Air Pollution: A Toxic Stew

Air pollution consists of toxic chemicals in the air that put health at risk. Air pollution can be of natural causes-like wildfires.  But more commonly, it results from human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels.  It can include gases ( carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone) as well as heavy metals and particulate matter.  The smaller the particles, the easier it is for them to get lodged in your lungs.

Poor air quality is associated with exacerbations of auto-immune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.  In fact, a study in 2003 found a fourfold higher risk of multiple sclerosis relapse on days when the concentration of particulate air pollution was in the highest quartile.  Air pollution may drive inflammation by increasing oxidative stress, and causing free radicals to form in the lungs. 

How can you protect yourself?  Here’s a list of ways to keep pollution at bay:

Invest in a high quality Hepa air filter that removes outdoor air pollution as well as indoor air contaminants from carpets, paints, dust and animal dander. 

Avoid smoking indoors (or at all)

Remove carpeting

Remove your shoes at the front door

Vacuum and dust frequently

Wash bedding in hot water once a week

Avoid scented candles, air fresheners, and incense with synthetic fragrance

Maintain indoor plants which help detoxify the air in your living space.

Food can play a role in the detoxifying the inhaled chemicals from air pollution. Turmeric has many anti-inflammatory properties, and can help protect the lungs from the toxic effect of pollutants. Flaxseed are packed not only with omega-3 fatty acids, but also have phytoestrogens, antioxidants that help reduce asthma and allergic reactions in the lungs. Cruciferous vegetables ( cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, arugula, and turnips) dramatically boost detoxification enzymes in the liver-otherwise known as secondary conjugation-help your body naturally rid itself of potentially harmful chemicals.

Kitchen-Prescription Recipe:

This simple recipe combines cruciferous cabbage with dill for a flavorful and satisfying soup.

bunch of bok choi
Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on

Cabbage Dill Soup


One small head of green cabbage, core removed, and sliced into quarter inch strips

One cup of chopped fresh dill

One quart of organic chicken stock

One medium onion, chopped into a quarter inch dice

3 tablespoons of olive oil

Sea salt for seasoning

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sliced cabbage, and cook over medium heat for approximately five minutes, or until the cabbage is wilted and the onion is translucent. Add the stock and dill, and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes-the cabbage should be meltingly soft. Season to taste with sea salt, and serve hot.

Medical Mentions:

Broccoli, among other cruciferous vegetables, contains sulforaphane, an anti-carcinogentic compound rich in vitamin c. Sulforaphane is a powerful phytochemical found in all cruciferous vegetables.  It neutralizes toxins by canceling out free radicals, tiny particles that weaken and damage healthy cells.  It also reduces inflammation by neutralizing toxins, and is a powerful inducer of our own detoxification enzymes.

When cooking cruciferous vegetables, roast or steam these powerhouse veggies to retain most of their plants nutrients.  

One Comment Add yours

  1. berkeley18 says:

    very interesting

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