Are you feeling taken over by sneezing, a runny nose, itchy eyes, a scratchy throat, fatigue, headaches, or that foggy headed feeling? Santa Rosa summer is in full swing and so are seasonal allergies. If you suffer from seasonal allergies it can be hard to move through your daily activities, never mind have enough energy to enjoy the long summer days. I successfully treat lots of patients for allergies with acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. While everyone is different, there is some universal advice I give to my patients to help ease their allergy symptoms. Many of these tips you can implement right away to start feeling better now!
- Nasal rinse: wash those particles off your nasal membranes! When pollen comes in contact with the mast cells in your respiratory system histamines are released which lead to allergy symptoms, bummer. Good news is that since we have access to our nasal membranes we can wash them off and stop those mast cells from overreacting. A neti pot is a special ceramic pot that is designed to allow water to run through one nostril and out the other side. Add non-iodized salt to the water so that it is as salty as your tears and a small drop of grapefruit seed extract—it’s a natural antimicrobial. If you are confused about how it works, google for a you tube video demonstration. Use a neti pot twice a day during the height of allergy season or after you have just been exposed to lots of pollen. I recommend everyone with allergies gets some Xlear nasal spray because it’s easy to use on the go and because it has some added benefits to the neti pot. Xlear is a nasal spray that contains xylitol and grapefruit seed extract in a saline solution. It’s all packaged in a metered pump which mists the spray deep into your sinuses. More and more research is showing that the simple sugar xylitol is beneficial to the respiratory system and it acts as a surfactant to help loosen the particles from the nasal membranes. Use the Xlear nasal spray pump mist 5 times a day at the height of allergy season. If you think all this nasal rinsing sounds time consuming remember that we’re lucky we have direct access to the external interaction of the body and the pollens. If you had inflammation in your heart, there isn’t an over the counter heart rinse. So take advantage of your ability to treat your allergies from the outside.
- Aromatherapy: open and dilate those nasal passages! Essential oils contain aromatics that can open up your nasal passages, allow you to breath better, and reduce the painful pressure for quick relief. Eucalyptus oil is antimicrobial and an expectorant. Fir oil is from a type of pine tree which is very aromatic and opening; it’s also antimicrobial. Lavender oil is soothing and anti-inflammatory as well as an antiseptic and anticonvulsant. Look for therapeutic grade organic essential oils. You can use one or a combination of all three in several ways. Put a couple drops in a bowl of steamy water, lean over the bowl, and put a towel over your head and breath in. Start slowly as the steam can be hot and the oils strong. Or place a few drops of the oils on a cloth and breath in. You can also mix the oils with some vegetable oil and rub on your chest or place a small amount just inside your nostril with a q-tip.
- Eye drops: rinse and cool the eyes! Plain saline drops or homeopathic anti-itch drops from Similasan will rinse out and soothe the eyes. Put them in the fridge for even more cooling relief.
- Diet: cleanse your body! Your body may be run down by irritants in your daily diet which makes it more susceptible to overreact to allergens. The two most common irritants in the modern American diet are dairy and wheat. Dairy causes an increase in mucous and is often difficult to digest. Wheat causes inflammation in many people. Even if you do not notice acute symptoms from dairy and wheat, in my experience they are often background irritants that cause inflammation. If you think this might be you, perform a test so you can feel how it affects your body and adjust your diet accordingly. Take a break from wheat and dairy for 2 weeks—plan for it and segregate your food at home and pick a time that sets you up for success. At the end of the 2 weeks eat wheat and dairy for 3 meals a day and see how you feel. Your body will let you know if you are sensitive to these foods and if you should reduce or eliminate these foods around allergy season. No dairy or wheat? What am I going to eat? Eat more anti-inflammatory foods. They boost and soothe your immune system. Add these to your diet: wild caught salmon, blueberries, broccoli, spinach, sweet potato, turmeric, and extra virgin olive oil. Still bored by this diet? Good news is that honey helps reduce allergies. 2 Tablespoons of local raw honey a day exposes your body to the local pollens in a way that the body can process it. Then it won’t react so bad next time it encounters those pollens.
- More water: hydrate hydrate hydrate! Water flushes the body and helps cells function properly. I recommend people drink half their body weight in ounces of water each day. Take your weight, divide it in half, and that’s the amount of ounces you need. Picture how much water this is and spread it out throughout the day.
- Reduce stress: Less stress makes everything feel better! But more interestingly I have found that it is common for people who are prone to stress to have more sensitive sinuses. One way to explain this is that according to Chinese medicine, stress causes stagnations which causes friction which causes heat. Heat rises and gets lodged in the sinuses causing inflammation and sensitivity. Look for ways to quiet the mind throughout the day. Meditation is good for this purpose but if that sounds daunting start with taking short breaks in the day to breath.
- Acupressure: self massage for your face! There’s several acupuncture points on the face that open the nasal passages, calm the eyes, and sooth the sinuses. LI 20 is located on either side of your nostrils, next to the nose, where it meets the face. UB 2 is on the inside corner of they eyebrow, directly above the inside corner of the eye; you can feel a notch in the bone. Rub the points in circles, counterclockwise 70 times each.
- Herbs: treat the allergies from the inside! There are many natural botanicals known to reduce the histamine response, increase circulation to the nasal passages, stop itching, and expectorate mucous. In addition a good custom Chinese formula will address the root cause of the imbalance in the immune system which is causing it to overreact.
- Acupuncture: activate your natural healing ability! If you’re not getting adequate results with the above natural remedies, acupuncture can help nudge your body in the right direction. As apposed to western treatments, which are aimed at blocking the symptoms, acupuncture will both alleviate symptoms for quick relief and treat the imbalance behind the allergies for prevention. Each acupuncture treatment is created for the individual to help bring the body back into balance and restore health. When health is restored the body will stop overacting to the environment and allergy symptoms do not come back. The best time to come in for treatment is 2-3 months before allergy season. Most people come in for treatment at the peak of the allergy season when we have to focus more on symptomatic relief before we can focus on the underlying causes. Even then, for the majority of patients we can lessen the symptoms they are currently having and greatly reduce, if not eliminate, the symptoms in the next season. If you have any questions or need any help implementing these strategies give me a call. I’m always happy to help!
(Image source: Kingdom of Rabbits)