The Cognitive Connection: Poor Air Quality linked to Mental Disorders


Poor Air Quality linked to Mental Disorders


The Cognitive Connection

Guys I’m jumping right into it today because I can hardly breathe as I’m typing this… There’s a huge fire here in Utah which is seriously impacting our air quality and I want all my fellow Utahn’s to have the dirty deets on how to get clean air and why it's so important!!

Let’s talk about the cognitive connection.

Over the past decade, researchers have found that high levels of pollution may damage children’s cognitive abilities, increase adults risk of cognitive decline and even contribute to depression, anxiety and other mental diseases.

I don’t only live in Utah but I live smack dab in the Salt Lake Valley, known for its beautiful mountain ranges on both sides but also known for its pollution!!!

The connection between pollution and a busted brain is something that Paul Mohi, PhD and professor at the Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment said “...should be taken seriously.” Dr. Mohai showed the link between air pollution and academic performance in children. “I don’t think the issue has gotten the visibility it deserves.”

Normally I’m sitting here spittin science with a side of sarcasm and a dash of sass but ladies and gents, it’s hard to make light of an issue when our suicide rates here in Utah are at an all time high.

My niece’s school district had 7 suicides this past school year. From 1999 to 2015, the suicide rate has increased 50%. Our neighbors in New Mexico and Colorado are also among the highest suicide rates in the nation.

The University of Utah did a study on air pollution and its link to deaths here in Utah. I talk lots about my home state but this study applies to all you lovely people around the world. My good friend and Fitness Instagrammer, Jenn wrote this beautiful guest post here on Chanelle Cozette after she lost a family member to suicide and almost herself.

I assumed, wrongly that is, that it was only during high pollution days where this would be an issue but after falling down the rabbit hole of research, I found that even on low pollution days our health is being affected, including our noggins.

Francesca Dominici, director of the Harvard Data Science initiative say that “It’s not only when you have a high level of particulate matter that you have to worry about, but also when the particulate matter is low.

Da funk is particulate matter?

These are particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5), that’s about 1/30th the size of a human hair. The reason these are such bad news is because they’re readily inhaled into human lungs, where they are deposited causing irritation and triggering all sorts of respiratory conditions. Now recent science suggests that these particles are able to enter the bloodstream, travel through the body, where they may cause a range of problems…. Like heart attack, decreased brain function and gut irritation.

They’re carcinogenic, meaning they can cause cancer!

More recently, Frederica Perera, PhD, at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and colleagues followed children in New York City from before birth to age 6 or 7.

They discovered that children who had been exposed to higher levels of urban air pollutants while in utero were more likely to experience attention problems and severe symptoms of anxiety and depression!! (Environmental Health Perspectives, 2012).

I had a reader say “The more we know, the better we do” and I can’t agree more! The more I learn of things outside of my expertise, like air quality, the better I want to do. I’m going to be such a freak when #OperationKnockedUp works.

Now guys, when you mix pollution with the low atmospheric pressure of Utah’s altitude, you have a deadly duo.

Low atmospheric pressure causes less oxygen in the blood which affects the body’s serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates mood.

Suicide rates increase with altitude.

There’s a certain altitude that we start to see issues begin and that's above 3,000 feet. Guess what Utah’s altitude is? Yep well above 3,000 feet. I’m sitting here typing this up at a whopping 4,450′

To battle the high depression rates, people use antidepressants, the most commonly prescribed antidepressants, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, appear to be less effective when used at these higher altitudes. SSRIs include Prozac, Zoloft and Lexapro. Well isn’t that just peachy.

Back in 2010, 1 in every 5 women here in Utah were on one of these medications and may still be. This was the most recent stat I could find while hurrying to type this up.

We now know that they aren’t working as well as they should.

Pollution is killing us.

Higher altitudes are strangling our brains.

Our mental health is suffering.

What in the world do we do? Pack up, head to sea level and where special masks at all times?

Probably not realistic, so here is a list of things you can do right now to lessen the impact of pollution, altitude while bumping up your serotonin levels and cognitive health.

Take self care steps today because we need you for all of our tomorrows.
— Chanelle Cozette


  • Air filter- We use this air filter in our bedroom and love it. Air filters only purify air in so many square feet, I suggest snagging a couple or moving it to different rooms each day if you’re trying to save some dolla bills.

  • Purifying essential oils- I used to be a huge sceptic but the research is in and essential oils are legit.

"The findings provide the first evidence that natural essential oil components counteract the inflammatory effects of particulate matter, such as that contained in polluted air..." says Kfoury.

  • Peppermint, clove bud and ylang ylang: There’s some promising research on ylang ylang and clove bud’s ability to counter the effects of air pollution. Then peppermint has expectorant actions that can clear up symptoms from upper respiratory congestion.

This is good for pollution or things like allergies, asthma, flu, cold and bronchitis.

  • Woodsy Oils: Tea tree and eucalyptus essential oils have been clinically shown to kill the airborne flu virus. While lemongrass and cinnamon bark work wonders on battling bacteria in the air. They can also support the lungs and clear em up of airborne bacteria.

  • Citrus Oils: Sweet orange, grapefruit and lemon essential oils are all antimicrobial and destroy airborne germs with their super high levels of limonene.

Just as the damaging air particles enter in through your olfactory system, so do essential oils. Studies have shown they can get inside your bloodstream within 25 minutes!!

Swap out bad air for clean essential oils and you’ll notice a difference.

Now if you have blocked up nostrils from a mix of allergies or poor air quality or if you’re here in Utah, we currently have a fire that is contributing to lots of junk in our air then do yourself a favor and snag a bottle of BREATHE!!


I did 15 drops of BREATHE in my diffuser and instantly my breathing improved. I’ve talked about it before but I struggle in the breathing department. I have a jacked up septum and so when the air is bad, I seriously struggle.

  • Spend less time driving. This isn’t easy but it will help. I decided to do a couple non-gym day workouts to save my contribution to our bad air, as well as staying where I know the air is fresh. We also went cloud based as a company in order to reduce our carbon footprint and exposure to pollution.

Fighting the altitude situation:

We gotta get more oxygen into our blood, as well as increase our production of serotonin.


  • Hydrate- You gotta be properly hydrated to get oxygen to your blood. Shoot for at least the recommended half your body weight in ounces of water. Try my cucumber cocktail because it's delicious plus helps to detoxify as well as hydrate then also try my detox charcoal lemonade!

  • Exercise- Exercise helps to get oxygen into your blood. If your air is really bad then make sure you’re careful on this one because the pollution may be affecting your lungs. You’ll also want to make sure you’re exercising in a location that is purifying the air. Don’t exercise outside!

  • Nitric Oxide - These are commonly found in preworkout because they get your blood pumping! Opt for plant sources boosts like kale and beets. I included organic kale, red spinach and beets in my PreWorkout Pixies which help get your blood pumping and increase oxygen levels!


  • Gut Bacteria: Eat a high-fiber diet to feed all your lil love bugs, new research shows they play a vital role in serotonin levels through the gut-brain axis. Use pre+probiotics to give your gut what it needs, as well as doing my GUT REFRESH if your good to bad bacteria ratio is whacked. *Discount code at the bottom

  • Tryptophan: Serotonin is synthesized from tryptophan, specifically serotonin that is produced in the brain. Tryptophan is an amino acid found in eggs, pineapple, salmon, nuts & seeds and of course Turkey. I say of course Turkey because most people know it’s the tryptophan annnndd probably the excess eating that causes you to siesta post Thanksgiving. You can also supplement it, this may be the best route if you’re just starting to try to get a grip on your depression in a holistic way. Always make sure to work with your doctor if you’re wanting to get off of anti-depressants.

  • 5-HTP: This bypasses the oxygen-dependent step in the serotonin production, making it the perfect fit for us who live at high altitudes. It also helps with motility which is what helps move your food through your gut.

  • Bliss: Is an adaptogen mist that helps keep your body in homeostasis. Extracted polyphenols from monocot grasses have been shown to help balance out serotonin levels, helping improve sleep and of course mooooooood.

Mark and I are currently off to March on behalf of my Aunt Caryn at the American Foundation for Suicide sponsored walk called Out of The Darkness and Into The Light.

Mental health is one of my biggest “WHYs.” It’s why I’m so passionate about using food as medicine, gut health to fight depression and promoting self love.

If you’d like to donate to The American Foundation For Suicide here’s a link. If you’ve been wanting to do my GUT REFRESH program, then use code: CAREBEAR  

This will give you $5 off the ebook and I’ll donate $20 from every sale.

Thank you so much for your love and support.

 *This post is not sponsored. When you purchase a product from my pink links I do receive commission from the company you purchase from, this does not impact the price you pay!! This allows me to continue to provide you with free & fabulous content. Thank you for your support! Xo

Chanelle Cozette Doyle