Nourishing Yourself Throughout Wildfire Season - Staying Healthy Amidst The Smoke
Here in the inland northwest, we've been cloaked in hazardous levels of smoke. We're not alone - most of the northwest, from the coast across parts of British Columbia and into Idaho and Montana, are experiencing the same conditions.
Originally from eastern America, this is new to me. In the past, I imagined that the fires themselves were the real threat. But it seems the smoke is actually the biggest threat to humans.
We have all been warned to stay indoors, batten down the hatches, and if we must venture outdoors to wear N95 respirator masks.
It's a claustrophobic and neurotic feeling for all of us, wildlife included. The longing for rain and crisp mountain air to return can be felt like real hunger.
Despite staying inside as much as possible, most of us inevitably venture outside anyway, figuring "Oh it'll be fine..." but problems associated with wildfire smoke inhalation may not surface as disease for years and years. I don't know about you, but a breathing disease is one of the many things I'd like to avoid if possible.
So I took advantage of all of this indoor time to research detoxing the body after wildfire exposure, primarily smoke inhalation. I uncovered a lot of natural treatment strategies that my husband and I have been enacting daily.
I figured with so many of us impacted by these wildfires, and having inhaled tiny particles into the depths of our lungs, I'd share my findings with everyone in hopes we can give our bodies a hand in dealing with this extreme pollution in the best way possible.
Cleansing Indoor Air
Because wildfire smoke pushes us indoors, optimizing indoor air is the best starting point.
Make sure to keep windows, doors, and vents closed as much as possible. Clean all air filters and be sure your A/C is set to recirculate indoor air (most A/C systems are inherently designed to do this). Avoid vaccuuming or dusting as this will stir up debris, further undermining your indoor air quality. Wait to vaccuum and dust when you can open windows. (I have been wiping surfaces down with a wet cloth and OnGuard oil, though, figuring as long as the cloth is wet the dust won't get stirred).
While beeswax candles are known for purifying air, I find that lighting candles during wildfire season feels counterintuitive. What I've found to be so beneficial, cleansing, and soothing are diffusers.
I keep a diffuser going in the main room of the house where we spend most of our time, and I turn one on in the bedroom when we go to sleep.
Inside the diffuser, I use filtered water and two drops of Breathe - a therapeutic grade essential oil for respiratory support. This is easily one of my favorite essential oils. We stop from time to time, lingering our faces over the diffuser and slowly inhale the vapor to transfer some medicinal properties of the Breathe oil to our lungs.
The best essential oils to diffuse inside the home for respiratory support during wildfire season are:
(I have no affiliation with DoTerra, but when it comes to essential oils for therapeutic purposes, this is the company I feel best about).
Teas & Steams
It's vital to stay well-hydrated, drinking quality filtered or spring water with minerals intact. However much you weigh in pounds, divide that in half - this is how many ounces of water you need each day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you'll need a minimum of 75 ounces of water each day. (A standard glass is 16 oz.).
If you want to add even more medicinal benefit to drinking water, make herbal teas! During my research, the following herbs and spices seem to be the most helpful for respiratory support and overall assistance via calming inflammation, boosting immunity, supporting the lungs, and mitigating the damage of smoke:
- Reishi - a highly medicinal mushroom used for thousands of years. We slow brew the reishi over a hot stove in a large dutch oven, but a crock pot would work well too. The two keys to a strong reishi tea that is going to nourish your body so well are to use plenty of sliced reishi (about one pound) and to cook slow (at least 3 hours over medium heat, covered).
- Turmeric & Ginger - both studied for their potent anti-inflammatory properties, we sprinkle turmeric & ginger powder over meals (even fruit!) and make a delicious beverage by combining a tablespoon of turmeric powder + a tablespoon of ginger powder + a tablespoon of lemon juice + a tablespoon of honey in a quart jar. Put the lid on, shake well, and enjoy. You can add ice to up the refreshment factor.
- Lungwort - A delicious tea, we prefer it brewed hot. Combined with peppermint leaf, it's a real delight - and both are cleansing herbs for the lungs.
- Plantain - This plant has a plethora of medicinal uses, and one of those happens to be in the treatment of inflamed mucous linings and irritation of the lungs. I recommend a hot tea.
