Long term exposure to toxic air can damage your airways and traumatise your lungs, allowing free radicals to multiply and pollutants to affect your various body systems, even penetrating your brain. More and more evidence is emerging showing a connection between high levels of pollution particulates and cognitive decline. Although the jury is still out, the connection with ever increasing levels of Alzheimer's and dementia is looking harder than ever to dispute.
Air pollution health statistics
A report from the Royal College of Physicians in 2016 estimated that pollution caused up to 40,000 premature deaths each year, linking it to cancer, heart disease, asthma, diabetes and obesity. We all have to breathe to stay alive – so how to escape if the ‘fresh air’ we were all told was so good for our lungs is slowly ‘toxifying’ us?
Don't despair, because if the air that you breathe can cause you harm, the same routes can be used to renew and repair that damage. Energised air can make you stronger, in mind and in body.
I really notice the difference in the mountains, where the clear pure air re-invigorates and restores. I find myself breathing more slowly and much more deeply and the additional oxygen gives me a natural high that can last for days even when I descend to the greyer, oxygen deprived air of the capital.
Communist countries in and around the Baltic area have a multitude of spas that deal exclusively with respiratory illnesses. They are usually set on the edge of pristine lakes and seas and the sole treatment (because they are usually broke and their health budget almost non-existent) consists of sitting outside and breathing the fresh air in, slowly and deeply, until the body rebalances its oxygen levels and hopefully restores the patient to vibrant health. TB clinics, when that disease was rife, were similarly stationed in the high altitudes of the mountains of Switzerland and Austria, and the thinking was much the same. Get sufficient oxygen into your lungs and the body starts to repair itself.
I have visited several Baltic health spas and tried their clinical oxygen systems, which bubble oxygenated air up into your lungs. This involves sitting in a chair for 40 minutes or so, with a cannula (a clear plastic tube) fitted behind your ears and with a small piece of breathing tube up your nose. The machine floods your lungs with pure oxygen (100% oxygen rather than the 20% you get from normal daily breathing), and as you breathe slowly and deeply in and out, it suffuses deep into your blood and is taken round the body, breathing life into the very cells, strengthening them and giving you a boost of pure energy. I come out invigorated, with my brain clear as a bell.
The concept is fast spreading in the West. In the US now, not only do you have nail bars, blow dry bars, juice bars and IV bars, but the latest craze on the East and West coasts are O2 bars. You can buy slots, from 5 minutes to 20 minutes, that will sort your pollution problems, relieve any headaches and allergies and give you a rush of energy that lasts the rest of the week.
Time to buy a nebuliser?
An expedition to a Black Sea resort is possibly not at the top of your list, and personally I find an endless diet of cabbage and potatoes undermines the whole experience of wellbeing. Experiencing a place where air pollution is not an issue is, however, remarkable. And memorable. And getting harder to find. But the equivalent answer is the simple nebulizer, an inexpensive machine that you can buy and use at home, infusing your lungs and brain with healing oxygen to up your anti-oxidant levels, and combining it with other substances that re-invigorate and repair. A clear plastic tube connects the nebulizer to a compressor which forces oxygen to flow at high speed through a liquid medicine, converting it into a fine mist that can then penetrate deep into your lungs.
A decade ago, I nearly bought one for myself, but somehow never actually got round to it. Times are different now, with pollution levels rising, and health issues increasing in tandem, and I am reconsidering. I am sure the reason for my own shallow breathing is that I am so conscious of all the toxins in London's declining quality of air that I forbid myself from letting any of it deep into my lungs to pollute me. Problem is, it's a catch 22 situation - low oxygen being the trigger for numerous health issues.
What should you nebulise?
For people with lung problems - pneumonia, asthma, inflammation, emphysema or cystic fibrosis, - or even for coughs, colds and flu, air pollution really doesn't help. A nebuliser is a painless way of getting medications deep into the lungs, easing the conditions and helping them to regenerate and heal at a rapid rate. Scientific tests have shown that nebulization is just as effective as certain drugs, with the added benefit of no side effects. Adding glutathione reduces oxidative stress, decreases inflammation, and modulates T cell responses in the lungs. Magnesium, sodium bicarbonate, colloidal silver and hydrogen peroxide are additional nebulizing options for breathing problems. Check with your naturopath or doctor if they have a nebuliser in their clinic and can recommend an 'add-on' that would be appropriate for your symptoms.
Where to buy a nebuliser
Check too if their prescription is something you can self-treat at home. What you are looking for if you Google to buy your own on the internet, are the inexpensive jet nebulizers priced usually between £30-£50. Then there are the slightly more expensive ultrasonic nebulizers that do the same thing only more silently. Beurer produce a good range, as does Omron. Your doctor will explain precisely how to use it, and the appropriate dosage of whatever he or she prescribes.
However bad the air pollution gets, take care of your lungs, and they, hopefully, will take care of you.