I stepped out of my house yesterday morning and smelled the smoke in the air and every patient I saw yesterday mentioned the same thing. By now you all know why – the new round of fires near Bastrop is pushing a layer of smoke particles through the air we breathe and it’s covering several counties. In essence, we all just become smokers whether we wanted to or not!
Even patients who don’t normally suffer from allergies this time of year are feeling the crunch from the smoke in the air. Allergy and asthma sufferers, people who work outside, runner, cyclers, and anyone who plays or exercises outside are likely to be affected. Symptoms you might notice include: nasal stuffiness and/or drainage, coughing, irritated eyes, and shortness of breath or chest tightness.
What can you do other than limiting your exposure to outside air? Plenty. The best approach is to tackle it from several angles at once. Here are some suggestions:
- Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine
You knew that one was coming, right? Acupuncture can help strengthen your lung and immune function, open your breathing passages, and encourage good natural detoxification for your lungs and blood stream.Herbal support focuses on supporting lung function, reducing inflammation, and building immune function to help your lungs clear inhaled particulates and keep you breathing well. I can hook you up with both Chinese and western herbs that will keep your lungs and sinuses happy.
- Use Neti Pot
Neti pots help you flush your nasal passages which rinses stuck pollen, dust, and smoke particles our of your sinuses to reduce inflammation and irritants.
- Increase Water Intake
Our bodies rely on proper hydration for muscle function, digestive function, and detoxification. Your body produces mucus, which functions like a sticky fly strip in a way. When you inhale a lung full of air irritating particulates get stuck in the mucus which is then either flushed away via your body’s “plumbing system” or coughed out. Without proper water consumption this mucus gets too sticky to cough or blow out. That’s when you feel as if you have something caught in your throat and can’t get it out. Increasing water intake will keep the mucus thin enough not to be bothersome.Increasing your water intake also enhances kidney and liver function, the other major organs you need to move toxins out of the body. The irritants that make it into the blood stream are removed by these organs.
- Modify Your Diet
Eat more grapes, almonds, olives, water chestnuts, greens such as spinach, apricots, and pears. These all assist the lungs with detoxification. The final two listed, apricots and pears, also help keep the lung moist. Heat and smoke particles dry and coat the lung tissue making it harder to breathe and expel the stuff that’s not supposed to be there.Some foods actually increase lung irritation and cause your body to produce too much mucus which makes breathing even more difficult can causes that tight chest feeling. Avoid these like the plague during allergy and smokey seasons! These foods are cow’s milk and other cow dairy products, margarines and any other trans-fatty foods, feed lot beef (lots of transfat, chemicals, and hormones that will damage your body), white flour, and refined sugars. All of these foods increase inflammation on a systemic level and increase mucus production. This is bad for you any time, but will be especially irritating when there is this much junk floating in the air.
- Adopt House Plants
You can get air cleaners from places like Sharper Image to help with cleansing the air in your home or office, but those come with noise and increase your energy bill. Why not do it with house plants? Here is a short list of plants that do a great job of scrubbing your indoor air.
- English ivy (Hedera helix)
- Spider plant (Chlorphytum comosum)
- Golden pothos (Epipemnum aureum)
- Peace lily (Spathiphyllum Mauna Loa)
- Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)
- Bamboo or reed palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii)
- Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
- Heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens oxycardium)
- Selloum philodendron (Philodendrum selloum)
- Elephant ear philodendron (Philodendrum domesticum)
- Red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata)
- Cornstalk dracaena (Dracaena fragrans Massangeana)
- Janet Craig dracaena (Dracaena deremensis Janet Craig
- Warneck dracaena (Dreacaena dermenisis Waneckii)
- Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina)