The beauty of spring is upon us, and so is allergy season! For many of us that means endless sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes. Add sinus pressure, headaches, and post-nasal drip to the mix and it can be pretty miserable. But don’t worry! There is relief!
What are allergies? Allergies are a hypersensitive immune response that occurs when the body comes in contact with a foreign substance such as pollen, dust, pet dander, or smoke. The body goes into overdrive to rid itself of the offender, releasing antibodies to attack the allergens. This in turn leads to the release of histamine, which causes an excess of mucus production and inflammation and thus the runny nose, itchy watery eyes, and nasal congestion we are all familiar with.
Allopathic (Western) medicine seeks to alleviate these symptoms through medications such as antihistamines, which, as the name implies, decreases the histamine production of the body. While it may reduce the symptoms it does not actually correct the problem – an over-reactive immune system. That is where traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) comes in. According to TCM, allergies are an imbalance in the distribution of qi (vital energy) in the body. Acupuncture and herbal medicine seeks to restore the proper flow of qi, strengthening your immune function, reducing inflammation, clearing nasal passages, and improving lung function.
Approaching treatment from several angles at once can provide greater and longer lasting relief. There are several things you can do to beat the allergy misery:
- Acupuncture and herbal medicine: Restoring the proper flow and balance of qi in the body is vital to combating allergies. Not only will this reduce or eliminate symptoms, it can also prevent allergies before allergy season takes hold.
- Diet: Certain foods are known to produce excess mucus in the body and cause inflammation, which means they should be avoided especially during allergy season. These foods include: dairy products made from cow’s milk, margarine, white flour, and refined sugar. Conversely, there are foods to help improve your immune function and decrease mucus production: local raw honey, pears, apricots, olives and olive oil, grapes, and dark leafy greens. Adding a cup or two of green tea daily will help detoxify the body, aiding in decreasing inflammation.
- Stay hydrated! Drinking plenty of water will help keep your body in top shape. Water is necessary for proper digestion, muscle function, immune function, and even memory! It also helps the body keep the respiratory system clear by keeping the mucus thin and easy to move. A certain amount of mucus is necessary for normal function in the lungs (and throughout the body), but when we are dehydrated the mucus becomes thick and extra sticky, causing coughing and congestion. Keeping a bottle of water handy throughout the day will help keep things flowing properly.
- Neti pot: Flushing the nasal passages can help reduce allergy symptoms by removing the offending pollens and dust from the sinuses, reducing irritation and inflammation.
- Clean air: Using an air filtration system in the home, especially in the bedroom while you sleep, can help improve allergy symptoms. If you prefer a more natural solution, house plants are great at keeping the air clean! Some plants to consider:
- Spider plant
- Snake plant
- English ivy
- Peace lily
- Bamboo palm
Allergy season doesn’t have to be a season of misery. With a little help the spring can be a time of easy breathing! Stay healthy!
~Cyndi Bartlett, LAc.