It is Springtime…and the trees and flowers are in bloom. For seasonal allergy sufferers, this is not such an enjoyable experience. But, I am here to share some tips that may make your Spring a little easier.
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, respiratory allergies are related not only to the function of the energy of the Lung (which also includes the nose, sinuses, throat, and windpipe), but also to the function of the digestive system, or Spleen Qi. (For more information on how digestion affects our immune and other body systems, refer to Nutrition Part 2 post). Together, the Lung Qi and the Spleen Qi contribute to what is known as the Defensive Qi, which acts as a shield for our bodies, keeping us from being so sensitive or vulnerable to allergens, bacteria and viruses.
Keeping all of this in mind, there are several things you can do to minimize your allergic reactions:
1. Eliminate dairy products from your diet. This includes anything made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk or sheep’s milk, including yogurt, cheese, sour cream, ice cream, cottage cheese, feta and all creamy or cheesy dressings and soups. Animals’ dairy products are very difficult for humans to digest, depleting the Spleen Qi, and often creating a lot of excess mucous (or Dampness) in the digestive and respiratory systems, which restricts breathing airways, and traps more allergens in the respiratory passages for the body to react to.
Eliminating dairy products usually results in a clearing out of excess mucous within 3 to 8 weeks, and a much less reactive respiratory system.
2. Determine if you have any “gateway” allergens. Dairy products can also be quite allergenic themselves, even if you don’t have obvious digestive distress after eating them. For many people, they can act as what I refer to as a “gateway” allergen. This means that consuming dairy products could make you more allergic to other eaten or inhaled substances.
An example that comes to mind is a woman my mother knew when I was young, who was only allergic to her cat when she ate eggs. And I’ve had many patients who, once they eliminated dairy products, were no longer allergic to trees, grass or dust. In fact, my own husband’s allergy and asthma problems were reduced by about 80% when he eliminated dairy products.
The most common “gateway” allergens are dairy, wheat, eggs, soy and corn. Interestingly, all of these common “gateway” allergens are also considered to be Dampness forming foods, according to TCM.
It would be a good idea to get a food allergy test done, to find out which foods your system reacts to. As you eliminate the worst offenders from you diet, you may find that your respiratory allergies clear up as well. (If you need one, I can supply you an easy-to-do food allergy test kit.)
3. Avoid sugar. While sugar itself isn’t an allergen, it is a burden for both the Spleen Qi, and the immune system, often making it more reactive against allergens, and less effective against pathogenic microbes. Sugar also feeds many of the microorganisms that the immune system needs to keep at bay on a daily basis, making you more susceptible to colds, flu’s and other infections.
4. Take probiotics. These supplements are comprised of the beneficial bacteria that line our digestive and respiratory systems. These helpful micro-organisms assist our immune system in keeping populations of harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites and yeasts in check. Taking antibiotics, corticosteroids or chemical nasal sprays can destroy large numbers of our beneficial bacteria, leaving us more vulnerable to future infections.
Unfortunately, modern life expose us daily to chemicals that kill these vital allies: fluoride and chlorine in tap water, many types of medications, and antibiotics in meat, dairy and poultry are the most ubiquitous sources. While we can never fully restore all of the colonies of beneficial bacteria that should be living in our bodies, we can do our best to restore as many of them as possible with a high quality, multi-strain supplement. (I do carry high quality probiotic supplements if you would like to get them from me).
5. Avoid being outside in early morning, or at dusk. This is when the most offending allergen plants are in bloom, and the pollen concentrations are the highest.
6. Keep your home’s windows closed, and the A/C fan running, to filter the indoor air. Be sure to change your air filter every 30 days during high pollen seasons. Consider getting your carpets steam cleaned, or replacing them altogether. Wood, laminate or tile is much better than carpet for chronic allergy sufferers. (If you need the name of a good carpet cleaner in the Tampa Bay area let me know.)
7. Be sure you don’t have an indoor mold problem. This is a very common issue in the damp conditions of Florida, and it can be very dangerous. I’ve treated many extremely ill patients who lived in homes that had mold problems which were ignored or treated improperly. If you have even the slightest suspicion that you have a mold problem, you owe it to yourself to get your home inspected. (Let me know if you need a referral to a good mold inspector and/or mold remediator in the Tampa Bay area).
8. If you still are suffering, please call for an appointment. You may just need some acupuncture and Chinese herbs to finally bring you relief. For some great testimonials on the effectiveness of acupuncture and herbal treatment for allergies, check out the testimonial page on my website.
Have a wonderful Spring!