Wildfire Smoke And Your Physical and Emotional Wellness

The fires and smoke have always played a part in living out west but this summer in California it has been relentless and we still have months before any major snow lends a hand.

My heart goes out to those who have lost their homes and to all those working to keep the fires under control.

The smoke has gotten so bad consistently here in Tahoe we were unable to go outside for days/weeks, sports and school have been cancelled, and the wilderness is closed.

When thinking into wildfire smoke through a functional lens there are several areas to consider. Where there is so much we cannot control, there are several things we can do to make the impact of smoke less severe.

This is by no means a medical report but instead ways to think into how smoke might be impacting you and some action steps to support your body/mind/soul.

  1. Emotional– The emotional toll is huge as the fires persists. We wake up daily and check the air quality, the fire progress, sports cancellations, school cancellations, and the weather in hopes of a drop of rain. Now more than ever doing regular activities to help calm the nervous system is important. A few ideas are
    • Guided imagery. Here is a link to one I love from my friend Nancy Candea https://soundcloud.com/user-527248513/starry-night-meditation.
    • Adaptogen Herbs help support the Hypothalamus Pituitary Axis or HPA. Some of my favorites include Rhodiola, Eleuthero, Ashwagandha, Reishi mushrooms, and Holy Basil. These tinctures can be added to water daily and work better over time.
    • Calming Herbs that support the nervous system in the moment of stress are wonderful. Some of my favorites are sipping on teas made of Lemon Balm, Catnip, Lavender, and Chamomile.
    • Tapping is a great tool for relieving acute stress and more information can be found here about tapping  https://www.thetappingsolution.com/
    • Check in on friends. Connect with community. We need each other during these times. I have seen some amazing efforts made to support community already in Truckee.
    • Gratitude journal- I know I can complain a lot during these smokey days. It is helpful to remember the things we are grateful for even when it is hard. I picked this practice up again last week and will continue through the season.
    • Turn off your device for a set period of time. I know during these times I feel like I need to check it every second but putting it down and stepping away is important for the nervous system. Better yet, step away, stretch, do a guided relaxation, and make a cup of tea. Ymmm.
    • If you are having problems sleeping some of my favorite night time herbs are Kava Kava, Passionflower, California Poppy, and Valerian. I take these as tinctures in a small glass of water in the middle of the night if I wake up worried. Some people take these before bed if they cannot calm their worried mind.
  1. Physical– There are obviously a lot of ways smoke impacts our body physically. This is by no means all of them as it is just a start. Of course seek medical attention if you are having serious issues dealing with the smoke. These are some ideas to consider for supporting your body physically during the heavy smoke.
    • Smoke in our homes- HEPA filter (I love Air Doctor)
    • Dry air in the home- Humidifier
    • Smoke impacting the mucus membranes in the sinuses- Saline Solution or Netti Pot rinse
    • Smoke impacting the mucus membranes of the respiratory and digestive system- I love using the herbs Marshmallow root and Slippery Elm here. We have been making cold marshmallow infusions each night and drinking them the next day. We have also made slippery elm lozenges to help support the mucus membranes. My favorite is putting honey and slippery elm powder in my marshmallow tea. It is so soothing.
    • Increased oxidative stress- Making sure you are getting enough antioxidants to offset the increased free radicals from the smoke is a great place to focus. This can be done by increasing the amount of brightly colored vegetables you are eating, adding green juices, supplementing with liposomal glutathione (the body’s biggest antioxidant) or NAC (the precursor to glutathione) or vitamin C (another great antioxidant).
    • Most people have slowed down with exercise and moving their body during the heavy smoke. Doing indoor yoga, stretching at home, etc are great to keep the lymph system moving.
    • Our liver is meant to detox all day everyday and usually do a great job of this. With the increased demand with the smoke I am doing some small things to support my liver that include drinking dandelion tea, including lemon zest in my smoothies, going big on cruciferous veggies like broccoli, brussels, cauliflower, and turmeric.

Again, my heart is with everyone impacted by these fires. I keep telling my kids that they are learning to be some pretty resilient humans after the last 2 years.

Mad Love, Janel

Photo by Josh Edelson

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