As we welcome summer here in colorful Colorado, this means that we (and folks throughout the United States) are dealing with some extreme weather swings. So far we are on track here in Denver for the 6th spot for the wettest month on record at 6.01”2, and the wettest June ever recorded in Colorado’s history. It seems, though, as we move into July, we’ve had the whole gamut of wild weather; we’ve had some torrential hail, a few days over 90 degrees, and we’ve even been impacted by some of the wildfire smoke, both from the Pacific Northwest, from some fires currently burning on the western slope of Colorado, and a bit from Canada (but nowhere close to what the northeast looked like – our hearts are going out to you all!). All this to say, we live in a time where environmental factors can really implicate our health and wellness, and they’re shifting drastically by the day. Environmental medicine and the exposure to the things we are surrounded by is an important part of your overall medical picture; unfortunately it’s an aspect of your health that is not often taken into account.
As a naturopathic doctor, the environment in which you live is one aspect of your health care that I am taking into consideration. Here’s one thought process:
We often think about a medical approach (sometimes called germ theory vs. terrain theory) as a goldfish in a bowl. Now the question is, if the goldfish gets sick, but lives in a dirty tank, do we medicate the fish (or even give the fish supplements we know will make it feel better), or do we clean out its water? In my practice, I’m considering both options. But because it is often said that we cannot get healthy in the same environment that made us sick, environment plays a huge role in the conversations I’m having with my patients as well.
While this is not medical advice, here are some environmental considerations (and tips) to think about with this spectrum of weather we’ve had here:
With the amount of rainfall we’ve had over the last month, I’ve had my fair share of patients reach out about basement flooding. While we think of Colorado as being a particularly dry and arid climate, we actually *do* have our fair share of mold growth here, which can wreak a lot of havoc.
Mold can cause allergy symptoms, like coughing, itchy eyes, asthma, difficulty breathing, runny nose, but it can also be one aspect of what can cause people to develop chronic inflammatory response reactions. Chronic inflammatory response syndrome, or CIRS, is a cluster of symptoms that can occur as a result of an ongoing inflammatory response to mold (or other biotoxins). Symptoms are often happening in many different systems, not just the respiratory system like we think of with mold allergy; think joints, nervous system, immune system, autoimmune reactivity, hormonal concerns, circadian rhythm disruption, cardiovascular concerns, digestive concerns, etc… the list can be extensive3. One fantastic resource for more information on this is Dr. Shoemaker’s website: www.survivingmold.com. His book, Mold Warriors4, is great as well! Additionally, Dr. Jill Crista’s book Break the Mold5 and Dr. Neil Nathan’s Toxic6 book are fantastic resources to learn more on this burgeoning health topic.
Make sure to take a look at the integrity of your windows and doors.
Consider re-grading your house so that water moves away from your home, not only to avoid mold growth but also to avoid more problems later with the integrity of the foundation.
If you have flooding or water exposure, work to clean up and dry the space as quickly as possible. Hire professional groups who have experience in these areas (your insurance may be a great resource to find some local companies). To investigate for mold growth, we advise working with an indoor environmental specialist with third-party affiliations with associations such as the ISEAI7 or NORMIPRO8.
Our office is well-versed in the impacts of mold-related disease and chronic inflammation. Consider scheduling a visit with one of our Naturopathic Doctors to see if mold exposure is playing a role in any health concerns you are experiencing.
EXCESSIVE HEAT & DRY WEATHER:
Colorado is typically known for its very arid weather, despite the weather we are receiving this year. This dryness is particularly present during the summer months, where temperatures can be hot and humidity is often absent. With the heat, and especially more nationally with other states like Texas coming under heat advisories. As a naturopathic provider, in this area I become particularly concerned about dehydration & skin integrity, particularly with potential for sun damage/sunburn and dry skin.
Ensure you’re drinking plenty of water during the day. Unless otherwise told by your primary care physician or for those who have a medical condition where they have to restrict water intake, the general goal to aim for is ½ of your body weight (in lbs) of ounces of water per day. It is also recommended to add in an additional 8 oz of water for every cup of coffee, caffeinated tea, soda, or alcoholic beverage to make up for those drinks. You can also consider adding in electrolytes throughout the day to help support adequate hydration levels. My favorite is LMNT (particularly the citrus salt or grapefruit flavor – no affiliation). Skin support: make sure you are wearing clothing, hats, and sunglasses to avoid excessive UV exposure. If wearing sunscreen, look for a physical-barrier based sunscreen vs. chemical-barrier based. My favorite resource to find a great sunscreen for you is from the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Guide to Sunscreen9.
With wildfire season (unfortunately) already upon us, exposure to smoke and its impact not only on our respiratory system but on our detoxification pathways is something we all need to contend with. Wildfire smoke can release many different chemicals, toxins, and possible carcinogens into small particulate matter10 that we unfortunately breathe in as a part of going outside. This can be particularly dangerous for folks with respiratory concerns, including those with asthma or COPD.
Start off your summer season with a change to your home’s central air filters. Consider setting up your own box fan air filter11. Consider purchasing a HEPA grade air filter for the rooms you spend the most time in, especially your bedroom, as this is where you, on average, spend a third of your day. If it’s smoky out, make sure to keep your windows and doors closed. Make sure to track on your phone the AQI, or Air Quality Index, to monitor the air quality around you and gauge the safety of being able to go outside if needed. And, lastly, consider wearing a KN95 mask to prevent having the small air particulate exposure when you go outside12. To support detoxification, see about finding an infrared sauna near you. Consider adding in a tool like regular breathwork13 to help with lung detoxification14 as the lungs are one of the emunctory (or waste-removing) organs of the body15. Finally, make sure to talk with your medical provider about adequate lung support.
FIND A PRACTITIONER:
Naturopathic Medicine providers focus both on your internal health as well the terrain you spend most of your time in. Make sure you’re working with a provider who can spend the time with you to assess all potential environmental exposures that may be playing a role in your healing journey, an approach like this will help provide you a truly whole person experience in your wellness path.
2. kdvr.com/weather/wx-news/june-2023-rainfall-record-denver/#:~:text=DENVER%20(KDVR)%20%E2%80%94%20Denver%20picked,of%20total%20rainfall%20this%20month .