Buffy the Vampire Slayer said it (Okay, according to an anonymous reader Buffy actually said ‘Fire bad, Tree pretty’. Thanks for keeping me honest mystery reader) and in a week like we’ve just experienced, that lizard-brain level is where we’re all operating. With no wind, smoke from the “Station Fire” just sat over the Angeles National Forest. And then, following the physics of “what goes up must come down” it rained ash. Day after day after day. In my office in Tarzana, ash was covering the parking lot and the smoke was overpowering the A/C’s ability to keep the smell out. It was hot and dry and dusty and all-in-all a miserable week.
So – why post THAT on this blog. It’s not news to anyone in the area and the weather has changed, the fire is moving east and the ash is retreating.
I’m addressing this because of the huge affect this fire had, and is continuing to have, on my patients. Several patients have come in for musculoskeletal appointments and have ended up getting treatments for respiratory complaints (and the musculoskeletal treatments too – that’s one of the powers of Traditional Oriental Medicine, I can do both at once!). They’ve been physically and mentally tired, almost feeling they were coming down with something but with no specific symptoms. This is due to their Qi not circulating well throughout their bodies.
In Traditional Oriental Medicine (T.O.M.) the Lungs govern Qi and respiration. They’re responsible for inhaling Qi from the atmosphere, combining it with the Qi received from food and spreading the resultant useable Qi throughout the entire body. The Lungs are called the tender organ because they are the most external organs and they connect the body to the outside world. The Lungs are easily attacked by external pathogenic factors, in this case smoky, ashy, hot air. When the air we’re taking in is poor quality, we tire easily. Of course, when we’re breathing good air and eating garbage we get tired easily, but that’s another discussion.
Anyone with allergies/asthma or COPD should have a plan in place for fire season as should people with cardiac disease. The easiest to follow recommendation is to stay inside with windows and doors closed, and run the A/C to filter out the gunk. But even people with no cardio-pulmonary disease need to take care not to exhaust themselves. The impact of the smoke is insidious and it would be easy to ignore the body’s signals to SLOW DOWN but it is very important to take it easy.
T.O.M. states that anytime the seasons change we need to take care to slow down and reflect on what our bodies are going through. Add in a natural disaster and everyone can really benefit from some meditativetime. I suggest doing something positive for yourself, especially something you’ve been putting off. Go get a massage, visit a healthcare practitioner, read that book you’ve been putting off, go out to a special meal with friends or loved ones. Whatever it is, take this time to slow down. It will allow your body to adjust to the season change as well as recovering from the fire.
T.O.M. also has a long list of foods that are beneficial for the Lung system. Some simple foods you may want to consider adding into your diet right now include apples, especially the sour ones like pippins; yogurt; tofu, tempeh and soybeans; rose hip tea; black tea; honey and barley malt. For a more complete recommendation, make an appointment to see me or your local practitioner of Traditional Oriental Medicine.
For specific smoke related information, visit this page on the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s website: Wildland Fire Smoke. And for those of you in fire-prone areas, here’s a goldmine of information: InciWeb Incident Information System