- Osha Root - I can't speak to it personally, as I've yet to get my hands on any. But, I wanted to mention it because Osha Root is native to the Rocky Mountains and has been used by native people in this area for thousands of years for lung and throat problems. Once I find a good source and make tea, I'll edit in some further remarks and information.
Another really beneficial - arguably even moreso - method of inviting medicinal herbs into the respiratory system is to make herbal steams. This is such an easy and refreshing self-care treatment, and I really urge you to give it a go.
Oregano + Thyme Herbal Steam:
Simply heat water on the stovetop, bring to boiling, then move to a sturdy place where you can safely sit or stand over it. Add 2 tablespoons of dried oregano and 2 tablespoons of dried thyme. Stir them around and let sit for a couple of minutes. Now drape a small towel over your head and bend down to breathe in the steam. Long, slow inhalations are best. Be mindful not to get too close or you may experience an uncomfortable heat. Repeat the long slow inhalations of the oregano + thyme steam, and switch out with your partner, your children, or your roommate so everyone gets the benefits.
Another way I like to use plants to support my respiratory system is by hanging dried bundles of eucalyptus in the shower. When you take a hot shower, you'll inevitably inhale some of the properties of the plant, and eucalyptus is one of the most recommended plants to help with lung issues. (It also gives you the feeling of being at a spa, which is always nice!).
Increase Oxygen In The Body
Encouraging more oxygen in the body and movement of oxygen is an important dynamic to staying well amidst wildfire smoke (and after).
Because we're all pushed indoors during this time, it becomes even more crucial due to this sedentary state we're all existing in. Breathing in wildfire smoke (even remnants) combined with not moving much is a terrible combination.
Exercise - With the advent of YouTube, there is simply no excuse for not being able to exercise in your home. With or without equipment. I look up "home workouts no equipment" and there are a variety of videos to choose from. Even doing 5-10 burpees several times a day will suffice. The goal is to increase oxygenation in the body and get that oxygen flowing to all parts of your system.
Yoga - Or any deep stretching. A brilliant massage therapist once told me that she sees two types of people in her practice: those who have some sort of prolonged stretching daily ritual, and those who don't. If we don't stretch daily, our fascia (a sheet of tissue that covers organs and muscles) becomes like a hardened spiderweb. In this state, it's hard for oxygen and nutrients to flow effortlessly as they should throughout our system. Long slow stretching while breathing deeply is one of the best things you can do for yourself, hands down.
Deep Breathing - I know there's such a connotation for some around the word meditation. But, it doesn't have to be spiritual. Meditation is just good for you. The brain benefits of meditation can be seen in just 3 weeks using MRI scans of people who began meditating only 10-15 minutes a day. Not only that, but deep, controlled, focused breathing is good for your lungs.
Many of the fine particles in the air from wildfire smoke lodge themselves in the sinus cavities for a time before making the full journey to the lungs. By developing a Neti Pot ritual, you can clear this debris out of your pathways before it has a chance to lodge in the lungs.
Neti Pot is a traditional Ayurvedic therapy that dates back thousands of years. However, since the trend arrived in America, many of the varieties on the market are made of plastic. I would highly suggest not inviting plastic residues into the head - just a personal preference. For that reason, we use the original ceramic model by Ancient Secrets.
Also - important to note - do not use tap water. Use filtered or distilled water.
Here's a demo video (This YouTube channel is also the one I recommend for doing yoga at home - Adriene is such a sweet soul).
Last but certainly not least are natural supplements. While this list could be a very long one, I decided to keep it straightforward and simple. The following are supplements I would definitely not go without during wildfire season, and links to my favorite, most reputable, brands:
- Magnesium - depleted during periods of stress, and deficient in most Americans to begin with. This will help your body deal with the stress of smoke inhalation.
- Vitamin C - Will help the body adapt to stress and boost immunity.
- Vitamin D3 - Regulates over 3,000 genes in the human body, has been shown to remove asthma symptoms, crucial for strong immune system. I always take this specific Vitamin D3 with K2. If you take Vitamin D without K2, it has a tendency to cause calcium to build up in soft tissue. Not good. K2 has been shown to assist with this problem, directing the D and Calcium where they need to go.
Please feel free to add to this list in the comments below. Your input will only help to make this a more comprehensive article, so thanks in advance!
Medical Disclaimer: Folks, I am not a doctor. This article is purely for informational purposes and to share things we have found helpful. Be smart. Make good decisions for yourself.
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