Column: Protecting yourself from the smoke
With the abundance of smoke we have been experiencing in the last few weeks, I wanted to provide you with some tips for reducing smoke exposure, protecting your lungs, and reducing any damage that may have occurred.
1. Increase glutathione!
When we inhale smoke, we are inhaling many toxins that generate free radicals, causing damage and inflammation to the lungs. Glutathione is highly concentrated in our lungs and is one of the fist lines of defense when we inhale toxins such as smoke. Not only does Glutathione prevent and correct lung damage, it also improves lung function substantially when inhaled. As one of our main antioxidants, Glutathione also protects your liver and reduces free radical damage to other tissues aside from your lungs.
Glutathione is not easily absorbed when taken orally, therefore I have listed more effective means of increasing glutathione in the body:
a. Oral Liposomal Glutathione: this is not my favorite form of Glutathione because it is very expensive and is not easily absorbed, however if you are going to use an oral supplement this is the form that works the best.
b. Oral N-acetyl cysteine: this is the pre-cursor to Glutathione (i.e. it gets converted to Glutathione in your body). It is much less expensive than Liposomal Glutathione and has been shown to increase Glutathione in the body better than taking Glutathione by itself. N-acetyl cysteine also has the added benefit of breaking up mucous which is extremely helpful if you are experiencing a lot of congestion.
c. Nebulized Glutathione: research shows that this is the best form of Glutathione to protect your lungs. This entails inhaling the glutathione through the lungs via a machine that converts the Glutathione into a mist that is easily absorbed. You can either have the treatments delivered in a Naturopathic Physician’s clinic or you can purchase a Nebulizer yourself and have your ND write a prescription for the nebulized glutathione (the latter is recommended for patients with chronic lung concerns that require more comprehensive treatments). *NOTE: If you have a sulfite sensitivity, you should not use Nebulized glutathione.
d. Intravenous Glutathione: this is one of my favorite forms because it bypasses digestion and is delivered directly into the blood. It is effective and works quickly, however it is an in-office procedure.
2. Increase your intake of other anti-oxidants to protect your lungs from damage
Other antioxidants such as vitamin C and selenium also help reduce free radicals in the lungs. The easiest way to increase these anti-oxidants is through food: cherries, blueberries, strawberries, brazil nuts, fish, among many, many others. Focus on fresh fruits and veggies, fish, and nuts and seeds!
3. Drink a lot of water
Water helps flush your system of inhaled particles. Try to get at least 8-9 glasses 8 oz. glasses per day.
4. Herbs to help your lungs
There are so many excellent herbs to help soothe and heal the lungs and decrease coughing and congestion. My favourite lung herbs: Tussilago farfara (Coltsfoot), Althea officinalis (Marshmallow), Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice), and Verbascum thapsus (Mullein). These can be used as a tea or a tincture if you require something more potent.
5. Intravenous (IV) Magnesium if you need some acute support
IV magnesium causes bronchodilation, allowing airways to relax and providing immediate relief from asthma attacks. This is an excellent treatment for patients who have been having a difficult time breathing with the smoke or have a history of asthma. Oral magnesium does not have the same immediate effect, however there is some research supporting lower use of bronchodilators with oral magnesium.
6. Keep your windows closed.
I know this is hard during the summer, however keeping your window closed and using a fan instead will greatly reduce your exposure to smoke.
7. Consider a HEPA filter.
Using a HEPA filter in the room you are sleeping in is an excellent way to eliminate pollens in the air. This is not the same as the filter on your furnace–a HEPA filter removes almost 100% of pollens (including ragweed) and other allergens. This is an investment but it will save you weeks of a runny nose and itchy eyes!