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The essential health guide to the Great Singapore Haze 2013

External Protection:

1. The first measure is to stop and prevent further penetration of the harmful air particulates into your house. Close all windows and toilet doors. Seal the gaps in toilet windows, from which particulates can enter. Turn on the air conditioning to improve the ventilation in the house. The filters in the air conditioning system may help in removing some of the larger particulates.

2. The second measure is to clean the indoor air with an air purifier equipped with a HEPA filter that can filter PM2.5 particulates. If you can’t get an air purifier, you may want to get an air humidifier. A humidifier can help to bring down the dust, as well as alleviate dry eyes, sinus and respiratory problems.

3. Always wear N95 masks when going outdoors.

Internal Protection:

1. Vitamin C

Our lungs have a lung lining fluid rich in antioxidants (glutathione, Vitamin C etc) which covers the surface of our lungs and serves as our first line of defence against gaseous pollutants. It is found that healthy people have a range of antioxidant defences in lung lining fluid, but asthmatics – a group sensitive to air pollution – have lower levels, particularly of vitamin C.

2. NAC and glutathione

When exposed to airborne pollutants, our lungs become depleted in glutathione. Low levels of glutathione are linked to alveolar oxidant burden, free radical stress and other inflammatory lung disorders.

Glutathione, being the strongest antioxidant in our body, not only protects the lungs, but also protects the liver and brain from toxic chemicals.

NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) is a precursor to glutathione and is a much more effective way to raise your glutathione levels than oral glutathione itself.  In fact, NAC is such a powerful antioxidant that it is used in hospitals to neutralize poisoning by alcohol, carbon monoxide, acetaminophen, certain cancer drugs etc. Occasionally, NAC is also administered by means of a tube placed inside the throat (inhaled) for treating lung disorders, e.g. bronchitis, pneumonia, emphysema and cystic fibrosis.

Dosage of NAC: Take 600 mg a day, preferably between meals as food can compete with NAC for absorption in the intestines.

Eating the following sulfur-rich foods can help replace the necessary sulfur your body needs to raise your glutathione levels and help increase the production of pathway enzymes: brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli (particularly the flowers, not the stem), cabbage, kale, bok choy, cress, mustard, horseradish, turnips etc.

3. Quercetin and Bromelian

Vitamins A and C, together with synergistic bioflavonoids such as Quercetin and Bromelain, have anti-inflammatory and antihistamine effects. This means they slow down or prevent the allergic responses typically brought on by irritants when they enter the body through the nose, throat, eyes or skin.

Sources of Quercetin in order of richness: Red onion, watercress, cranberries, black plums, sweet potato, broccoli, green tea

Sources of Bromelian: Pineapples

4. Essential fatty acids

Flaxseed oil and evening primrose oil have been shown to alleviate dry eyes as well as eczema symptoms.

5. Aromatherapy

Certain essential oils such as tea tree oil, lemon oil, clove oil, eucalyptus oil etc may not only kill airborne pathogens, but also soothe your irritated sinuses. Use only 100% organic essential oils meant for aromatherapy, and diffusers or humidifiers designated for aromatherapy.

6. Plants

As a huge portion of time would be spent indoors, indoor air quality can be improved by certain plants. NASA studies show that plants such as mother-in-law’s tongue (or snake plant), money plant and areca palm not only gives out oxygen, but also absorb carbon dioxide and household pollutants. Note that mother-in-law’s tongue plant should be placed in the bedroom (as it gives out oxygen at night), while other plants can be placed in the living room.

Written by Dave Goh Pei Rui