You may have noticed that the city of Seattle has been full of smoke! If you haven’t, we should talk about your work schedule (if you live elsewhere, that is a reasonable excuse!)… The smoke is being generated by wildfires in British Columbia and being carried by the wind to our fair city. There are many health issues that can be affected by the smoke.
Environmental medicine is the study of how toxins affect the health of a person, and in this field of medicine, smoke is considered particulate matter. Particulate matter is basically a small piece of charcoal that acts like a tiny airplane that is shuttling chemicals into your lungs and body. Most of these chemicals are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other volatile organic compounds.1
Each of these components have different effects on the body with the size of the particulates being the important factor, as the smaller the particle, the more soluble it is in the moisture that lines the mucus membranes. According to the EPA, wildfire smoke tends to fall in the size range of 0.4 – 0.7 micrometers.2 These particles should be modestly soluble, with less solubility than ultrafine nanoparticles. They can cause significant oxidative damage to tissues and organs of distribution, reducing the levels of glutathione as well as the function of the enzymes that recycle glutathione, which is the major antioxidant and detoxifier in the body.1
Particulate matter can also damage the mitochondria, impairing cellular energy generation. Particulate matter of the size of that in the smoke has also been shown to impair cognitive development, with exposures being associated with cognitive deficiencies.
PAHs are lipophilic molecules that are formed when matter is burnt. These molecules are fat-soluble and easily cross cell membranes. Because of their fat solubility, they get stuck in your adipose tissue until you are able to detoxify them. You liver actually metabolizes them into compounds that are more toxic. It then expects these metabolites to be attached to things like glutathione to be excreted. However, if you don’t have enough glutathione, you may experience further impacts of these toxins.
What to do?
1. Minimize contact – There are a number of ways to do this. Close your windows at home. Use the recirculation function on the A/C in your car. If you are out walking around, use a facemask rated at N95 or N100. In your home, an air filter can help dramatically. In our clinic, we recommend IQ air or Austin Air. If you contact the clinic, we can facilitate a discount on either of these of 10%, which is substantial. If a fancy filter is out of your budget, you can build a DIY filter that will remove the particulates fairly cheaply. https://www.uofmhealth.org/news/sinus-hepa-0630
2. Smoke Mix Allersode – When the smoke is thick, many of our patients bodies feel a bit assaulted by it. It tends to make them feel generally unwell on not only a physical, but also a mental/emotional level. The smoke mix allersode is a cheap homeopathic remedy that can help shift the body out of this state.
3. Liposomal Glutathione – We discussed above how the smoke reduces the body’s levels and function of glutathione. We also discussed how if there is not enough glutathione, then the body makes a bad situation with PAHs even worse by making them more toxic. If there is adequate glutathione, this is not an issue, so make sure there is enough. Hold it under the tongue for the best results!
4. Electrolytes – Detoxification tends to stress the kidneys, which are in charge of maintaining your electrolyte balance. This is why people like to consume sports drinks for a hangover! By increasing your electrolyte intake, it’s like giving your kidneys a break. Most sports drinks have a lot of “interesting” ingredients like wood rosin, which we are not big fans of. For an easy over the counter solution, try Nuun Tabs.
5. Epsom Salt Baths – If you are really feeling badly, an Epsom salt bath can be really helpful. It increases both sulfate and magnesium in your body, each of which will help in the processing of the chemicals in the smoke.
With each of these things, small consistent doses are better than large, infrequent doses. There are plenty of other considerations that we tend to tailor to each individual’s specific health needs, which we are happy to do in an office visit, but this list is a good starting point. If you have any questions, feel free to comment or contact the office.
Good luck out there!
1 Crinnion W and Pizzorno J; Clinical Environmental Medicine; 2019; Elsevier, St Louis, MO.2 https://www3.epa.gov/ttnamti1/files/ambient/smoke/wildgd.pdf - Accessed 8.23.18