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Negative Health Impacts of Wildfire Smoke: What we can learn from firefighter data

Last year satellite images showed a massive smoke cloud covering all of California. This year is going to be no exception.

If you live on the west coast, you're bound to be exposed to more smoke pollution than the rest of the population. Because of this, it’s vital that you are supporting your body and cells even MORE than you typically would.

As a firefighter’s wife, I love working with other firefighters to optimize their health. I look to firefighter studies and data to investigate health risk factors to create their unique health protocols. But this data really applies to all of us because of the similar, if not worse, toxic smoke exposure we experience living in wildfire-prone areas.

All areas affected by wildfires could benefit from these protocols I create specifically for firefighter clients because the abnormally high levels of toxin exposure can cause acute damage and chronic illness.

Health Risks From Wildfire Smoke

What can we learn from looking at firefighter health, to get you through a summer that's sure to be smoky?

Firefighters have an increased risk of cancer, but if you are living in an area with heavy seasonal wildfires (California and Colorado, I'm looking at you), so do you!

Particulates & volatile organic compounds from wildfire smoke travel deep into the lungs, causing irritation and widespread inflammation, contributing to the manifestation of cancers and disease states. ⁣With so much acreage burning in these states, there is no escaping the reaches of smoke pollution if you live in these areas. ⁣The hazards are even worse for our thousands of brave firefighters battling the blaze.

In fact, a review and meta-analysis of 32 studies looking at cancer risk among firefighters showed that firefighters were at a greater risk for multiple myeloma (cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called plasma cells) and that they have a greater association with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, prostate, and testicular cancer. Another study showed an association with kidney, brain, and bladder cancer.

This is partly because firefighters are exposed to harmful toxins from the fire scene. They come in contact with dangerous smoke inhalation, and various gases that may have acute, toxic effects.

Constantly being exposed to pollution from wildfire smoke is very concerning in the eyes of a functional healthcare provider. If these chemicals accumulate in your body, they can cause imbalances and dysfunction in your normal processes.

When this happens, these dysfunctions can manifest into more serious health issues like cancers and chronic illnesses.

And take into consideration that these studies are based on the average firefighter toxin exposure. Some portions of the population (like those struggling with wildfires) are being exposed to toxic levels that exceed those in these studies.

So, what do you do if you live in an area where wildfires are occurring, but you want to keep your health in tip-top shape? Here are my recommendations as a functional health expert and as a firefighter’s wife!

Top Health Tips to Resist Wildfire Smoke Effects

Sauna to Combat Wildfire Smoke

Hopping in the sauna a couple of times a week can help with detoxification, boost your mitochondria biogenesis, reduce pain and inflammation, and enhance vagal response (and get you out of that fight or flight mode). They are PERFECT for combating the negative effects of wildfire smoke! You can check out my previous blog to read up on the numerous benefits of the sauna. If you want an in-home sauna, I highly recommend the Therasage! This is the one we have in our home and we love it.

Vitamin C for Preventing Wildfire Health Risks

Vitamin C helps prevent DNA damage from the extra oxidative stress occurring in your body and reduces airway inflammation. Vitamin C is found abundantly in fresh citrus and other fruits & vegetables. If you are going to supplement, smaller frequent doses are best for this one since your body can only absorb so much at one time.

N-Acetyl-L-Cystine Helps Firefighter Health

NAC is an important supplement for boosting levels of glutathione, the master antioxidant, and is a key player in detoxification pathways.⁣ Because you’re exposed to toxins more frequently, you'll want optimal glutathione levels to fight off any free radicals that are formed from inhaling toxic fumes and to encourage toxic chemicals to get out of your body.

Sulforaphane for Battling Wildfire Consequences

We all know firefighter's lungs aren’t the best-looking lungs and yours may not be too far off. However, the good news is that sulforaphane, a compound found abundantly in broccoli seeds and sprouts, can help prevent lung damage by activating Nrf-2 defense response.⁣

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is found to stimulate lung cell repair while reducing lung cell death.⁣ Vitamin D is made in our bodies in response to sun exposure, or we can get it from supplementation (but Vitamin D from the sun is the best!).

Vitamin E & Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Vitamin E and Omega 3 fatty acids can help reduce the oxidative stress and inflammatory cascade triggered by air pollution and wildfire smoke. You can find omega 3 fatty acids in fatty cold-water fish, like salmon, sardine, Atlantic mackerel, cod, and herring. Vitamin E can be found in sunflower seeds, almonds, peanut butter, collard greens, spinach, and pumpkin.

Intermittent Fasting for Enhancing Detoxification

Our cells simply do not function at their best in a fully fed state. When fasted, our cells increase the rate of detoxification of toxic chemicals. The easiest way to fast is to finish up dinner around 6 pm (no night snacking!) and then eat breakfast around 8 am. This way, you can fast for 14 hours without having to be awake for most of it!

If you are a firefighter, fasting while you are on your shift is not recommended. Try fasting on off hours. When you work with me, I’ll find the ideal way to apply fasting to your unique situation so you have the necessary support and energy for the short term, for those intense calls, and for the long term when diseases commonly start to manifest.

Use Functional Health to Overcome Wildfire Health Consequences

Do you live in a smoky region where wildfires are occurring? Do you need help detoxing from your exposures and ensure a long life of health? Fill out an application to work with me, Jessica Meyers.

I am committed to reducing wildfire health risks for health clients and firefighters recovering from the toxic effects of smoke. I can help you optimize your health through functional lab testing, diet, lifestyle, and supplement recommendations.

Are you a firefighter? Be sure to mention it on your new client application for an exclusive firefighter discount!

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