How To Beat Spring Allergies With Ayurveda
Article Written By Tegan Wallis, Holistic Health Practitioner at Veda Wellness
That time of year is here when the weather starts to warm up, the snow starts to melt, and the smell of summer is in the air…. yet the dreaded Spring Allergy season begins!
Do you or someone you know suffer from seasonal allergies? It is estimated that 4.1 million Australians (19.6% of the population) are affected with allergies.
An allergy is when the immune system overacts to a certain trigger and starts of a cascade of symptoms. The most common culprits are pollens, dust mites, moulds and animal dander.
When the immune system reacts to an allergen, it produces a molecule called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). IgE is responsible for the release of histamine, which causes inflammation of the mucous membranes which results in those dreaded symptoms of runny nose, itchy eyes, nose, ears; swelling, watery eyes, headaches, and excessive mucous production.
The two main categories of allergies
One is the type that a person is born with, caused by genetic predisposition. It can be a reaction to certain foods or to certain allergens in the environment such as dust or animal dander.
Sometimes it’s easy to avoid that one allergen that you are highly sensitive to, others not so much. So the focus with this type of allergen is to support the body to lessening the impact of the response and preventing the progression of associated chronic conditions such as asthma.
The second category includes seasonal allergies that a person has acquired later in life, which can be dealt with more easily. This type of reaction is caused by an imbalance in the bodies system and a build-up of toxins (called Ama in Ayurveda). This Ama builds up in the system and when it comes into contact with an allergen it makes it hard for the cells to function properly and disrupts the immune system, which then creates the allergic reaction.
Causes of Ama are poor digestive function, poor diet, stress and an unhealthy lifestyle.
How natural therapies can help
Ayurvedic medicine has a lot to offer in terms of prevention and treatment of Spring Allergies. Now is the time to act for true prevention!
The Ayurvedic View
Spring is invigorating and a time of year for renewal, new energy and vitality as the sunlight and warmth begin to melt away the winter chill and snow – this is Mother Nature’s natural cleansing cycle. As animals in nature start to slim down to lose their winter coat in spring, the same effect naturally begins in our own body to decrease the accumulation of Ama (toxins) and excess weight gained during the winter period.
We also intuitively feel this shift in energy and have the urge to ‘spring clean’ our home and emerge back into civilisation from the sleepy winter’s hibernation.
In Ayurveda, late winter and early spring are governed by the Kapha dosha, which is one of three Ayurvedic Doshas (governing forces in nature) and has the qualities of being heavy, dense, wet and cool. As these qualities are naturally increasing this time of year in nature, they are also increasing in your mind and body. When Kapha is in balance it provides strength and stamina, immunity, peace, love, generosity, and good memory; it lubricates the joints, as well as provides sufficient mucous to protect the mucous membranes of the sinuses, lungs and stomach.
When Kapha is out of balance, you might feel sleepy, mentally dull or depressed; you may have limbs that feel heavy, sluggish digestion, colds and flus or feel puffy due to fluid retention. One of the most common conditions experienced in spring is the excess production of phlegm and mucous. As the sun melts away the winter’s snow, the earth becomes full of moisture and the same happens in our body as accumulated congestion turns to fluid. Sinusitis, asthma, lung conditions, hay fever and allergies are all aggravated and prominent during this month and we may even find ourselves getting the spring flu.
As spring is the natural cleansing season, it is best to utilise this energy to clear out excess Ama and accumulated Kapha to avoid the undesirable conditions mentioned above, especially allergies.
Ayurvedic treatment and prevention for allergies include a holistic program addressing diet, lifestyle and herbal supplements.
Here are 3 key areas to combat allergies.
1. Cleanse to decrease Kapha and Ama
- Avoid heavy foods since they will aggravate allergies, water retention and sluggishness. This includes all dairy, wheat, yeasted breads, meat, refined and processed food, left overs, canned food, baked goods, refined sugar and oily food. Even bananas this time of year are best to avoid.
- Meals should be light, warm and simple – lightly cooked vegetables, grains and legumes cooked in small amounts of ghee or coconut oil.
- Eat bitter greens such as kale, rocket, spinach, mustard greens, nettle and dandelion leaf as these stimulate the release of digestive enzymes and enhance liver function to support detoxification
- Include pungent, warming and drying spices such as ginger, turmeric, garlic, cinnamon, black pepper, cayenne, paprika, cumin, fennel. The qualities of these spices break up Ama and help to combat the mucous forming aspects of Kapha.
- Increase grains such as barley, quinoa, basmati rice and millet
- Enjoy exercise outdoors such as the daily Yoga Sun salutations sequence and perform any exercise vigorously enough to get your heart racing and sweat beading. If possible have steams or saunas. If you can, take a hot bath with Epsom salt a few times per week. Sweating is important as it stimulates the lymphatic system and opens all the minute channels in the body so the toxins can be eliminated easier.
- Begin each day with a cup of warm water and 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. This will help kick start your metabolism to burn fat and start the cleansing process
- Avoid alcohol, coffee, cigarettes and any other toxic vices there may be out there!
2. Investigate to discover underlying aggravating factors
- Identify concurrent food allergies / sensitivities
- Ensure a well-functioning digestive function
- Boost immune function
- Identify Nutritional deficiencies
Manage allergies by maintaining an allergen-free environment:
- Cover pillows and mattresses with plastic/allergy covers.
- Minimise dust-collecting household items (i.e., carpets, curtains).
- Use of an air purifier/dust filter may help.
3. Natural Supplements to prevent onset, decrease acute symptoms and rebalance
Supplementing with food or supplements prevents allergies and lessens the symptoms by decreasing the immune response.
- Vitamins A, C, E, D, Zinc and Selenium
- Low levels are linked to a prevalence of allergies. Foods high in these include citrus, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds and orange vegetables such as carrots and sweet potato.
- Quercetin is a plant chemical that severely reduces histamine release and aids in reducing symptoms associated with allergies. It is a potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. It is found in large amounts in onions, capers and chilli.
- Lactobacillus rhamonosus GG – LGG is a human probiotic strain shown to be effective in rebalancing the immune response in allergy, by suppressing IgE response. Include fermented foods into your diet such as Sauerkraut, and Kimchi.
- Omega 3
- Potent anti-inflammatory to decrease allergic response. Omega 3 is found in foods such as walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and deep sea fish.
- A classic Ayurvedic herb used for the relief of allergy symptom. This herb inhibits the early processes of sensitisation, and depresses levels of allergy inducing antibodies, as well as regulating the immune activity.
- Bacial Skullcap
- Potent anti-inflammatory herb with strong anti-allergic properties.
We recommend seeing a qualified practitioner before beginning any herbal supplementation.