Air quality is deteriorating rapidly. Add to that the increasing pollution caused by winter smog. While we cannot wish this reality away, we can take some preventative measures, one such being reducing exposure to pollutants and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Certain foods can play a huge role in boosting respiratory health by providing immunity and lowering inflammation. Some of these are carrots, herbs like thyme and oregano, cayenne pepper, garlic, cold-pressed coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil, ginger, cardamom and pineapple. These foods also help expel excess mucus, decongest the chest, and cleanse the lungs.
You can also make yourself a brew. Take one tsp turmeric, some crushed ginger, two peppercorns, a dash of cayenne pepper, one pod of crushed garlic, one clove and one crushed cardamom. Add all these in four cups of water till it reduces to half and then strain it. Have it warm with jaggery or raw honey. You can also add lemon juice to the brew.
Wear it well
Wear natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, and bamboo to enable your skin to breathe. You must wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth properly, especially if you are in a city with high pollution. You can wrap a scarf around your head to avoid any direct exposure to pollution. A full-faced helmet for people who ride two-wheelers is helpful.
Maintain a holistic lifestyle
1. Do your best to avoid any additional exposure to pollutants and airborne chemicals like smoking. Both active and passive smoking is harmful.
2. Respiratory cleansing in the form of pranayama techniques such anulom vilom, bhastrika and kapalbhati help. In yoga, they’re called shuddhi kriyas for good reason as they help in detoxification. Please note that the exhale should be longer than the inhale, preferably in the ratio of 1:2 (inhale: exhale), for maximum benefits.
3. Avoid common mucus-forming foods such as dairy, sugar, gluten and fried foods. Cucumbers and yoghurt may not suit some of you either. Ajwain (Bishop’s weed) works well in expelling mucus. You can use the age-old remedy of ajwain potli as a natural nebuliser. Steam inhalations with turmeric powder and a few drops of eucalyptus/pine oil work well.
4. Get some indoor air-purifying plants. Some of the NASA-approved plants are aloe vera, snake plant, bamboo palm, corn plant, Chinese evergreen and areca palm.
7. Invest in an air humidifier that adds moisture to the air to prevent dryness and irritation. Getting an air filter will help as well. The activated charcoal in these air filters absorbs allergens and pollutants, throwing out clean air.
8. Exercising regularly helps build lung capacity that helps combat the side effects of winter smog.
Coutinho practises in the field of Holistic Nutrition - Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine, Founder of Luke Coutinho Holistic Healing Systems