Can Bad Air Quality Give You Diarrhea?

In this blog post, we will discuss “Can Bad Air Quality Give You Diarrhea”. The article will first address the details of air pollution. Then, it will outline the direct and indirect effects of bad air quality on our stomach health. In the end, this article will provide lifesaver tips to improve the air quality that you and your loved ones breathe in.

Can Bad Air Quality Give You Diarrhea?

Yes, bad air quality can give you diarrhea. Many kinds of medical research claim that the following high levels of pollutants can affect your stomach:

  • Particulate Matter
  • Nitrogen Dioxide
  • Nicotine present in cigarettes

Before you start scratching your head to find out the link between polluted air and your gut health, let’s first see the meaning of air pollution.

What is air pollution?

The introduction of harmful agents into the atmosphere is known as air pollution. The toxic agents are known as pollutants. These pollutants are derived from natural and human activities, and they can be chemical or biological.

Major pollutants present in the air are particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone (O3), NO2, SO2, and CO. Air also has lead, allergens, bacteria, viruses and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Besides climate change, air pollution has become a significant environmental risk to human health. 

Therefore, striving towards minimising air pollution can also help to improve climate change mitigation efforts. In addition, reducing emissions will enhance the quality of air.

What is indoor and outdoor pollution?

Air pollution in the outside environment is called ambient pollution or outdoor pollution. Some of the examples are the transportation sector, energy generation, industries, dust storms, etc. Air pollution created inside any closed structure is called indoor pollution or household pollution. Cooking activities, cleaning and dusting of house, use of scents and perfumes, etc., are examples of indoor air pollution.

What are the health effects of air pollution?

Environmental studies have proved that PM2.5 and PM10 have caused relevant harm to public health. Both pollutants can deeply penetrate inside your lungs. PM2.5 can enter your bloodstream, which results in various respiratory and cardiovascular ailments. It can also affect other organs. WHO has declared these two pollutants as carcinogenic elements.

The detailed adverse effects on human health are as follows:

  • Respiratory ailments: COPD, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, common cold and cough, throat infection, lung cancer, chest congestion, sinus congestion, etc. 
  • Cardiovascular diseases: Heart attack, cardiac arrest, chest pain, heart blockage, stroke, etc. 
  • Mental disorders: Anxiety, insomnia, depression, low productivity, irritation, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, brain stroke, paralysis, etc.

The other effects of air pollution are low sperm counts, low reproductive ability, infertility and congenital infant disabilities.

Now, let’s dive in to know more about the relationship between your tummy and air pollution.

How does the bad air quality cause diarrhea?

The air which you inhale daily is always overlooked and taken for granted. However, as per the World Economic Forum fact sheet dated 2018, more than 92% of the world population are exposed to air pollution. The fact sheet further revealed that deteriorating air quality is the 4th largest threat to human existence. We often think that polluted air affects our brain, lung and heart functionality.

But there’s more to it. Air pollution can affect your gut health, causing you numerous gastrointestinal diseases. In addition, these gastrointestinal disorders may cause diarrhea. Karen Madsen, a gastroenterological scientist from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, also explained that the gastrointestinal tract also suffers the burden of air pollution and the lungs. She further stated that fine particulate pollution is cleared from the respiratory tract by mucous, but they all make their way to the gut, and it disturbs its health.

Your gut microbiomes are heroes of your tummy. They consist of the micro-organisms like bacteria (good ones), archaea and tiny eukaryotes, and they live in your digestive tracts. These billions of bacteria are responsible for the healthy functioning of the digestive and gastrointestinal systems.

Scientists have concluded that various environmental factors such as diet and stress can affect the gut microbiomes. The latest addition to it is air pollution. These gut microbiomes are very sensitive to the quality of the air you breathe in. Air pollution can develop and trigger many gastrointestinal disorders such as follows:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Celiac disease
  • Microscopic colitis
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)

The diseases, as mentioned earlier, and disorders result in diarrhea and chronic diarrhea. Unfortunately, the permanent cure for such diseases is still unknown—they either require lifelong medication or, in extreme cases, major surgery. Besides diarrhea, such conditions can affect hormones, digestion, mental health and energy level; everything in your body is interconnected.

Studies in the medical field have observed that air pollution exposure can interrupt the gut barrier’s protective abilities, just like genetic mutations. Therefore, researchers attempted to link polluted air and diarrhea by establishing the statistical data of world demography suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases.  These analyses revealed that there were more cases of IBD in developed nations. One of the investigations has deduced that the highest chances of IBD were in Europe and North America. In contrast, there is a steady rise in these diseases in newly industrialized countries of Africa, Asia and South America. Thus, these residents suffer from chronic diarrhea.

The above research can also prove that industrial pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter can be responsible for diarrheal conditions. Gilead Kaplan, associate professor at the University of Calgary, stated that diseases such as Crohn’s disease and IBD, which triggers diarrhea, are more commonly found in young demographic population which are highly exposed to nitrogen dioxide levels.

Yet, scientists are still researching in finding out the specific pollutants responsible for diarrheal situations. One such ongoing research has found out that the nicotine present in the cigars can mess up your digestive system and irritate your bowel systems. This nasty element negatively affects the gut microbiomes, which disturbs your stomach health, resulting in diarrhea.

Some recent pieces of evidence show that breathing in soot may disrupt the immune system and develop gut inflammation. Further, it makes the gut more permeable and changes the functioning of good, normal bacteria. Such pollutants may aggravate diarrhea.

According to the American Lung Association, more than 44 million people are exposed to exceeding federal health standard levels of fine particles in the US. In 2002, a medical study of hospital admissions in Wisconsin revealed that high air pollution emissions were related to 40% of bowel disease hospitalizations. The study further addressed carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide, volatile organic compounds and fine particulate matter.

 In other laboratory studies, well, I am personally very much against the torture caused on any living organism to prove any scientific theories, but here it goes. For example, some researchers gave mice a high oral dose of particulates for about 14 days and fed another set of mice for 35 days by injecting particulates in their food. The researchers concluded that particulate matter could affect the immune system and harm gut health resulting in diarrhea.

Whereas the mice feeding on the particulate-injected food also got similar health effects. Such food changed the dynamic of their gut microbiome. You must be knowing. Air pollution can considerably affect the soil and water health of the Earth when the toxic pollutants develop into clouds and condense to form acid rain. 

Such acid rains change the PH value of the soil as well as the water bodies. The decreased nutrition value of the ground and the contact of pollutants such as ozone with the leaves of the plants make the crop yields nearly less helpful for your body. This can generate a restless feeling in your stomach, leading to diarrheal issues. The same thing is caused by drinking poor quality water. 

Many untreated effluents are discharged into the water, and its acidification due to airborne pollutants such as sulphur oxides can disintegrate gut health.         

Gastrointestinal doctors, scientists, and air experts extensively search and connect air pollution and gut health. They hope to find out concrete proves of these observed theories.

Moving on to the next section, I will provide you with some life-saving solutions to reduce the poor air quality.

What can I do to protect myself from air pollution?

I will elaborate on some of the measures to protect yourself from air pollution.

Personal Hygiene

You can also fight the effects of air pollution by maintaining personal hygiene:

  • You can cut your nails short to avoid the accumulation of dirt. 
  • You can also practice mouth gargling after coming home to free your mouth from unwanted guests.
  • You can also brush twice a day to keep airborne infections at bay.
  • You can also take steam therapy at home to cleanse your lungs.

Quit Smoking

Smoking cigarettes, hookahs (shisha), electric vape or any other types of cigars are not at all suitable for your health. It’s best to stop smoking. Active and passive smoking provides the direct entry of harmful pollutants into your body. This causes the risk to your respiration and other organs dependent on it. 

Physical Exercise 

Physical activities have many benefits to your body. It not only improves your stamina and immunity levels but also helps to increase your lung capacity. Yoga, sanas, swimming, running, cycling, brisk walking and dancing are some of the best forms of exercise to improve your health.

Breathing Exercise 

The majority of people in the world don’t breathe properly. However, correct breathing techniques can keep illnesses due to air pollution at bay. A pranayama is a form of yoga asana which helps to improve breathing methods and lung functionality.

Some of the pranayama types that help you fight air pollution are Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom, Chandra Nadi, Surya Nadi and Bhastrika. It is strongly recommended to learn this art of breath from a well-certified yoga trainer. 

You can also increase your lung muscles by simply taking a deep breath and holding it for a count of 10. Then, slowly breathe out the air. If you can keep your breath for a longer time, then you have good lungs health.

Good diet 

Always go for a well-balanced diet to remain fit and strong. Consistent eating of junk and fast food will increase the risk of obesity and other diseases. In addition, such people are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution. Instead, add more fresh veggies and fruits to your diet. Also, you can consume less meat to minimise carbon footprints.

You can also add anti-inflammatory foods as these types of food help to cleanse your lungs effectively. Anti-inflammatory foods which I recommend are: 

Immunity booster drinks

You can do your immunity booster drinks by using readily available items in your kitchen. Immunity booster drinks help to cleanse your lungs. Some of the DIY immunity booster drinks are as follows:

  • Take a glass of warm white milk. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder to it. Also, add two strands of saffron to it. Drink it at night before sleeping. You will get good sleep, and you will be relieved from chest congestion. 
  • Boil water by adding half cinnamon stick. Drink the spice-infused water once a day. Your sinuses would be cleared up. 
  • Buy an excellent green tea. Prepare a green tea by following the packet instructions. Have it whenever you feel irritation in your throat. 
  • Take some crushed 1 or 2 peppercorns, a half-inch of a blade of lemongrass and 1 inch of grated ginger and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Add everything in one glass of boiling water and reduce it to half a glass. Drink two tablespoons of this spice-infused warm water every after three hours. Adding honey is optional. 
  • You can also drink warm water and add honey if you want. Honey helps to relieve throat irritation.

Use Mask

Mask can prevent you from inhaling the polluted air. You would be able to work in contaminated areas without any fear of allergy infections and stress. 

Masks I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
BASE CAMP CROSSDUST MASKEAPI Filter Technology & Advanced NanotechnologyUser FriendlyMore Durable Six layers face maskFilter materials of the dust mask: Double-Layer Melt-blown with Electrostatic Adsorption Performance, Activated carbon, Non-woven Polypropylene
NIOSH approved N95 maskFour layers mask Flexible nose pad, dual strapsDisposable maskEasy to breathe
BASE CAMP Reusable Cloth Face MaskThree layers mask; 100% cotton Skin-friendly and breathablePocket to add additional filterReusable Mask

How can I individually reduce air pollution?

You can always try your level best to minimise air pollution. The following are the methods to reduce air pollution at an individual level.

Plant Trees

Encourage tree plantation drives amongst the communities. You can be a green saviour of your region. Trees are the natural air purifiers of the environment, and it supplies us with clean air.

Municipal councils or the local authorities can develop urban forests to increase the green cover of the locality. They can also plan to create vertical green walls to improve oxygen levels of the region naturally. But don’t forget to plant only indigenous trees. 

Human/ religious celebrations in eco-friendly ways 

Nowadays, many couples celebrate gender (of their baby) revealing parties by bursting firecrackers. But, unfortunately, these firecrackers can transform into massive wildfires if they are burst near trees.

Thus, you can celebrate such celebrations by planting trees in your nearby barren land. Bursting firecrackers on any religious, festive or personal occasion are only going to harm your loved ones. 

You can also celebrate Christmas by not cutting Christmas Trees. Instead, you can buy artificial ones and use them in the coming years too.

Discourage Plastic

Single-use plastic has been one of the major concerns in the environment. Plastic pollution indirectly contributes to the degradation of air quality. Plastic, when burned, releases various toxic gases such as dioxins into the air.

Encourage alternative use of the plastic product. For example, you can wear a cloth bag for shopping. You can also carry your travel cutlery set to a restaurant. Additionally, you can take your water bottle instead of purchasing a packaged drinking water bottle every time.

Use of public transportation 

Increase the use of public transport to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. You can also try carpooling or the cab sharing option. Then, you can also use bicycles instead of scooters. Lastly, you can always opt for walking a shorter distance. 

Alternative use of fossil fuel

It would be best to try switching to other fuel alternatives. For example, don’t use wood for the fireplace. Instead, you can wear multiple layers of clothes for warmth. In this way, you can conserve energy. Additionally, you can also install solar panels on house roofs to convert solar energy into electricity. 

You can also buy electric and hybrid vehicles to minimise tailpipe emissions. Finally, propose or discuss a plan with your mayor or any relevant local authority to promote your region’s renewable energy sector.

Reduction of personal carbon footprints

You can also keep a check on your carbon footprints. For example, you can delete unwanted photos, videos or emails from clouds and email boxes as and when possible. Unfortunately, this unwanted stuff takes a lot of energy, which indirectly contributes to air pollution.

You can also switch off the lights and electrical appliances of the vacant rooms. Try buying local products instead of imported ones. Be vocal about them. You can also discover your own country rather than travelling to different ones.

Create Awareness

Air pollution is unpredictable; air pollution in your vicinity can affect people living in Asia and vice-a-versa. However, you can create public awareness about air pollution amongst your community by teaching and interacting with your kids about the importance of good air. 

Educate youth by telling them the ill effects of poor air quality. Then, let your country’s future know that they deserve a better place to live!

How can the local authorities improve the air quality of your region?

You can always observe the changes happening in your surrounding nature. If you experience bad air quality or any activities producing air pollution, you can always concern relevant local authorities or the mayor.

Here are some methods which local authorities can do.

Proper disposal of waste 

Improper solid waste management of an area is an invitation to many diseases and infections. In addition, burning solid waste in public can cause air pollution, although such practices are rare in the US. 

The wastes are mainly disposed of in the engineered landfills and recycled before final disposal to landfills and waste incinerators. 

In addition, waste incinerators help to convert waste into energy.

However, many researchers have claimed that gasification technology or waste-to-energy technology may release harmful gaseous contaminants. Thus, it is necessary that waste collectors rigorously segregate the waste before sending it to waste incinerators. 

The best solution is to minimise waste at a personal level. Statistically, 70% of the waste generated can be recycled effectively. Thus, strive to recycle your waste at a personal level as much as possible.

Reducing air pollution from agriculture

Stubble burning is still practised in some parts of the US. This event contributes to the degradation of air. Local authorities can help farmers convert this waste into cattle fodder or be transformed into pellets as fuel. In addition, farmers should stop the usage of harmful pesticides or fertilisers to decrease air pollution.

How can I reduce indoor air pollution?

Maintaining household or indoor hygiene

You can decrease poor air quality by adequately maintaining indoor hygiene. For example, you can frequently clean your cupboards and open decks to avoid an accumulation of dust particles. You can then vacuum your carpets and sofas at least twice a week. 

Make sure your doggies and cats are well-groomed. Use chimneys and exhaust fans in kitchens. You can also install an exhaust fan in washrooms. Always make sure you are keeping your house well ventilated. 

Keep doors and windows open when possible. Maintain the health of electric appliances such as heaters, humidifiers, AC, fans, air ducts and so on at regular intervals of the year. Avoid overuse of strong perfumes or strong scented candles indoors. You can additionally use indoor plants to make your indoors more lively and fresh.

Indoor plants

Indoor plants do the same work as outdoor ones- they help to purify indoor air naturally. These indoor plants are also easy to maintain.

The indoor plants which I recommend are as follows: 

Air purifiers

Air purifiers help to improve indoor air quality. The risk of getting air pollution-related diseases decreases due to the use of air purifiers. Air purifiers having good HEPA filters do an adequate job of filtering pollutants.

Air Purifiers I recommend are as follows:

NameWhy I recommend it
Blueair Pro XL Air Purifier99.7% of airborne pollutants such as mould, allergens, smoke particles and pollens are captured. 
AIRMEGA 400SReduction of 99.97% of particulates of 0.3 microns. Also responsible for reducing more than 99% of VOCs, NH3 and CH3CHO.Washable and permanent pre-filters are available 
Blueair Pure 121Includes 3-part filtration system. Captures 99% of common airborne PM 2.5 pollutants such as allergens, odours, smoke, mould spores, dust mites and pet dander.An activated carbon filter removes common odours caused by smoke, pets, and gases (VOCs) and smoke caused by wildfires.

