Hi friends, I know I’ve been a little more quiet than usual and I’m looking forward to getting back here on my posting train. We’ve been extremely busy working on v2 of our program and helping our clients thrive with IBD. And for those of us on the West Coast of the United States, life is far from normal in our state of persistent fire and smoke.
I want to take this time to tell you what I’ve been doing to make the best of this extraordinarily difficult circumstance we are in. Firstly, those of us with IBD and other chronic health conditions are extremely sensitive to wildfire smoke, and most of us will experience some changes in disease activity when exposed to it. One of my clients posted this paper regarding how poor air quality negatively affects the microbiome (link in comments). Take a moment to consider that when you breathe in these particulates, you’re breathing in more than burning trees and plants – you’re breathing car tires, roof shingles, mattresses, and other manmade materials that contain toxic constituents. Here are my 10 significant suggestions:
1) If you have the means and ability, evacuate the area for somewhere with better air quality (drive east). Air quality websites like AirNow and Purple Air can give you an indication of where you could go. In the midst of the pandemic, it’s unavoidable to have to weigh the risks of persistent smoke exposure against the risks or COVID-19 exposure, so these choices are extremely personal. If you are unable or unwilling to travel, suggestions 2-10 will help you stay safer at home.
2) Do not go outside, especially to exercise or for any activity that involves heavy breathing. An N95 mask does help protect you from particulate matter, but not 100%. If you do have to go outside to take out the trash or go shopping, wear an N95 with a proper seal, and stay in your car with your air on recirculation when possible.
3) Keep all doors and windows shut and keep in mind that smoke will most likely still seep into your home.
4) To monitor air quality (AQI) at your home, purchase a handheld air quality monitor. Keep in mind that these monitors tend to read higher than reality when the air is dominated by woodsmoke, so the EPA recommends applying a conversion factor called AQandU. This isn’t a straightforward formula because it depends on your geographical area, but PurpleAir offers the calibration as one of its options, so you can get a sense of the conversion for your area. For more information on this, you can visit the links in the comments. Aim for an adjusted AQI of <35 for PM2.5.
5) Purchase air purifiers for every room. (Look for the CADR rating if you’re comparing different makes/models.). Link in comments for the air purifier we use, and one that is currently available (that we have not tested)
6) Cultivate indoor plants that purify the air. Many of these plants like snake plant, philodendron, and aloe are some of the easiest plants to care for, requiring little water and attention. Not only do these plants take up CO2 and churn out oxygen, like all plants, but they’re known for pulling pollutants out of the air as well. Link in comments to a list of these plants.
7) Limit high-heat cooking like pan-frying, oil-sautées, and barbecuing that produce smoke.
8) There’s never been a better time to quit smoking or to switch to nicotine patches. If you smoke cannabis for medical reasons, consider using edible variations.
9) Stay hydrated by drinking extra water and soothing teas with honey to keep your lungs moist. Peppermint and lemon balm can sooth the tight feeling in your chest; mucilaginous herbs like slippery elm, licorice, marshmallow root hydrate the mucus membranes; mullein is an all-around great respiratory support. Other expectorant herbs like horehound and wild cherry bark will be beneficial once the smoke has dissipated to clear out the lungs. Consult your doctor before adding any herbal supplements to your regimen..
10) Be gentle with yourself and others. Your nervous system is extra-activated and it is normal to experience disruptions to your biorhythms (sleep/fatigue, appetite/cravings). Do your best to get plenty of rest, eat nourishing foods, meditate and exercise indoors.
That’s what I have for you all!
I hope this helps you navigate these hard days we are experiencing, and to stay healthy!
Purple Air conversion factor:
Germ Guardian air filter:
Plants that purify indoor air: