For weeks now, wildfires have raged along the west coast of the USA, polluting the air in several states and their major cities. As the smoke clears in Portland, you may be wondering how you can clear the airborne debris from your system. 

The good news is that your body will do most of the work for you, but there are a number of steps you can take to help the healing processes along. Improving your home air quality, clearing your lungs of polluted mucus (we know, gross), and some simple changes to your diet and exercise can all improve your body’s recovery.

Improve your household air quality

Continuing to take in harmful pollutants slows your body’s autonomous healing processes. While you might not have control of the air quality outside, improving your household air can give your lungs, heart, and other major organs a chance to “catch their breath.” Some solutions are more effective than others, some more expensive, but ultimately your home’s location and layout will determine what works best for you.

Clean your house and open your windows.
Ventilate your home with fresh outdoor air when you can. Vacuum porous surfaces like carpets, couches, or curtains. Remove particulate buildup on flat surfaces (floors, walls, counters, ect.) with a chemical sponge to prevent it from becoming airborne again. Make sure to wear proper PPE during this measure.
Buy an air purifier.

While one of the pricier options on this list, a HEPA air filter is the most reliable and effective way to remove pollution and other toxins from your home. Check out the EPA’s home air filter guide here.

Diffuse essential oils.
Essential oils from certain plants like the tea tree, thyme, clove, eucalyptus, and rosemary have antimicrobial or antibiotic properties. Diffusing these oils into your household can reduce airborne bacteria or dust mites that impair your system. Plus, your house will smell better.

Remove Excess Mucus

Though there’s no reliable procedure to directly remove pollutants from lung or sinus tissue, we do know that inhaling smoke for an extended period increases mucus production. Our lungs contain small hair-like organelles called Cilia, which when functioning properly sweep out fluids, smoke debris, and pollutants. Overproduction of mucus hinders this process, so removing some of this fluid from the lungs can improve their recovery speed.

Some ways to clear out excess mucus

Steam treatments

Steam treatments can provide temporary relief from symptoms of air pollution, as well as loosen mucus collecting in lungs and air passageways. You can perform this method at home with just a pot of hot water and a towel. Adding a tablespoon or two of thyme to the boiling water is sometimes recommended, due again to the herb’s antimicrobial and antiviral properties.

Neti Pot

A nasal wash can clear excess or polluted mucus from these cavities, preventing further absorption, irritation, and inflammation. Netti pots are a traditional, cheap method of sinus rinse, and can be purchased at your local grocery store or pharmacy.

Controlled Coughing/Postural Drainage/Chest Percussion

These methods use a combination of the body’s natural expectorate functions, gravity, and vibration to dislodge stubborn mucus and expunge it. Most of these exercises are simple enough to perform on your own.

Maintain Your Diet and Exercise

Since internal recovery from air pollution is primarily an automatic process our bodies handle on their own, sustaining healthy eating habits and a regular exercise regime are fundamental steps to support your immune responses. 

Here are some specific ways to clean air pollutants from the body via nutrition and fitness.

Drink water.

Big shock, but proper hydration is important. Pollutants are small enough to enter the bloodstream and travel to other organs. Drinking enough water is imperative to flushing these particles out the way your body intends.

Get some aerobic exercise.

Almost all exercise is beneficial to immune support, but aerobic exercise (aka cardio) increases breathing and heart rate, resulting in improved blood flow and oxygenation to your organs. 

While there are many products and supplements marketed to “detox” your system, few are FDA approved or clinically effective, and many have negative health consequences

Switch to a whole food/vegetarian/vegan diet.

A diet rich in fiber, minerals, healthy fats, antioxidants, and protein can promote your body’s natural detoxification. Avoid toxin-laden, highly processed, and sugar-heavy foods, as well as those that increase mucus production.

 Let us serve you locally sourced, portion-controlled meals made with whole ingredients.

While there are many products and supplements marketed to ‘detox’ your system, few are FDA approved or clinically effective, and many have negative health consequences

There is no quick fix to remove pollutants from your body, but by improving your household air quality, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, and clearing excess mucus buildup,  you can support the automatic cleaning processes of the lungs, liver, and bloodstream and reduce additional pollutant intake.