Fight Air Pollution with Nutrition

An adult at rest, takes about 30,000 breaths a day.

That’s a lot of breathing.. and that’s not even counting if we get a bit of activity and breathe more rapidly!

The thing is we don’t think about it too much…unless maybe we are meditating, but for the most part it’s just automatic and the act alone, is something so many of us take for granted.

Before I moved to Asia, air quality issues weren’t really on my radar. I knew that because I lived in a big city, there was obviously pollution I was going to be exposed to, but because it was one of the things I couldn’t really do much to control, I never really paid too much attention.

Then I got to Seoul and experienced days where the air quality was so bad, they they sent out emergency text messages and offered everyone in the city free public transportation for the day. When I look out my windows in the morning these days, I look off in the distance to a prominent skyscraper and gauge what we’re dealing with on a day to day basis based on how well I can see it.

A study by the World Health Organization states that there are 4.2 million deaths every year from exposure to outdoor air pollution.


“Adverse health consequences to air pollution can occur as a result of short- or long-term exposure. The pollutants with the strongest evidence of health effects are particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2).”

“Particulate matter (PM) are inhalable and respirable particles composed of sulphate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, black carbon, mineral dust and water. Particles with a diameter of less than 10 microns (PM10), including fine particles less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) pose the greatest risks to health, as they are capable of penetrating peoples’ lungs and entering their bloodstream. Sources of PM include combustion engines (both diesel and petrol), solid-fuel (coal, lignite, heavy oil and biomass) combustion for energy production in households and industry, as well as other industrial activities (building, mining, manufacture of cement, ceramic and bricks, and smelting).”

I need me one of these @airinum masks. Click to see more!

I need me one of these @airinum masks. Click to see more!

If you live somewhere where air quality is a prominent issue, you know how it is…you just have to deal with it (and if your city is anything like Seoul, there are probably so many wonderful things about it that at the end of the day you are happy to do so if it means you get to live there.)

When you live in cities where this is an issue, it’s only natural that people will look towards extra ways to help protect themselves.

Here in Seoul, dust masks have become a sort of fashion trend.
The Mongolians are drinking “oxygen infused cocktails” where apparently one cocktail is equivalent to spending 3 hours in a “lush forest”.

Here’s what I’ve learned and how I deal:

  • I learned to keep masks in all my purses and different coat pockets, so I’d always have one on me if I needed one.

  • I’ve also learned to deeply appreciate days where the air is clean, before this experience I never would have realized how grateful I am for fresh air when i have it…and how happy it can make you.. like the first sunny spring day after a cold, dark winter.

  • I control the air in my own home with a quality air purifier

  • I use an app to help keep me informed (I use PLUME) so you can make plans, pack masks or reconsider your outdoor activity plans accordingly if needed.

  • and I do the absolute best I can to keep my body healthy, strong and nourished, so I give it the best fighting chance of keeping me healthy despite what I might be exposed to.. I try to overcompensate with the things I can control (to the best of my ability).

How I Protect My Body from Pollution with Total Body Nutrition


    • Firstly, I know this isn’t food but to me sleep is total body nourishment so I’m throwing it in here. Making sure I give myself enough time to recharge, repair and recover will help keep my immune system strong and healthy. This is essential for good health in general.


    • In Seoul there seems to be a lot of sneaky sugar to look out for, but where ever you are, be mindful of how much sugar you are consuming. It suppresses your immune system.

    • Be careful with processed meats, processed noodles( + processed foods in general), refined grains, unhealthy oils like soy or damaged cooking oils that are used in many restaurants for frying and cooking.

    • Watch your intake of dairy and soy and any foods you know you may be allergic or sensitive too.


    • Capitalizing on nutrient dense foods with lots of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients is very important— of course a body functions optimally when it doesn’t have any nutrient deficiencies so doing the best you can with food is important, but also the extra antioxidants from foods like this will help protect your cells, help support natural detoxification and help keep your blood nice and clean.

      • Make sure to eat lots of fresh fruit and veggies, especially the cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower, kale, chard, etc).

      • On the warmer days, I like to challenge myself to a nutrient dense smoothie a day.

      • On days when I don’t have a smoothie or in the winter when I find myself eating mostly cooked veggie dishes, I supplement with an organic concentrated greens powder which I just mix in water and drink first thing in the morning with some lemon juice.


    • Many countries cook with and traditionally consume certain foods that help support their bodies through natural stressors in the environment.

      • We can look for other common “detox” teas at local health food shops to gently support natural detoxification or look for ingredients like milk thistle, globe artichoke, dandelion, red clover and stinging nettle.

      • In Korea, we have access to common teas like hibiscus, burdock and omija (schisandra berry) all of which are helpful for supporting and purifying our bodies. Other helpful traditional Korean teas are aechu-cha (made with jujubes) and ssanghwa-cha, made with medicinal herbs and roots.

      • Consider incorporating mullein leaf into your teas.

        • “Preparations made from mullein leaves and flowers date back for thousands of years as treatments for asthma, coughs, TB, and some bacterial infections. ... It specifically removes mucus from the lungs with proper dosages and use.”

      • Health coach, Luke Coutinho recommends drinking this “magic lung tea” to help decongest and detox the lungs.


          • ginger, cinnamon, basil leaves, peppercorns, crushed elaichi, a pinch of ajwain, cumin seeds, cloves and crushed garlic.

          • add ingredients to pot and boil with 2 cups of water for 10 minutes, you can add a bit of honey at the end to sweeten.



    • Make sure things are backed up digestively. You want to make sure your body is getting rid of any wastes it has prepared for elimination REGULARLY— and regular means at the very least once a day.

    • If you aren’t going enough, your body can literally start to re-absorb actual shit. You don’t want that. If you are not eliminating daily, I suggest reaching out for a quick pow-wow so we can discuss what’s going on and see if working with a nutritionist could help you get things balanced out stat.


    • Ensure sure you are drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water daily…especially if you struggle with the above.


    • If the air is bad, take a shower when you get home to clean any pollutants or fine dust off your skin.

    • Don’t rub any highly fragranced creams or lotions into your skin… opt for natural, clean products that won’t add any extra stress to your system (remember, you are what you absorb).


    • At the end of the day, your body’s resilience depends on your ability to recover and bounce back from stress. Making sure you are taking good care of yourself and doing things that help you stay balanced and supported is going to be helpful in keeping your body strong and healthy so it can tackle any external environmental stress that may come its way.