Happy, Healthy Breathing! This week is all about improving the quality of the air we breathe. Think of it this way- a person can roughly go three weeks without food, three days without water, and three minutes without air. An average American breathe 2 gallons of air per minute which means around 3400 gallons of air each day. So it’s pretty critical to our living well. Here are our top 10 important tips about surrounding yourself with clean Air: “If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” ― Amit Ray, Om Chanting and Meditation 1. Deep breathing is the easiest thing you can do to change your state of being right now. Deep breathing enhances immunity by eliminating toxins. While the heart is the pump for the vascular system, the lymphatic system has no real pump-it depends upon movement and breath for stimulation. Properly used, the lungs act as sort of a suction pump for the lymphatic system. Breathing helps to burn calories by better oxygenating the blood, strengthens weak abdominal and intestinal muscles, is alkalizing to the body, and removes 70% the body’s waste products (including fat!). Breathing through your nose is even better. The nose has a 4 stage filtration system. By breathing into the mouth you go straight to stage 4. This easily results in sore throats, tonsillitis, and even ear infections. Simply by practicing a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing for a few minutes each day, you can help restore imbalances in your brain, improve sleep, calm your emotional state and your nervous system, and boost your thinking. Step one: Use right thumb to close off right nostril. Step two: Inhale slowly through left nostril. Step three: Pause for a second. Step four: Now close left nostril with ring finger and release thumb off right nostril. Step five: Exhale through your right nostril. Step six: Now, inhale through right nostril. Step seven: Pause. Step eight: Use thumb to close of right nostril. Step nine: Breathe out through left nostril. Step ten: This is one round. Start slowly with 1 or 2 rounds and gradually increase. Never force. Sit quietly for a few moments after you have finished. 2. Pollution is affecting your lungs as we speak. The most hazardous pollutants are released from the air and less from the water and land together. 80% of lung diseases are caused due to pollution from other cars, buses, trucks and other vehicles. The best ways to reduce air pollution are by walking and riding bicycles. Electric vehicles produce less air pollutants because they stir up dirt but without producing gases. The most common source of man-made air pollution outdoors is the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, in power stations, industries, homes and road vehicles. Other sources include chemical, fertilizer and paper manufacture, and waste incineration. Procter & Gamble recently released a report that polluted air can contain over 200 chemicals that age the skin. This becomes a big issue in larger cities with more pollutants. As more and more children are diagnosed with attention disorders, air pollution could be a factor. One study suggests that it is the mother’s exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)—emitted by burning fossil fuels—that is the main issue; A new study looks at how unborn children exposed to high levels of pollutants in car exhaust are 5 times more likely to develop an attention disorder by age 9. Ambient air pollution can include natural and man-made sources too. Natural outdoor air pollution includes oxides of sulphur and nitrogen from volcanoes, oceans, biological decay, lightning strikes and forest fires, VOCs, and pollen from plants, grasses and trees, and particulate matter from dust storms. Paints (which should never be stored open inside the house) release trace amounts of gases for months after application, which are called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). You can buy no or low VOC paints that leave out the toxic formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. When using varnishes, lacquers, sealers, and waxes, have an exhaust fan running. Lead-based paints also can damage your health if you inhale paint dust after sanding, scraping, peeling, chipping, or chalking. And today’s pollen is more potent. More carbon dioxide due to climate change means that some plants-including plants with common allergens, such as ragweed-are thriving. More carbon helps ragweed build proteins and fats that make pollen and those proteins multiply at higher rates, a 2011 study showed. There are certain herbal supplements, dietary changes, and acupuncture treatments which can help alleviate allergic reactions. Use a Neti pot to flush dust and pollen from your nose. This gadget looks like a little teapot with a long spout. 3. Indoor allergies could be a reaction to dust mites, not just pet dander. These microscopic pests need moisture to survive. Vacuum and steam clean upholstered furniture, remove carpeting, and wash fabrics like curtains, bedding, pillows, and stuffed toys in very hot water. 