Boulder’s air quality has been all over the map this summer. Hazy, smokey days, even when the fires are not homegrown, are not as rare as they once were. As fires become more prevalent throughout the country, winds may bring smoke from just about anywhere; therefore, it is a good idea to know how to best support optimal respiratory health. If you can see it in the air, you are breathing it. It may be causing symptoms such as a stuffy nose and a frequent need to clear your throat. Accordingly, recent air quality reports suggest children stay inside – this, just as school is starting up, and just when they really need to be outdoors to blow off some steam. It can be a real real bummer! Here are some commonsense things you can do to increase the quality of air in your home during these times, as well as some herbal and nutritional safeguards you might want to know about. After all, we still need to move our bodies outside.

First of all, know your risks. Do you have a very young child in the home? If so, his/her lungs are not fully developed and so extra caution is in order. Do you have a lung disease, asthma, or other chronic lung condition? If so, proceed with caution. Even without these predisposing factors, anyone can suffer if breathing air with extra particulate in it. And with cold and flu season right upon us, the poor air quality can make individuals even more susceptible to germs going around.

Start with some common sense:

  • Check the air quality reports and recommendations (Colorado Air Quality or Weather Underground Air Quality Index), and use your own best judgement as to weather the risks outweigh the benefits for you or your children to recreate outdoors. Also, consider how long and how much exertion you are comfortable with given the air quality.
  • When the air quality is poor, consider closing your windows. If you have forced air and are able, turn on the fan so that the air is run through the furnace filter. Use the highest quality air filter you can. Look into the highest filtration 3M Filtrete filters.
  • If you don’t have forced air (or even if you do), consider purchasing an air purifier. These can range greatly in quality, price, and volume. Here are some options:
    • Austin Air & EnviroKlenz both sell a variety of top notch air purifiers – from single-room purifiers to whole house air purifiers. These are an investment, yet, if you suffer from respiratory health issues, worth the money.
    • Guardian Technologies GermGaurdian is a useful more economical option for a single room: Lightweight and easy to move from room to room as needed.

Herbal approaches you can take today to support respiratory health:

  • Drink a tea daily that supports respiratory health, such as Breathe Deep by Yogi Tea.
  • Use Lavender and Eucalyptus oils in a diffuser (for 10 years and older).
  • Use elderberry syrup by the spoonful or mixed in water for a tasty drink.

Nutritional approaches to respiratory health:

  • Consume a mineral rich diet heavy in fruits and vegetables.
  • Reduce or eliminate any known food sensitivities/allergies that could contribute to congestion and inflammation.

Lastly, exercise and breath work are actually in order, even outdoors, if your routine calls for it. Rigorous exercise dilates airways and helps us clear our lungs of particulate when we cough. Regular deep breathing exercises help us maintain the full working capacity of our lungs.

So, if you can, go ahead and take a deep breath right now. If you are struggling with the air quality and would like support beyond these simple measures, I can help.

Call today to make an appointment: 720-340-0193

Even the best-intentioned parents can get burned out on this never-ending school-year task. And with all of the allergies in the classrooms, you might have a challenge getting your child a yummy snack they will eat, not to mention something appropriately balanced to meet their nutritional needs, healthy, and also, safe for their peers. Fortunately, this article should help. We know a healthy diet is critical to optimal learning and getting things done, yet it also helps with other executive functions like organization and decision making.

First tip, only offer foods that you really want your kids to be eating. If you don’t want them eating something, don’t buy it and keep it in the house. While in our house we are omnivores, I do not stock much in the way of “snacky” foods: crackers, chips, puffed things, pretzels – these foods, when they are in our home – disappear quickly. Kids, like many adults, love the quick hit of a simple carb (yet it is important to remember, they turn to sugar in the body).

(Resource: Here is a fun class coming up with Laura McCall at The Birth Center – Foodies For Life!)

I counsel all my patients to have a little bit of protein every time they eat in order to increase satisfaction and maintain optimal blood sugar. This extends to snacks for our kids. Good choices for classroom friendly proteins include: seed butters, cheeses, greek yogurt, leftover meat, nitrate-free deli meats, summer sausage, or jerky.

If I could, I would always stick to fresh foods, but I know that convenient, non-perishables sometimes win. When I buy pre-packed non-perishable snacks, I let my kids know they are for away-from-home snacks, and not to eat them at home. Instead we stick to fresh foods, even when we go out as a family on excursions. Creative and portable home-packaging, like reusable wax cloth or metal containers, will work for most fresh items. I like to have fruits and veggies readily available, and accompanying complementary proteins (see above). My no-brainer school snack looks like this: fruit + veggie + protein (see photo). A common question that I get is about snack bars. They are almost universally shockingly loaded with carbs and have relatively little protein.

Lunches can be tricky too, so just keep it simple. Honestly, dinner leftovers make the best school lunches. Yet, my kids don’t like leftovers for lunch, which is fine because I love them ;-). Sometimes my kids have packed sammies with lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, shredded carrots, cheese or meat – mmmm! Other times, I take the ingredients of a sandwich and put them in separately, like little appetizers, adding up to a complete meal. As long as it is well-balanced and has veggies and protein, I let them eat what they want, and it is usually pretty simple. A great benefit to packing lunches for kids is that when they get home, they can finish what they didn’t eat at lunch, before grabbing a new snack from the fridge. This will also reduce food waste.

