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Smoke + Dust = Lung Stress

Smoke and Dust in the Air = Lung Stress

The recent fires and concurrent dust storms have have stressed our lungs, even if we are not fully aware of this.  There is undisputed impact on the lungs when we breathe in small particles ( particulates ) that cause damage to the tissues and long term negative health outcomes. 

There is a long history of occupations where the air quality is low, that result in ill health and disease.  Think Coal miners, asbestos dust and car mechanics blowing out brake dust.  Currently in Africa the major cause of child mortality is breathing smoke from indoor cooking.  Children are particularly at risk as their lungs are smaller so their exposure per litre of breathed air is greater. 


Lung anatomy

Lung Function 

The lungs are not a filter!   The air is supposed to be filtered before it gets to the lungs.  The size of the particles in the air is factor in how well the body can clear them.  Generally the bigger particles are easier for the body to catch in the nose/sinus region.  That is the job of the moist mucosa ( Lining of the nose and sinuses ).  We have all had the experience of blowing our nose after being in dirty air and being surprised to see the nose discharge as brown/black.  That is the body doing its thing to clean the air before it gets to the lungs. 

The primary job of the lungs is to take the CO2 out of the blood and put O2 back in.  The cells in the body produce the CO2 as a byproduct of making energy and the blood carries the CO2 back to the lungs.  The lungs then replace the CO2 with O2 which then binds to the Iron in your blood to transport back to your cells.  This is why low iron will cause fatigue as there is not enough Oxygen getting back to your cells to fuel them.  No fuel - your tired. 😓 


A good filter cleans out the big bits!

Filter before ingesting

Poor Filtration - What happens? 

We have all had a problem over the last 3 - 4 months.  The air has been very dry often well under 30% humidity, often as low as 15%.  This means that the lining of the nose and sinuses have been too dry to do that filtering job that we talked about a second ago.  Most of us noted that there was no discharge from our noses.  They were dry continuously.  That means that more small particles were getting into our lungs. So what happens if the dirty air particles get into our lungs?   Maybe not much at the time.  This is more a problem than not unfortunately. 

We are all aware of the huge precautions that we must observe if there is asbestos in our environment.  There are many casualties as a result of breathing tiny particles.  They are so small that they don't make us cough.  Bigger particles are detected by the body and they trigger the cough and sneeze response.  This is mechanical ejection!  A sneeze can remove bugs from your upper respiratory tract.  How cool is that.  That's why a cold often starts with sneezing!   Better to sneeze rather than hold your nose! 👃 

So the tiny particles get into our lungs - then what happens?    

Anyhow how small are they.  You will here 2.5 used a lot.  What is it?  


Size comparison of particles

<2.5 microns is pretty small

When we see the relative size of a smoke particle you can see why they body can't respond to something so tiny.  If the sand at Bondi is 90 microns and your hair is 50-70 microns, dust and pollen is 10 microns the body is just not able to defend itself against such small matter. 

What is the body response then?  The inflammation response is the cellular response.  The particles are now inside so the body has to deal with them.  The inflammatory response is the first line of defence to injury or foreign stuff.  Some of the particles in the smoke are highly toxic so they will trigger an inflammatory response in their own nature.  This inflammatory response will not always be a "wet" cough.  😷 

What we know from digestive inflammation, it often shows in other body systems.  Joint pain,  cloudy brain, or fatigue.  If the exposure is prolonged, then the likelihood of some sort of cellular damage and DNA damage/adaptation will result.  We know this more as cancer or some other weird disease.  


Current Understanding

There has been an amount of data research this century that lends weight to the idea that particular matter has a vast range of negative effects.  How it will show up is an individual response.  There are a host of considerations in trying to determine what our individual risk factors might be.  Think overall health status.  Any daily medications might suggest that the body has some functional issues.  Fatigue, sleep quality, diet, exercise level, emotional state.  All these things will be factors in whether your body can cope and stay healthy. 

We know that a major cause of infant mortality in Africa is related to cooking indoors over an open fire. The smaller lungs of a child/infant have less surface to distribute the pollutants, so they absorb more of the toxins. 

Once the particles are in the lungs then they will get into the blood during the CO2/O2 exchange.  Now in the blood they are free to go to every tissue in the body and cause mischief.  

There is powerful evidence that high P2.5 pollution levels are associated with mood/psychological disorders.  

Hospital admission data show that when particulate levels are higher there are more admissions for respiratory issues, heart attack and stroke.  In addition Kidney disease, UTI and skin infections also rise sharply.  The data suggests that increased particulate levels increase hospital admissions by 30%! 

DNA damage occurs when the cells are overwhelmed by toxins and the cellular environment causes DNA errors.  This is the start of a cancerous cell.  If your body is up to the task the immune system will detect the error and repair or replace the damaged cell.  If the system is distracted and overworked, then those cells being to multiply at an increasing rate. Now you have a tumour. 

Water for life

Enough of the BAD NEWS what's the GOOD NEWS?

Do the simple and obvious first.  Steam/moisture inhalation.  Steam - hot water in a bowl and then breath in the vapour.  You can't have a long hot shower at the moment - BOO.  An old trick a friend who flew for one of the airlines suggested lying on your bed with a wet flannel on your face.  Breathing through the damp cloth hydrated the nose mucosa.  

Wear a P2 mask if you're out in the smoke or dust

Drink lots of water.  I would say in excess of 2ltrs for most of us.  More if you're bigger - over 90kg or move a lot during the day. 

Do a detox.  Fruit / green veggies / sweat ( exercise or sauna ). 

Do a supplement supported detox.  This will really boost the process and get the body to clear the stressed organs, such as Kidney, Liver and Bowel.  

The particular matter can cross into the brain.  This is very bad.  It is vital to reduce systemic toxicity and get the pollutants out of the blood.  🩸 

What supplements could you use? 

An individual approach will give the best results.  Fresh organic green vegetables either whole or juiced will support detoxification. 

There are many supplements that will support the body to detoxify.  We would recommend a program that would address each of the key detox systems, the bowel, the liver and kidneys. 

Detox support

Logic of a System Detox

You might ask why the body won't just detox on it's own.  A number of individuals will be able to clear the particular toxins on their own over time.  Others will have greater difficulty, as a result of other factors.  If there is concurrent continuing toxic/pollutant exposure that will often queue jump the smoke toxicity.  The body generally works on a priority system.  Most important and easiest first.  

We know from years of clinical practice that the bowel is the tool for detox.  It will draw the toxicity from the body when it is clear.  If it is clogged/toxic in its lining, then that toxicity will circulate and greatly slow the detox process. There is a system link from bowel to lung in Chinese Medicine, and we have found that there is a relationship also. 

Exercise and deep breathing are also helpful.  Sweating is an old detox concept, so sweating exercise and sauna both have a place in a detox regime.  


Rebuild New Tissue

Whole body power exercise can generate great fitness

Rebuild - From the cells up 

Once you have done the detox, the next logical step is to assist the body to rebuild good quality tissue through out the body.  

The initial premise of this blog, was the medium term effects of the lung stress on coughs and colds this winter.  Beyond this winter there is a real concern expressed by peak bodies in medicine that we have no idea what the long term impact on community health will be.  We can look at professions that have been exposed to these P2 particles during their working life and see that there are severe health outcomes.  

It is up to each of us to look after our health and work to reduce the likelihood of future negative outcomes by acting now, before DNA damage and tissue adaptation occurs.  

A Hands on Superhealth comprehensive exam will also let your body show us where it stands and what is your best course of action.