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Alternative medicine tips that can protect you against poor air quality

by Aug 17, 2023

Home » NUHS Blog » Alternative medicine tips that can protect you against poor air quality

This summer, unusually high amounts of wildfires across Canada had millions in the United States, particularly in the Midwest, dealing with some of the worst air quality in the world. Since Canada’s wildfire season lasts from May to October, many different areas of the United States could continue to experience poor air quality.

Those with chronic lung diseases (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), seniors, children, pregnant women along with long time outdoor workers are the most effected.  However, pollution can impact healthy people too.   

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to high concentrations of respiratory irritants can potentially lead to transient reductions in lung function, and pulmonary inflammation. Even short-term (days and weeks) exposures to smoke/fine particles are associated with increased risk of exacerbation of pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease, as well as premature mortality, the EPA states. 

There’s more you can do than just staying inside or wearing a mask. Within naturopathic medicine, there are tools everyone can utilize to protect themselves from the harmful effects of air pollution. Polina Robinson, ND, MS, CNS, LDN, an NUHS Naturopathic Medicine Instructor, recommends the following tips: 

Make sure you’re using an air purifier correctly: 

Choose an air purifier with a HEPA filter to trap any fine particulate matter in the air. The ideal placement is in the middle of the room, but if that’s not realistic, leave at least a foot a space between the purifier and the wall/furniture nearby. Manufacturers typically indicate a recommended room size on each model, so the purifier should be selected to accommodate the room’s air flow so that all the air in the room can be processed about 4-5 times per hour in accordance with the recommendations from the EPA.

Get your Vitamin C:

Research finds that vitamin C may protect our circulatory system against damage from particulate matter exposure and it is also well-known to support both the respiratory and immune systems. Good food sources include citrus, bell peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. You can also consider supplementation in the form of chewable tablets or drink powders.

Take Fish oil: 

Fish oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Research shows fish oil can improve pulmonary function and decrease levels of oxidative stress and inflammation. Good food sources include mackerel, salmon, herring, and anchovies. Fish oil can also be taken as a supplement in the form of oil or pills.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), smoke pollution is considered to contains toxic heat pathogens, which can easily damage Lung Yin and cause Lung Qi rebellion, an underlying health pattern with symptoms that include cough, labored breathing and asthma. In order to combat health issues caused by air pollution, Zhanxiang Wang, MD (China), PhD, LAc, Clinical Sciences Professor, offers the following tips: 

Try Acupressure: 

Massage the acupressure point: Large Intestine 20 (LI20). LI20 is located in the nasolabial sulcus, level with the midpoint of the lateral border of the ala nasi or next to the nostrils. LI20 is used to open the nose and to improve breathing.  It is a good point to expel outside pathogens.  

Use your fingers (index or pinkie) to apply steady, stationary firm pressure to the point for 1-2 minutes. Apply the pressure gradually and release it gradually too, as this gives body tissues time to respond. 

Have some beneficial fruit for Lung Yin: 

The Asian Pear in TCM food therapy is used to stop dry cough, clear the lungs, soothe a stubborn sore throat, and moisten the skin from the inside-out. It is also used for lung Yin and blood deficiency. 

Mulberry fruit has been used in TCM as a medicinal agent to nourish the yin and blood and treat weakness, fatigue, anemia, and premature graying of hair. 

The Canadian government is reporting over 1,000 wildfires in almost every province and there’s no sign of letting up. Therefore, it’s important to continue to check air quality conditions daily. Air quality conditions for your area can be checked at airnow.gov. 

Stay proactive and protect your health. Wear a mask when possible and follow the tips above to protect yourself until the air quality conditions improve. 

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