'Atopic' of the times

'Atopic' of the times

Not long before President Obama went to climate talks late last year in Copenhagen, Denmark, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it would regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant partially because rising CO2 levels could compromise the health of Americans.

One of the concerns of researchers and health authorities is that global warming would affect pollen levels. They theorize the global increase of asthma may be linked to human activities, and our emissions may be putting our lungs at risk.

Plant pollen is a known trigger of asthma. Both the amount of pollen in the environment and its seasonality depend on an array of variables including, of course, the weather. Scientists are certain that CO2 levels in the atmosphere have increased, but they haven't yet proven it will lead to higher asthma incidence. They do suggest, however, that hotter, longer growing seasons may increase pollen quantity.

Asthma is known as an atopic condition, a tendency toward allergic hypersensitivity. Other examples include the scaly skin and redness of atopic dermatitis and nasal irritation typical of allergic rhinitis.

Dealing with pollution and asthma requires efforts to press for sound environmental policy and grass-roots support for the planet, but on a "micro-level" we can also take steps to help ourselves.

For example, studies have shown that kids who eat more whole foods, including vegetables and fruits, suffer fewer allergies. These foods contain vitamins A and C, zinc, selenium, magnesium and myriad plant nutrients that reduce allergic response. They also maintain the immune system, regulate the body's utilization of fats and reduce airway inflammation.

Conversely, processed foods that kids (and adults) frequently eat contain substances that may cause allergic reactions and contribute to nutrient loss, leading to more frequent asthma attacks.

Take a stand for personal health and that of the world around us. Eat right and breathe easy.

Michael Altman is a nutritionist at Ventana Wellness and the Centre for Natural Healing. He teaches at Southern Oregon University and College of the Siskiyous. E-mail him at michael@ventanawellness.com.

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