Whether you're in the American West dealing with forest fires, living through a local chemical spill, or an industrial disaster like the current situation in South Africa, it's crucial to take steps during exposure to avoid serious health issues later.
We are not separate from nature, we're a part of it, and we're absorbing our environment through our skin, lungs, and digestive tract 24/7. It's helpful to think of yourself as an air plant - always taking in our surroundings, through every pore of our being.
In this post, you'll learn daily best practices during the disaster, DIY strategies to reduce toxic exposure when supplies are scarce, what herbs can be used for first aid in a pinch, and what supplements are most important for recovery afterward. I've lived through many forest fires and several major chemical exposures - I know how stressful it can be! No matter what resources you have access to, there are always steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.
Special note about forest fires: burning trees release stored toxins and heavy metals that have accumulated from air pollution, herbicides and pesticide use, etc. Flame retardants poured over the fires end up in humans, animals, and water sources. In today's world, forest fires should be considered a chemical exposure, not just a natural disaster. One study showed a 50x increase in lead levels in the atmosphere from wildfire smoke.
The mental and emotional impact is real.
First thing's first: remember to be gentle and kind with yourself and others. Exposure to even a minute amount of toxins can cause a significant drop in your energy and ability to focus. Toxins activate the cell danger response, so our mitochondria stop producing "power" like little energizer bunnies, and instead became warning signallers. We literally have less energy when exposed to toxins!
Anxiety, depression, brain fog, irritability, moodiness, fatigue, and overwhelm have all been linked to environmental toxin exposure. Lower your expectations of your own productivity, keep your calendar clear of unnecessary commitments, and use your favorite anxiety reducing tools for self-care. Resist the urge to self medicate with sugar, alcohol, and other substances during this time, because your body will be less able to tolerate them than usual!
Daily Practices to Reduce Exposure
Start with indoor-outdoor etiquette
Stop re-exposing yourself in your own home
Daily detox for the whole family
- Epsom salt baths daily will pull out toxins that have recently been absorbed into the skin.
- Apple cider vinegar will break down glyphosate and related herbicides into harmless components that your body can process. Take 1/2 teaspoon twice daily in water, or hide in salad dressing, juice, or tea.
- HYDRATE with pure water, all day long. The solution to pollution is dilution! If you're not already drinking half your weight in ounces, now is the time to start. Bonus points for going higher. If there are no contraindications, we like to see a 150 lb adult drink as much as a gallon of water a day during periods of toxic exposure. See more on water filtration below.
Binders are your best friend
When you're exposed to toxic air and water, but have limited access to supplements
Air filters and plants
Your 72 hour kit
Water matters most
- 1 Gallon of water per person, per day.
- 3 days worth of food, and necessary utensils. (If canned food is part of your essentials, have a can opener!)
- Dust mask to filter contaminated air. If you don't have access to dust masks, use a damp bandana, or rip up old t-shirts in bandana-sized squares and dampen.
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape for shelter, repair, etc.
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for makeshift restroom needs.
- Lighting: flashlights, solar camping lanterns, etc.
- Communication: emergency radio, back up battery for cellphone charging, etc.
Plans protect the family
- If we had to leave our home, where will we shelter?
- What is our evacuate route, and what is our backup evacuation plan?
- What is my household communication plan?
- Where do we meet, if home is not an option?
First aid herbs and materials when you can't access supplements and medicine
- Aloe Vera: this wonderful plant has internal and external uses. Its mucilaginous nature soothes and protects irritated membranes and inflamed tissues from burns, blisters, or dry, irritated skin.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: breaks down glyphosate (the most common herbicide) and aids digestion. It also soothes poison ivy and athlete's foot.
- Arnica: can be used topically for bruising, swelling, pain relief, arthritis, and injuries.
- Baking Soda: acid neutralizer, drawing poultice for weeping bites, stings, and rashes.
- Cayenne: internal and external uses to regulate blood pressure and circulation, stops bleeding. Can be administered during a heart attack while waiting for emergency services.
- Chamomile: internal and external uses for relaxation, more restful sleep, soothing colic, reducing teething pain. Poultice or tea bags can be applied topically to soothe pinkeye.
- Coconut Oil: carrier oil for other herbs, can be used as a skin salved for rashes, dry skin, and chapped lips.
- Comfrey: used externally for injuries and broken bones.
- Epsom salt: relieves sore muscles and pain from sprains, salt baths pull out toxins, and taken internally epsom salt will stimulate bowel movements.
- Eucalyptus: used in steam or vapor rub for chest congestion and sinus issues.
- Garlic: antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic
- Ginger: take internally for nausea, morning sickness, reflux, indigestion, and morning sickness.
- Lemon: antseptic, high in vitamin C
- Onion: anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial
Earache: Heat half an onion in the oven for 15 minutes at 300 degrees F. Wrap the onion in a towel and place on the ear.
Chest congestion: Sautee a chopped onion with olive oil until translucent. Cool slightly and apply on the chest. Cover with a warm towel for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse and apply a natrual vapor-rub.
Splinter removal: Place a slice of fresh onion on a splinter to reduce inflammation and draw the splinter to the surface.
- Raw Honey: use for sore throats, wound care, and allergies. Add to tea or hot water with lemon.
Toxin excretion: the most crucial stage of any disaster
Supplements: binders, mobilizers, and detox system support
Recovery pillars: a balanced detox creates the best results
There are so many detox tools to help you safely release environmental toxins! Most "detox" products are not effective because they fail to provide targeted, balanced support. In planning your detox protocol, you'll need to attend to each of these pillars:
- Energy: Your body will need extra energy support to excrete stored toxins. Support your mitochondria with targeted supplements like this one. Do not skip this step!
- Anti-inflammatory nutrition: An inflamed body is not a detoxing body! Gentle, inflammation reducing foods with balanced nutrition are essential for successful detox. This can look radically different from person to person, depending on your sensitivities.
- Detox pathway support: Your liver, kidneys, lymph, digestive tract, and skin are all natural detox systems that can get easily overloaded and out of balance during environmental exposure. To bring them back into balance and get them fully functional again, you'll want targeted supplements that are tailored to your symptoms and needs. This is especially important for the liver and gallbladder, where toxins that get "stuck" in the bile will get encased in cholesterol, and begin to form stones.
- Binders: Choose high quality supplements that are designed to bind and neutralize toxins until excretion. (See above for a couple of our favorites.)
- Mobilizers: Toxins don't just keep floating around in the bloodstream once ingested. (Example: 80% of ingested mercury stays in the body!) If toxins can't be successfully excreted right away, your body works hard to tuck them far away from your vital organs. Once you have all of the other pillars in place, it's safe to use targeted agents to mobilize toxins out of storage to get them out of the body! Most toxins end up in fat tissue, glands, the brain, our central nervous system, and a few get stored in our bones (like lead). You'll need to provoke the toxins out of storage at a pace that your body can handle, in order to help your body get relief and reclaim your resilience long-term.
I hope this overview helps you through these unfortunate events, and gives you the inspiration you need to take of yourself and your loved ones once the immediate distress has passed. I've lived through many forest fires and several major chemical exposures - I know how stressful it can be! But it does pass. How you handle your health afterwards determines your quality of life for years to come.
Ready for more support? Hop on the waitlist for our Detox Reset program to give your body a break, reclaim your energy and well-being, and avoid big health problems later!