Nancy Burton L.Ac.

Dealing with Smoke

It’s that time of year. Smoke fills the sky – and your lungs if you aren’t wearing a mask. I see so many people out and about without masks on. “It’s just like sitting around a camp fire.” I hear all too often. Except it’s not! Aside from grass and trees burning, there are chemicals from houses, including asbestos, chemicals from burning cars, and chemicals from the flame retardants used to douse the fires. Even too much wood smoke isn’t good for the lungs. Ask anyone who’s heated with a wood burning stove how often they have to wash and repaint their walls. Anything that can coat walls can also affect the lungs.

Ace Hardware, Bi-Mart and the Food Co-op are a few places in town to get good masks. If you purchase the kind with the little plastic ventilator in front it’s easier to breath, not as hot, and doesn’t fog up your glasses. I went online, googled anti-pollution masks, and ordered one that’s washable, with replaceable filters, a more contoured fit for my chin, and adjustable elastic bands around the ears. It’s much more comfortable than the paper mask I’d been using.

What else can you do?

A good air purifier in the house really makes a difference. You can research the good ones online and read the reviews. If you can’t afford one that covers most of your house, you can get a smaller one and move it around.

A special filter for your furnace/air conditioning is also a good idea. In months of thick smoke, change your filter every month. You can also position your air purifier by the outside door when you’re coming and going.

Try to enter your house in a way that doesn’t afford direct access for the smoke, such as through a garage. Of course if you’re opening the garage doors to drive your car in this doesn’t work. If you don’t have a good alternative entrance you might position a fan inside your door to blow smoke out as you enter.

Rinse your nose out with warm sea salt water at night, or after you’ve been outside for an extended time. You can use a Nettie Pot or just snort the salt water from the palm of your hand.

Especially if you’re having problems with the smoke, remember to wash your hair before bed, so you aren’t breathing in the smoke and chemicals all night long. If you’re not showering and washing your hair each night it’s a good idea to wash your pillowcases and sheets more often. Also launder your clothes more often to rid them of smoke residue.

Eat a wide range of colors and textures of vegetables, three times a day, to kick in the second phase of liver detoxification that pushes toxins out of your body.

If at least half your diet is vegetables your body is more alkaline than acidic. Since nothing works well in an acidic environment this is especially important when your body is dealing with additional stress, such as smoke. Remember fruit and everything else we eat, with the exception of vegetables, makes our bodies acidic.

This time of year it’s more appropriate to eat more raw vegetables, fruit and other damp foods. (You can access my article on Damp Foods online on the LocalsGuide website. Just put in my name in the search bar to access all my articles.) As dry as it is out, damp foods help our bodies balance our internal moisture. Just don’t over do it. That said, dairy, one of the dampest foods there is, is dead food and therefore difficult to digest. It has to be pasteurized (cooked to death) to be sold in stores. The exception is certain types of raw cheese. Any food that’s difficult to digest places strain not only on our digestive system, but on our immune systems. Dairy causes a huge amount of phlegm. So even organic dairy should be an occasional treat. People who have difficulty breathing, runny noses, a cough, allergies, asthma, lung illness or disease, or are discharging colored phlegm should avoid dairy altogether.

When forced to hibernate it’s more important than ever to exercise. An inside routine, such as walking up and down stairs, or just walking in place while swinging your arms and legs, helps your lymph system to pump out toxins. You can engage in walking movement while watching TV. Exercise also strengthens your lungs.

I went online and got a ‘Sunny Health’ Twister Stepper. It’s small, inexpensive and provides a great work out. I like to use it while reading. I also use my stepper while working out with light weights to combine upper and lower muscle toning and bone building. Of course the more you can get to the gym the better. If you’re too tired to exercise, that’s your body’s way of asking for help. Get in to see me to figure out what you can do to resolve your fatigue.

Getting outside is still important. We need the sunshine for natural vitamin D and to keep depression at bay. Nothing takes the place of real sunshine. Keep an eye on the air quality index at ( The website is self-explanatory. Just enter your zip code and town in the search box and the website gives hourly updates for your locale. Or just take a look at the surrounding hills to check the smoke density. Mornings and evenings are usually cooler in Ashland. When cool enough, the air circulates and can lift the smoke to give us a break. We also need to take advantage of the occasional wind that blows the smoke away from us. Get outside when the smoke rating is moderate or less. Walking in the park, with all the trees, provides some natural filtering. The flowing water from the creek cools the air a bit and provides additional air movement to aid in some smoke dissipation in the immediate vicinity. Not a lot, but every bit helps.

Drink plenty of filtered water. This also aids your body to detoxify. When it is hot outside it’s appropriate to drink cool or cold water. Just not while eating as it impairs digestion, especially when the water is cold.

Cucumbers, watermelon, mint and raw foods cool the body. Using food to help regulate our body temperature conserves energy that can be used for other functions in the body and provide stamina for us.

If you’re having trouble with the smoke get in to see me to get support for your lungs; to regenerate your lung lining, alleviate phlegm, and strengthen your body’s ability to detoxify.




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Nancy Burton, L.Ac. is a Licensed Acupuncturist. She incorporates Acupuncture, Herbs, Tui Na (Chinese Medicinal Massage), Homeopathics, Nutritional Supplements, Muscle Testing, and Nutritional Counseling and Therapy in her practice. Her goal is to give patients the tools they need to achieve and maintain good health.

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