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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Brix

How to Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke

Smoky skies have become all too familiar in recent years. In BC, many communities, from the Okanagan to Vancouver Island, are exposed to wildfire smoke every summer. Smoke is made up of a mixture of gases and fine particles produced when wood and other organic materials burn.


The biggest health threat from smoke is from fine microscopic particles, which can get into your eyes and respiratory system – whether you are outdoors or indoors. Health problems such as burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses such as bronchitis may result, and chronic conditions like chronic heart and lung diseases may be aggravated.


For many years now, correlations have been made between air pollution and illnesses, including cardiac arrhythmia, pulmonary disorders, cancers, Alzheimer’s-like brain declines, and many childhood conditions, such as ADHD, lower IQ, and even premature death in infants and children under five.

wildfire smoke

What Can You Do?

If you are close to a wildfire, heavy smoke and ash can pose serious, immediate risks to your safety and health.

  • Avoid going outside for long periods of time, and don't do any strenuous activities when the air quality is poor.

  • Reduce your exposure indoors by keeping windows and doors closed, using a portable air cleaner or high-efficiency HVAC Filter to clean the air inside your home, and wearing N95 respirator masks.

  • Stay hydrated and eat clean, whole foods to provide your body with optimal levels of antioxidants to support your detoxification systems.

  • Supplement with specific nutrients that have been shown to provide health benefits and protective effects in people exposed to air pollution, including wildfire smoke.

Nutrients to Protect Against Wildfire Smoke

B vitamins

Several different B vitamins have been shown to provide health benefits and protective effects in people exposed to air pollution. Specifically, folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 have been shown to mitigate the effects of fine particles on heart function and inflammation.


Vitamins C and E

These natural antioxidants promote healthy aging, protect cellular health, and promote cardiovascular health. Together they have been shown to normalize biomarkers associated with oxidative stress and provide protective effects in people exposed to airborne particulate matter from coal-powered electric-power plants.


Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is the perfect antioxidant for sunny weather. While it offers 6,000 times more antioxidant activity than vitamin C, it most famously has the ability to quench free radical damage from ultraviolet radiation. It is like a natural sunscreen that helps protect our skin from sun damage, but also supports cardiovascular and immune system health, and is also very important in protecting our eyes.


Omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3s help in the maintenance of good health, specifically the cardiovascular system which can be susceptible to air pollution. A recent study found that healthy middle-aged adults supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids did not have any acute cardiac or lipid changes after an exposure to concentrated particulate matter, compared to those taking olive oil.


N-acetyl-L-cysteine

Also known as NAC, it is a precursor to glutathione, our master antioxidant. NAC provides antioxidant activity and protects against free radical damage, which can be increased by air pollution.


Lung-supporting herbs

Marshmallow, mullein, ivy, horehound, and wild cherry are all herbs that specifically support the respiratory tract. Unlike some medications that treat the upper respiratory tract, these herbs are traditionally used in Herbal Medicine to help relieve and soothe coughs. Look for formulas containing some or all of these to provide a holistic approach to lunch health.


Vitamin D

Studies have shown air pollution to have a potential negative impact on vitamin D status. Vitamin D is necessary for the development and maintenance of bones and teeth and to support healthy immune system function. Consider getting your levels tested through your health care provider, or choose the more cost-effective option by picking up one of our in-house lab kits to check your levels at home (available at our Victoria Brix Wellness location only).


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Dr. Jennifer Brix, ND


Dr. Jennifer Brix is a naturopathic doctor, health educator, and public speaker with a passion for empowering her patients to achieve optimal health. Dr. Brix has special expertise in treating digestive complaints, hormone imbalances, and brain-related health conditions and practices at Brix Wellness clinics in Victoria and Kelowna, BC


The information in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health care provider before starting supplements or making lifestyle changes.


References

Possamai FP, et al. Antioxidant Intervention Compensates Oxidative Stress in Blood of Subjects Exposed to Emissions from A Coal Electric-Power Plant in South Brazil. Environ. Toxicol Pharmacol. 2010;30:175–180.


Szabolcs P, et al. Nutritional Solutions to Reduce Risks of Negative Health Impacts of Air Pollution. Nutrients. 2015;7:10398-10416.


Tong H, et al. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation Appears to Attenuate Particulate Air Pollution-Induced Cardiac Effects and Lipid Changes in Healthy Middle-Aged Adults. Environ. Health Perspect. 2012;120:952–957.


Zhong J, et al. B-vitamin Supplementation Mitigates Effects of Fine Particles on Cardiac Autonomic Dysfunction and Inflammation: A Pilot Human Intervention Trial. Sci Rep. 2017;7:45322.

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