Have you heard of oxidative stress? It is caused by pollution and toxic elements in the environment that have not yet neutralized on their own. The consequences can range from irritation and premature aging to organ damage and, at its worst, cancer.
Oxidative stress is the over-production of destructive reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the inability for the body’s natural antioxidant network to neutralize them before they do damage to the skin and other organs. The generation of ROS is caused by three components found in pollution: particulate matter, ozones, and aryl hydrocarbon receptors (AhR). Various gasses and particles from the atmosphere, emissions and exhaust from transportation, smoke from incinerators, burning waste, along with other pollutants from factories, asbestos, aerosols, chem-trails, and cigarette smoke are all contributing factors. We are continuously bombarded by irritants that fill our sinuses and throat, down to our bronchioles, which eventually makes it way into our lungs. Look at the devastating fires in California and you can see that air quality greatly impacts us and our general health.
That said, in Europe, one year of life expectancy is lost for every person exposed to particulate matter (PM) from air pollution. This is mostly due to the increased risk of heart and lung diseases. The effects of pollution on the skin increase the risk of skin cancer, skin sensitivity, premature skin aging, discoloration, dryness, dullness, and roughness.
A recent study done in Korea evaluated the effects of outdoor air pollutants in patients with chronic eczema. They found that air pollution was an aggravating factor for them.
Many doctors are quick to prescribe steroids and inhalers to treat respiratory diseases, like Asthma, Bronchitis, and COPD, but what if nutrition can help heal and mend our lungs? A study at The University of West Indies-St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago states: “Most users perceived that herbs were efficacious, and in some instances, more efficacious than conventional medicines.” According to the CDC, about 23% of U.S. adults still smoke cigarettes. Lung cancer is one of the leading types of cancer, as it kills more people per year than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. Quitting smoking is the first step in healing, but that’s not enough.
The good news is that there are ways to protect against the damage and repair what you’ve been exposed to in the past. Here are a few we swear by:
Vitamin A: This ingredient is also known as beta carotene, which is found in carrots and pumpkins. Vitamin A deficiency can cause changes in your immune system, making it harder to combat respiratory infections and diseases. Look for fruits and vegetables with Vitamin A like plums, mangos, peaches, grapefruit, lettuce, Swiss Chard, watermelon, tomatoes, and broccoli. It's also found in rosehip oil, the main ingredient in our holi(oil) and holi(body). You can shop for both here to prevent aging, smooth lines, and use in lieu of Retin-A. It’s safe for breastfeeding and pregnant women, but always consult your doctor first. Our holi (oil) ageless face serum and holi(body) ageless body serum is packed with vitamin-A rich rosehip oil.
Vitamin C: Smoking reduces vitamin C in your body by 25%. Diminished C levels can lead to a weakened immune system, insomnia, bruising, and bleeding gums. That said, vitamin C is found in fruits like papaya, kiwi, pineapple, mango, guava, and citrus fruits. It also helps to reduce nicotine cravings. This antioxidant-rich supplement can be used orally and topically. Rosehip is another ingredient we use that's loaded with vitamin c. Shop our vitamin c powder holi (c), holi(oil) ageless face serum, holi(body) ageless body serum to combat wrinkles, discoloration, acne, free radicals, and oxidative stress.
Vitamin E: Tocopherol, often found in foods as a preservative since it protects essential fats, helps to reduce the risk of lung tumors related to smoking Tobacco. It also helps to keep your skin healthy by fighting free radicals. Found in egg yolks, coconuts, rice, broccoli, lettuce, and brussels sprouts, Vitamin E is also in rice bran oil, an ingredient used consistently in our products. Specifically, it’s infused in our holi(oil) ageless face serum, holi(body) ageless body serum, and holi(skin) shave oil.
Vitamin B9: Folate not only helps regenerate blood cells and heal lungs after smoking, but it is also essential for your central nervous system and helps current smokers quit. Vitamin B9 is found in avocado, onions, garlic, nuts, strawberries, raisins, lemons, carrots, and pumpkins.
Calcium: Nicotine depletes calcium levels, which in turn impairs bone mass. Calcium is found in seeds, yogurt, and dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens.
Flavonoids: A group of polyphenols, flavonoids are the phytonutrients found in fruits and veggies that give them their amazing vibrant colors and are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Polyphenols neutralize free radicals due to oxidative stress and prevent damage. Flavonoids are found in onions, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, quinoa, tea, pears, parsley, bell peppers, celery, chili pepper, thyme, and tomatoes.
Anthocyanin: A type of flavonoid found in red, blue, and purple plant pigments like berries and apples, anthocyanins reduce the production of mucus and have been shown to improve symptoms of COPD as well as help slow the decline of lung health associated with aging. Anthocyanins are also found in cherries, red cabbage, cranberries, black currants, purple grapes, and purple potatoes.
Tryptophan: This amino acid is responsible for producing serotonin, which can help smokers quit smoking and reduce levels of anxiety associated with withdrawal symptoms. Tryptophans are found in seeds and nuts like pumpkin, sesame, chia, sunflower, flax, pistachios, oats, beans, lentils, and spirulina. You can take our adaptogen holi(youth) to get your day’s supply of spirulina.
Green Tea: This antioxidant includes high concentrations of polyphenols, which may inhibit tumor growth in the esophagus. Green tea treatment can increase enzymes in the detoxification pathway of environmental toxins and carcinogens and reduce the risk of cancer.
Pistachios: Due to their high gamma-tocopherol content, pistachios have been reported to help reduce the risk of developing lung cancer.
Raw Garlic: Allicin, a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, is garlic’s main bioactive compound. It is shown to have anti-carcinogenic effects and reduce inflammation and irritation in the lungs while minimizing damage caused by free radicals.
Calamus: To eliminate excess mucus and clear congestion in the bronchioles, calamus is used traditionally to treat asthma, bronchitis, and whooping cough. It is also effective in removing residual toxins in the lungs from cigarette smoking.
Catnip: To reduce anxiety and take the edge off when quitting smoking, catnip is helpful for digestion and alleviating headaches, which often emerge during the withdrawal stage.
Cat’s Claw Bark: With its amazing anti-inflammatory properties, cat's claw bark essentially “shuts off” tumor growth.
Ephedra: A notable decongestant with anti-inflammatory properties, ephedra is controversial because of its potential to raise heart rate and blood pressure. It is effective in treating lung-related illnesses and has been used for centuries to help breathing issues caused by mucus and inflammation of the lungs.
Grape Seed Extract: According to a study conducted at Ohio State University’s Heart and Lung Research Institute, this extract showed evidence of speeding up the healing process dramatically and repairing body tissues at a rapid rate.
Hyssop: With its expectorant properties and purification of the lungs, hyssop is often used to treat respiratory ailments. It also helps to relieve anxiety and calms the nervous system.
Mullein: Because of its high content of mucilage, saponins, antibiotic properties, and ability to promote cell growth and repair, mullein is the ideal herb for treating ailments surrounding the respiratory system. It also has expectorant properties and lubricates the lung and throat membranes to help reduce swelling and alleviate irritation from coughing. It has been used traditionally to treat respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis, asthma, croup, whooping cough, pneumonia, asthma, and tuberculosis.
Rhodiola: This powerful adaptogen is useful for reducing smoking withdrawal symptoms, as well as cortisol levels. It enhances mental performance and improves mood.
St John’s Wort: Helpful to expel mucus from the lungs and bronchial tracts, St John Wort, helps repair the damage in the lungs from years of smoking.
By Jena and Danielle Figueira
***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS, THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.