A word on school hot lunches: It is a good idea to offer your child some control and choice. Years ago, I started letting my kids look at the school lunch calendar and pick out what day they wanted to eat a school lunch. Last October, my mom passed away and some of my “what should the kids eat at school tomorrow” bandwidth just fell by the wayside. As a result, my kids ate hot lunches for almost the entire year last year. I am grateful that we have such a good lunch program where I live. I often inquired what they had for lunch, and at least at the elementary level, my son was sent back on more than one occasion to get another “food color” or to choose a protein…to my absolute delight! These are things that our kids have learned at home, and it is wonderful to see them reinforced at school. Still, taking the time to pack food for your child (or letting them pack it with your guidance or within your guidelines), feels right and offers all the benefits discussed above, not the least being optimal nutrition. However, if you need to use the school lunch program, here in Boulder Valley anyway, we have it pretty good. Coach your kids at home to make good choices on their own. And then relax about it.

What is chlorine and why do we use it?

Chlorine is a disinfectant commonly used in water treatment facilities as well as pools. The benefit of chlorine is that our drinking water is free of potentially deadly bacteria and pathogens, and our swimming pools are not the petri dish of germs they would be otherwise.

Is chlorine safe?

There is a cost to this level of sanitation. As it turns out, when chlorine reacts with pathogens and other compounds found in pool water such as urine and residues from bodycare products, volatile organic compounds are formed (VOCs). VOCs are lung and eye irritants (think about being at the indoor pool) and are thought to increase the risk of cancer. (Note: VOCs are also present in water treated with bromine and saline to different extents.) Chlorine also reacts with your skin and hair and stays with you for days despite regular bathing, further oxidizing hair and skin. Additionally, consuming chlorinated tap water is linked with an increase in reproductive risks for pregnant women.

What you can do to protect yourself and your family from the negative effects of chlorine

While a perfect solution is not available, there are many easy things you can do to protect yourself and your children from the harmful effects of chlorine:

  • Use a carbon filter or better for your drinking water. They are readily available, inexpensive, and easy to maintain. For more information, see the Environmental Working Group’s Water Filter Buying Guide.
  • Swim in fresh open water in the summer if you have access to a clean, safe watering hole.
  • Choose an outdoor pool when that feels like a good option, because the VOCs dissipate more readily outdoors.
  • Shower and use the toilet before entering the pool. The VOCs aren’t from the chlorine, but from the chlorine reacting with bodycare products and urine in the pool. Train your kids to get out of the pool to pee ;-).
  • When done swimming in any pool water, use Swim Spray, a vitamin C spray that washes away the coating of chemicals left on your skin after swimming in treated water. (Note: As with any spray products, be careful not to inhale it or get it in your eyes or mouth.)
  • Know that we are better off swimming in treated pools than in a petri dish, or even not at all. Swimming is an iconic summertime activity and can be an excellent form of exercise year-round!

Be safe and have fun!

Call to set an appointment with me: 720-340-0193

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Despite being a beautiful time of year (check out this picture of my crabapple tree!), this time of year many people suffer with seasonal allergies. A few common-sense approaches can help.

  1. REDUCE YOUR EXPOSURE: If you can minimize exposure to the substances you are allergic to, then you can minimize symptoms, including your histamine levels. Allergy sufferers should consider these household strategies:
    • IN THE BEDROOM:
      • Keep windows closed
      • Keep bedroom especially clean & door closed
      • Do not allow pets in room
      • Use a HEPA air filter in the bedroom
    • Frequent damp dusting throughout the house & vacuuming with a vacuum that uses a HEPA filter
    • Keep windows closed during high pollen times
    • Use the highest filtration HVAC filter
    • Bathe (including washing hair) before bed
    • Remove shoes when entering home
    • Plan outdoor/exercise time around high pollen predictions. Check pollen.com.
    • Change clothes and wash face immediately after outdoor exercise or activity
    • Nasal irrigation with a neti pot (or other method) helps to wash away dust and pollen that have accumulated in your sinuses throughout the day, reducing symptoms of allergic rhinitis, the stuffed up nose that comes with many allergies.
  2. MINIMIZE OTHER SOURCES OF INFLAMMATION
    • Eliminate known food allergies or sensitivities
    • Eliminate sugar & dairy during the allergy season, as these are the two most common inflammatory foods.
  3. SUPPLEMENT PROTOCOLS to moderate the immune system and reduce inflammation can be helpful as well. Some common supplements I use with my patients include:
    • Probiotics – Some unhealthy microbes in your gut can produce histamine. Support healthy diversity in your gut microbiome.
    • Quercitin
    • Vitamin C
    • Stinging nettles
    • Fish oil

Over the counter medications may help but are notorious for not working as well as advertised and leave many people feeling groggy.

For the latest information on how seasonal allergies affect mental health, keep an eye out for my upcoming post on the Postpartum Wellness Center/Boulder’s blog.

Call to set an appointment with me: 720-340-0193

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