Humidifiers

The humidity levels in the office should be maintained between 30 and 50% in the office. This range helps to keep dust mites, mould and other allergens under control. In addition, when AC or heater makes the air in the room dry, humidifiers can maintain correct humidity levels.

Humidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Amazon Basics Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier 4 litre of tank capacityAuto shut-off feature and 12 or 24-hour timer settingsIt can be used in both seasons
MOVTIP HumidifierPortable Mini-humidifier500 ml capacity, still produces longer mistsEasy to operate
LEVOIT HumidifierIt can be used for both seasons6 litres of capacity Easy to clean and has a remote control

Dehumidifiers 

Dehumidifiers also work similarly to humidifiers. It controls the high levels of humidity in the office.

Dehumidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Pro Breeze DehumidifierCan extract 50 pints of moisture a dayEnergy-saving auto-off systemBuilt-in Humidity sensor
HOmeLabs DehumidifierEliminates moistness, odour controllerEasy to cleanRemovable water tank
TCL Portable Dehumidifier20 pints of moisture removed per dayIt can be operated at low temperatures tooEasy to maintain

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

Can bad air quality increase blood pressure?

How can you protect yourself from bad air quality?

Can bad air quality make it hard to breathe?

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed “Can Bad Air Quality Give You Diarrhea”. The article first addressed the details of air pollution. Then, it outlined the direct and indirect effects of bad air quality on our stomach health. In the end, this article provided lifesaver tips to improve the air quality that you and your loved ones breathe in.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Can Bad Air Quality Give You Diarrhea?

Can poor air quality cause stomach problems?

Yes, poor air quality can be responsible for stomach problems. Researchers believe that excessive exposure to particulate matter (PM2.5) can develop and aggravate the gastrointestinal disease.

What are the symptoms of unhealthy air quality?

The general symptoms of unhealthy air quality are as follows:

  • Coughing
  • Throat irritation
  • Discomfort in the chest while taking a deep breath
  • Shortness breathe and wheezing

What environmental issues can cause diarrhea?

Yes, various environmental issues can cause diarrhea. Those environmental issues are as below:

  • Poor water quality
  • Improper sanitation management
  • Improper solid waste disposal system
  • Air pollution

Can air quality affect the digestive system?

Yes, air quality affects the digestive system. Research in the field of epidemiology observed that air pollution could cause different gastrointestinal diseases such as:

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Appendicitis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Enteric infections in infants

What is GERD? Can air quality affect GERD?

GERD is short-form for gastro-oesophagal reflux disease. It is a digestive disease in which stomach acid irritates food pipelining. Poor air quality affects GERD. Risk factors affecting GERD are as follows:

  • Average temperature
  • Sunshine duration
  • Wind speed
  • PM2.5
  • Carbon Monoxide

Can smoke from wildfires make you sick?

Yes, smoke from wildfires can make anyone sick. However, people already who have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), children, pregnant women can immediately get affected due to smoke. The immediate effect is coughing and trouble breathing.

References

Indoor air quality and what it means for you: Sears Heating & Cooling, 2015. Sears Heating and Cooling – Columbus, Ohio. Available at: https://www.searsheatingcooling.com/indoor-air-quality-and-what-it-means-for-you/

Brown, J., 2019. How dirty air could be affecting our gut health. BBC Future. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190128-how-dirty-air-could-be-affecting-our-gut-health

Hutt, R., 2016. Seven shocking facts about air pollution. World Economic Forum. Available at: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/10/air-pollution-facts/

Konkel, L., 2013. Do air pollutants play a role in bowel disease. Scientific American. Available at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-air-pollutants-play-a-role-in-bowel-disease/

Norton, A., 2010. Are air pollutants linked to bowel disease risk? Reuters. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pollutants-bowel-1-idUSTRE6685F920100709

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