As the summer season arrives, many of us eagerly anticipate warmer days spent outside in the sunshine and fresh air. However, with air quality advisories across the eastern United States thanks to Canadian wildfires and lack of rain, experts are offering recommendations that may change your summer plans, temporarily.
Wildfire smoke can be carried across enormous regions, and the tiny particles carried by the wind can impair immune function and cause lung damage, especially in vulnerable populations. Those most vulnerable to air pollution include the elderly, children, teens, and individuals with heart, lung, or immune conditions.
Experts still don't know when the situation will resolve, so what can we do in the meantime to stay healthy?
1. Stay Informed:
Stay updated on air quality advisories in your area through reliable sources such as local environmental agencies or reputable weather apps. This knowledge will allow you to plan your activities accordingly, especially during times when the air quality is compromised.
2. Minimize Exposure:
When air quality is poor, reducing exposure to pollutants is crucial. Stay indoors as much as possible and close windows to prevent the entry of outdoor pollutants. Consider using air purifiers with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to cleanse indoor air.
If you must venture outside, do so during early morning or late evening when pollution levels tend to be lower, and wear a N95 or KN95 mask if you have underlying lung or immune conditions. Avoid strenuous activities such as running or mowing the lawn while outside during an advisory, and use a neti pot or saline nasal rinse to improve symptoms such as congestion and sneezing.
Drink a minimum of 100 oz of filtered water daily. Including tea such as matcha and peppermint can provide additional antioxidant and respiratory benefits, and staying adequately hydrated supports regular bowel movements, which are essential to toxin elimination.
4. Optimize Nutrition:
A nutrient-rich diet can strengthen our bodies against the harmful effects of air pollution. Emphasize whole foods, including colorful fruits and vegetables like ginger and turmeric, garlic, leafy greens, and wild blueberries. These foods provide antioxidants and phytonutrients. Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, and compounds like sulforaphane found in cruciferous vegetables, help combat oxidative stress induced by pollutants. Additionally, consume omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, to reduce inflammation and support lung health.
Certain supplements can assist in bolstering the body's defense mechanisms against air pollution. Antioxidant-rich supplements like vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione can counteract oxidative damage. Omega-3 fatty acids, in supplement form, can help mitigate inflammation. Consult a qualified healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate supplements based on your individual needs.
6. Detoxification Support:
Optimizing the body's natural detoxification pathways can enhance pollutant clearance. Adequate hydration, consuming fiber-rich foods, and supporting liver function through nutrients like milk thistle and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) can aid in the elimination of toxins. Focus on foods such as broccoli sprouts, lemon zest, fresh herbs, cruciferous vegetables, and bitter greens to support liver function. Saunas and epsom salt baths can also facilitate toxin removal through sweat.
In the face of summer air quality advisories, we can take steps to protect our health and well-being. By staying informed, minimizing exposure, supporting respiratory and liver function, and optimizing nutrition, we can mitigate many of the potential risks associated with air pollution. By prioritizing activities that protect against respiratory pollution, we can enhance our resilience and nurture wellness even amidst environmental challenges.
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