4. Put down the fake air fresheners. Rather than spraying synthetics to freshen your home, simmer a pot of cinnamon and cloves. Or consider natural alternatives such as diffusers and vaporizers that rely on essential oils instead of chemicals. (Look for pure essential oils — not “essential fragrances” or “natural perfumes.”) Certain essential oils can open up your airways too. Eucalyptus oil works on colds, coughs, and sinus congestion. (Aromatherapy in general is very healing for a lot of people!) 5. Welcome indoor plants in to your space and they will thank you by purifying your air. Plants naturally absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, but certain plants also eliminate significant amounts of benzene and/or trichloroethylene. Studies have been published in the Journal of American Society of Horticultural Science, further proving the science on this first established by NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America. Some of the more resilient houseplants to care for are aloe, spider plant, gerbera daisy, snake plant, golden pothos, chrysanthemum, red-edged dracaena, weeping fig, azalea, english ivy, warneck dracaena, chinese evergreen, bamboo palm, heart leaf philodendron, and peace lily. 6. An air purifier should be in every home, but one that does not produce ozone. Indoor air quality can be 2 – 5 more times polluted than outdoors! And some experts estimate that we spend 90% of our time indoors, so it’s pretty major. There is even some evidence linking indoor air pollution with autism. High Efficiency Particle Air (HEPA) filters can vastly improve the air quality by reducing some of the tiniest airborn particles. (You can even find a vacuum with one for cleaning and use a reusable, washable microfiber cloth instead of a duster and for mopping to remove allergens effectively.) Replacing your heater/cooling system filters (your A/C units, your furnaces) regularly and checking for adequate ventilation everywhere are also key. Gas stoves and wood fireplaces must vent directly to the outside. Have your chimney and flue inspected. Never use charcoal grills inside. When cooking, open a window nearby to dissipate noxious vapors. Blow out your dryer vents from time to time. And keep the air circulating with ceiling or room fans! Stagnant air is irritating. 7. Some times you need a dehumidifier too. Moisture that gets inside the house can turn into mildew and mold, which can cause wheezing, coughing, and asthma symptoms. Check your roof, attic, basement, and foundations for any leaks yearly. And since bathrooms are often damp in general, make sure there is a fan in there running while showering. Keep humidity levels below 50% with a dehumidifier for a variety of reasons. 8. Second-hand smoke is still an issue. 7,500 – 15,000 children are sickened and hospitalized with respiratory tract infections every year because of it. Secondhand smoke contains hundreds of chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic, including vinyl chloride, arsenic ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide. Don’t allow smoking in your home. If your guests smoke, ask them to do it outside. If your partner smokes, encourage him or her to quit. Don’t allow smoking in your vehicle. Only visit restaurants and other businesses that enforce no-smoking policies. Choose smoke-free care facilities. If you need help quitting smoking, visit http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/i-want-to-quit/how-to-quit-smoking.html. 9. Radon-the odorless killer you’ve never heard of. And yet it’s the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking. It occurs naturally in soil and rock and can only be detected through testing. It’s the only way to know your true exposure to this radioactive gas. Go to http://www.epa.gov/radon. Other clear home toxins to be careful about are carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides from burning/combustion, and asbestos fibers from older home materials. 10. Petroleum-based wax candles are really a carcinogenic “stench”. Use all natural soy versions. Your perfume probably is an unhealthy “stink” too. In a 2010 report from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in partnership with the Environmental Working Group, researchers found 14 potentially harmful chemicals that were not listed on fragrance product labels. Strong fragrances contribute to mild allergies, like sneezing or watery eyes, but may also bring on bouts of contact dermatitis. Dry cleaning solvents also can be toxic, so if you must, air them outdoors for awhile before bringing inside. Your home and personal vanity in general may not be worth your health in all of these cases. Next week will be Week 8 of our new Team RLEI Reset Program to Live Amazing and we’ll expand on issues related to breathing and stress reduction. Take a deep breath whenever you can, and hopefully it’s a clean one!