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