
  • Throat Comfort by Yogi Teas
  • Breathe Deep by Yogi Teas
  • Breathing Space by Choice Wellness
  • Throat Cozy by Choice Wellness

And by the way – these all make delicious *iced* teas, if hot tea in the summer isn’t your thing.

Hot tea instructions:
Place 2 teabags in a mug.
Fill mug with hot (hot boiling) water.
Cover and let steep x15 minutes.
Drink & enjoy!

Iced tea instructions:
Cover 2 teabags with 1” hot (not boiling) water.
Cover and let steep x15 minutes.
Squeeze out all the liquid from the tea bags before throwing them away (that’s the good stuff!).
Fill a glass with ice, pour in the concentrated tea, and fill the rest of the way with cold water.
Enjoy!

You can also slow-steep several tea bags at once in a quart, half-gallon, or gallon jug full of water.  Let sit in the fridge for several hours (or overnight) and drink throughout the day.

References:
https://www3.epa.gov/airnow/smoke_fires/respiratory-protection-508.pdf
https://www.cdc.gov/features/wildfires/index.html
https://depts.washington.edu/ceeh/downloads/FF_Wildfires.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23040782
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7519784
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12750450
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11876867
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7749927
http://www.med.or.jp/english/pdf/2002_07/271_276.pdf