This week, the world has been watching the US handing over of power, but closer to home - we have our own impending crisis. Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor has just issued the first ever Black Alert for extremely high air pollution levels. The official advice is to "stay inside" but I think you'll agree that thats less than a solution. Of course we need to think in the long term to take action and collectively and indicivually increase our efforts to reduce pollution cites pollution levels.In the meantime however we cycle, walk and run in toxic air - and the question remains - what can we do to protect ourselves?
Air pollution contains a mixture of heavy metals - cadmium, lead, mercury are the most well known - which target the central nervous system, causing damage to cells, DNA and adversely effecting cell communication, cognitive function, healthy growth and causing increased inflammation in the vascular and respiratory system, nutritional deficiencies due to increase of need and reduced absorption levels in the small intestine. These can lead to an array of illnesses from asthma, cancer and congenital disabilities.
If we eat well - surely thats all we can do?
In this climate, eating well is not enough. We need to increase the vitamins and minerals which play an active role in detoxification and protection from oxidation.
Some of these nutrients are:
Vitamin B2 - plays a key role in recycling the antioxidant glutathione, to prevent oxygen based damage to all cells in the body, by e.g. heavy metals. Found in cold pressed vegetable oils (borage oil, walnut oil, safflower oil are all rich in B2)
Vitamin C- Prevents oxygen based damage. Vitamin C is levels in the body is reduced by stress, smoking and high air pollution levels. Stimulates the cells of the immune system to protect the body against foreign bodies. Studies have shown that increased vitamin C improves lung function in adults. This is important for all living in polluted areas and with diminished lung function.
Sources: Citrus fruits, berries, fruit and green vegetables.
Vitamin E - is a fat soluble vitamin and prevents oxidation damage when fat undergoes oxidation. plays a key role in protecting the vascular system against oxidation damage.
Folic Acid - Folate protects the Central Nervous System function, by maintaining the levels of neurotransmitters. Heavy metals found in air pollution target the brain and central nervous system, so increasing Folic Acid is key. It plays a key role in growth and reproduction of all cells, so its a good idea to increase intake for growing children.
Sources : green veg -esp broccoli, leafy greens
Chlorophyl (greens) - Studies have shown that this pigment protects the cell wall against damage from some cancer causing chemicals and X-ray damage. It increases oxygen levels in the blood and in my opinion, will be much more widely studied in the future of functional medicine.
Sulphur - important function from bile stimulation, to elimination of toxins in liver, to cell respiration. An important mineral for detoxification and metabolic pathway function.
found in legumes, vegetables (esp brassicas) and egg yolks.
Zinc - has the same absorption sites as heavy metals so by increasing zinc intake, one can reduce the absorption rate of heavy metals.
Sources: seeds, nuts, sprouts, shellfish.
Algin (found in kelp and other seaweeds) binds to heavy metals such as lead in the intestinal tract, for elimination.
Pectin (found in fruits - esp apples,) also binds to heavy metals, reducing their absorption rate across the small intestine into the blood.