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  • Writer's pictureDr. S. Rallis DC, ND

How to Protect Your Lungs from Wildfire Smoke: inhale these...

As wildfire smog descends onto our communities, the concern for lung health becomes paramount. A key threat during this time is the heavy concentration of particulate matter and harmful gases in wildfire smoke, which can compromise our respiratory system even at low concentrations (1). This article will discuss the protective potential of antioxidants, especially nebulized glutathione and N-acetyl cysteine, and how they can be used as a proactive approach towards safeguarding our lungs.

  1. The Risk of Wildfire Smoke

Wildfire smoke is a mixture of water vapour, carbon dioxide, particulate matter, organic chemicals, and sometimes even trace minerals. Particulate matter, in particular, poses a significant health risk due to its ability to bypass our respiratory system's natural defences and infiltrate deep into the lungs (2). Over time, this can cause oxidative stress, inflammation, and damage to the lung tissues (3).

  1. The Role of Antioxidants

Antioxidants help protect our bodies from the damaging effects of free radicals, unstable molecules that can cause oxidative stress. This is particularly important in the context of wildfire smoke, which can increase oxidative stress in the lungs (4).

Key antioxidants that can support lung health include glutathione, N-acetyl cysteine, vitamins A, C, E, selenium, zinc, and vitamin D.

  1. The Power of Nebulized Glutathione and N-acetyl Cysteine

Glutathione, often dubbed the "master antioxidant," plays a critical role in neutralizing free radicals and reducing oxidative stress. When administered through a nebulizer, glutathione can directly reach the lung tissues and offer immediate protective effects (5).

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a precursor to glutathione and can boost its levels in the body (6). Nebulized NAC has been shown to have mucolytic properties, aiding in the breakdown and clearance of mucus from the lungs (7).

  1. Additional Oral Antioxidants

Vitamins C, A, E, selenium, zinc, and vitamin D can also contribute to lung health and glutathione status:

  • Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and can regenerate other antioxidants in the body, including glutathione (8).

  • Vitamin A is essential for maintaining the health of the mucous membranes, including those in the lungs (9).

  • Vitamin E helps protect cell membranes from oxidative damage (10).

  • Selenium is a co-factor for the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which is involved in the detoxification process (11).

  • Zinc can boost the immune system and also has antioxidant properties (12).

  • Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to respiratory infections and chronic lung diseases (13). Increasing vitamin D status also helps increase endogenous glutathione levels.

Generalized dosing for pulmonary protection:

Nebulized glutathione: 300-600 mg per day

Nebulized NAC: 100-200 mg per day

Oral dosing general recommendations for the next 2 weeks:

Vitamin C: 2000-5000 mg per day.

Vitamin D: 5000 IU per day

Zinc: 50 mg

Selenium: 200 mcg per day

It's important to remember that while these generalized recommendations are not a replacement for medical advice. Feel free to reach out to the clinic or to a healthcare professional for guidance tailored to your specific health needs.

Stay safe this wildfire season by staying informed and taking proactive steps to protect your health.


  1. Liu, J. C., Pereira, G., Uhl, S. A., Bravo, M. A., & Bell, M. L. (2015). A systematic review of the physical health impacts from non-occupational exposure to wildfire smoke. Environmental research, 136, 120-132.

  2. Naeher, L. P., Brauer, M., Lipsett, M., Zelikoff, J. T., Simpson, C. D., Koenig, J. Q., & Smith, K. R. (2007). Woodsmoke health effects: a review. Inhalation toxicology, 19(1), 67-106.

  3. Franzi, L. M., Bratt, J. M., Williams, K. M., & Last, J. A. (2011). Why is particulate matter produced by wildfires toxic to lung macrophages?. Toxicology and applied pharmacology, 257(2), 182-188.

  4. Stone, K. C., Mercer, R. R., Gehr, P., Stockstill, B., & Crapo, J. D. (1992). Allometric relationships of cell numbers and size in the mammalian lung. American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology, 6(2), 235-243.

  5. Sadowska, A. M. (2007). N-Acetylcysteine mucolysis in the management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Therapeutic advances in respiratory disease, 1(2), 105-119.

  6. Samuni, Y., Goldstein, S., Dean, O. M., & Berk, M. (2013). The chemistry and biological activities of N-acetylcysteine. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-General Subjects, 1830(8), 4117-4129.

  7. Santus, P., Corsico, A., Solidoro, P., Braido, F., & Di Marco, F. (2014). Oxidative stress and respiratory system: pharmacological and clinical reappraisal of N-acetylcysteine. COPD: Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, 11(6), 705-717.

  8. Carr, A. C., & Maggini, S. (2017). Vitamin C and immune function. Nutrients, 9(11), 1211.

  9. McCullough, F. S., Northrop-Clewes, C. A., & Thurnham, D. I. (1999). The effect of vitamin A on epithelial integrity. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 58(2), 289-293.

  10. Packer, L., Weber, S. U., & Rimbach, G. (2001). Molecular aspects of alpha-tocotrienol antioxidant action and cell signalling. The Journal of nutrition, 131(2), 369S-373S.

  11. Kipp, A. P., Strohm, D., Brigelius-Flohé, R., Schomburg, L., Bechthold, A., Leschik-Bonnet, E., & Heseker, H. (2015). Revised reference values for selenium intake. The Journal of Trace Elements in Experimental Medicine, 28(4), 333-348.

  12. Prasad, A. S. (2008). Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells. Molecular medicine, 14(5-6), 353.

  13. Jolliffe, D. A., Griffiths, C. J., & Martineau, A. R. (2013). Vitamin D in the prevention of acute respiratory infection: systematic review of clinical studies. The Journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology, 136, 321-329.

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