The recent eruptions of the Big Island’s Kilauea volcano have left locals fearing for their homes and, in some cases, their lives. Though authorities have been working around the clock to efficiently evacuate the local homes and Hawaii vacation cottages in the lava’s path, fissures, eruptions, and high-magnitude earthquakes are generating fear throughout Hawaii. Many individuals have been forced to leave pets and valuables in the lava’s path. Some are even putting themselves at risk by attempting to return to homes and Hawaii vacation cottages.

One of the most serious dangers that Pahoa is facing is the rising air concentration of sulfur dioxide and other toxic chemicals. These harmful substances pose an acute threat to those with weak immunity, respiratory complications, and cardiovascular conditions. However, these toxic air pollutants, otherwise known as vog, can also compromise the wellbeing of healthy individuals. Many people bound for Hawaii vacation cottages on the Big Island have canceled their plans in fear of Kilauea’s toxic fumes.

The Kona side of the island may not lie in Kilauea’s path, but it is still subject to the negative effects of vog. Trade winds typically carry vog away from the islands. However, low wind or Kona winds can actually draw the vog to Hawaii’s west side. Those bound for our Hawaii vacation cottages need not worry, though; if you take the proper precautions to protect yourself from vog, it is unlikely to majorly affect your trip. In order to protect yourself against the effects of vog, it is important to ensure that your body is detoxifying properly. This week we are discussing how to enhance detoxification through herbal supplementation and nutrition to prevent vog-related illness and malaise.

About Vog

Our regular readers are likely familiar with Vog, as we covered the topic extensively in our post on Tackling Vog. To recap, vog is an abbreviation of volcanic smog, or the gas fumes that Kilauea emits. Vog creates a haze that is similar to smog, and it can travel over to the Kona side and hundreds of miles west to affect other islands.

Vog contains multiple hydrogen compounds, plus carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and heavy metals. Perhaps one of the most prominent and dangerous components of vog is sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide from volcanic emissions reacts with water, air, and dust particles to produce vog. This sulfurous gas is akin to that which coal-burning factories and plants emit.

How Will Vog Affect You?

The way that vog affects you largely depends upon the condition of your health. Those in pristine condition might notice light headaches or fluctuations in mood. People experiencing these side effects may not even realize that vog is the culprit of their “feeling off,” so to speak. Others, however, might experience problems breathing. Clinics and hospitals receive far more patients suffering from headaches and respiratory issues after eruptions.

In general, vog can cause burning in the eyes, lungs, and throat; irritated skin; coughing and shortness of breath; fatigue; and dizziness. Strangely enough, reports of domestic violence typically increase when vog levels are high, suggesting that vog can contribute to depression, irritability, and rage.

Reducing Toxic Exposure

The body has to do a lot of work to process and expel the toxic elements of vog. Your capacity to eliminate these compounds declines if your body is also struggling to filter other toxic substances. Therefore, one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself during times of heavy vog is to reduce your exposure to other toxic compounds.

When vog levels are high, which they are likely to be as Kilauea continues to erupt, avoid smoking and drinking. Try to use natural cleaning products like vinegar and essential oils instead of toxic ones like bleach. Be selective in choosing cosmetics, as many contain toxic chemicals that are difficult to process. Refrain from consuming foods that contain sulfur additives, alcohol that contains sulfites, and non-organic dried fruits, which all contain sulfuric compounds.

For those with allergies or respiratory complications, it is also important to ensure you are breathing the best air possible. Stay away from moldy areas, or those that contain mildew, pollen, dust, or other allergens. Doing so will prevent respiratory and sinus complications.

Nutrition

One of the most beneficial ways to protect yourself from vog is to support your body’s natural methods of detoxification. There are several foods and herbs that help the liver, kidneys, and lymphatic system to flush toxins from that body. By reducing toxic exposure and supporting natural detoxification, you will be well equipped to handle high levels of vog.

Some of the foods listed below are beneficial because they eliminate toxic compounds through one of the body’s multiple detoxification channels. Others contain antioxidants that prevent free radical damage and reduce inflammation, thus enhancing immunity and, by extension, enabling bodily defense against toxicity.

Produce

Different types of produce go a long way in clearing the body’s detoxification pathways, which is why plant-based diets are so good for those facing chronic inflammation. Some detoxifying fruits and vegetables include:

  • Green vegetables, which contain chlorella. Chlorella facilitates a process called chelation, wherein a substance attracts toxic compounds to be eliminated through the digestive tract.
  • Citrus, which stimulates digestive enzymes that detoxify the digestive tract. Citrus also helps to balance pH levels. Lemons are particularly helpful to the liver and kidneys, and their Vitamin C activates the antioxidant enzyme ascorbate peroxidase.
  • Garlic, which helps the liver generate detoxifying enzymes that rid the digestive tract of toxic compounds.
  • Broccoli sprouts, which encourage the production of detoxifying enzymes.
  • Raw vegetables containing sulfur, a component of glutathione that supports the processing and excretion of toxins in the liver.
  • Vegetables from the brassica family, including kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage. These vegetables are beneficial in supporting both phases 1 and 2 of detoxification.
  • Beets, which help the liver and gallbladder break down toxic compounds.
  • Apples, which contain pectin, a fiber that draws heavy metals and other compounds out of the digestive tract.

In general, it is important to include fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants. These include apples, pears, berries, pumpkin, wheat grass, sweet potatoes, and more. Antioxidants boost the immune system and protect mucosal lining—both critical elements of vog protection.

Healthy Fats and Supplements

Fruits and vegetables are some of the most anti-oxidant rich and anti-inflammatory foods on the planet. However, there are other foods, like medicinal herbs and healthy fats, critical for detoxification. These include:

  • Dandelion, which supports the liver, kidneys, and gallbladder. It is both a mild laxative and a diuretic, and therefore boosts detoxification through both urination and excretion.
  • Omega 3 oils contained in avocado, olive oil, flaxseed oil, and wild-caught salmon. Omega 3’s are not only anti-inflammatory; they also flush toxins from the digestive tract, reducing uptake of toxic material.
  • Green tea, which contains catechins, a type of antioxidant that increase liver function.
  • Turmeric, which contains the powerful antioxidant curcumin.
  • Nuts, which contain not only omega 3’s, but also Vitamin E, which protects against oxidative stress.
  • B vitamins, which reduce oxidation and inflammation.
  • Probiotics, which are contained in fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, kombucha, kim chi, and apple cider vinegar. Negative bacteria in the digestive tract often produce toxic byproducts. Consuming good bacteria tames the proliferation of bad bacteria. Good bacteria also aid in elimination, thereby facilitating detoxification.

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