When a new season arises such as Spring it stirs up feelings of excitement in anticipation of warmer weather, sunny days and warm nights.
However, Spring time and the appearance of new blooms for many individuals (including myself) elicits feelings of anxiety as flowers equals pollen and pollen equals dreaded HAYFEVER!!!!
Hayfever (Allergic Rhinitis) is a common respiratory condition affecting 15% of Australians (approximately 3 million / 1 in 5 individuals) and numbers seem to be on the rise every year.
When Hayfever sufferers are exposed to particular pollens, their body mistakenly thinks this is a treat and triggers an allergic reaction. Inflammatory cells quickly release mediators such as histamine and that’s when the symptoms kick in
- Runny nose
- Itchy mouth
- Throat irritation
- Burning/itchy/watery/swollen eyes
- Difficulty breathing
- Itchy skin
- Nasal congestion
- Foggy head & thoughts
- Muscle aches & fatigue
And as a consequence
- Lack of sleep
- Decreased appetite
Inhaled allergens cause a hypersensitivity reaction of the immune system known as an immunoglobulin (IgE) mediated response. The antigen-antibody reaction in the nasal mucosa and the release of histamines makes capillaries more permeable to fluid accumulation resulting in swelling and irritation.
In Chinese Medicine Hayfever is known as ‘Bi Yuan’, which literally translates to “nose pool”. According to TCM principles it’s caused by the invasion of Wind Cold or Wind Heat due to a weak body constitution, Wei (defence) Qi deficiency, Weak Lung Qi, a genetic predisposition to lung aliments and poor dietary habits.
Emotions also play a part in the development of this aliment.
Worry = spleen deficiency = damp development/accumulation
Sadness = weakens the lungs = breathing difficulties
Anger = weakens white blood cells = decreased immunity
Fear =weakens the kidneys = weakens the constitution
Wind Cold Symptoms
- Blocked & congestion of nasal/sinus membranes
- Runny nose with clear mucus
- Itchy throat
- Frontal headache
Wind Heat Symptoms
- Itchy, sore, red throat
- Itchy, sore, burning red eyes
- Itchy nose with redness & swelling
- Blocked or runny nose with yellow mucus
Once hayfever takes hold it’s difficult to tackle. The best approach is prevention and strengthening immunity before the season starts. Acupuncture is amazing at supporting sufferers pre-season and also while the symptoms are taking hold.
Herbs (Chinese & Western) are also very effective at supporting immunity and suppressing symptoms when they arise.
Diet & Gut Health
As many of you may know 80% of our immunity lies within the GUT. Hence it’s imperative to support the Gut through good nutrition.
- Eliminate or reduce your consumption of dairy. Dairy contains lactose, which leads to the formation of mucus and phlegm in the body. This of course only heightens hayfever symptoms of nasal congestion, blocked sinuses and discharge.
- Include more EFA (Essential Fatty Acids) in your diet by eating more oily fish (sardines, tuna, cod, mackerel, trevally, blue grenadier, herring, rainbow trout, whiting), flaxseeds, nuts such as walnuts & pecans & olive oil. These contain anti-inflammatory EPA & DHA, reducing mucus membrane inflammation.
- Seeking out some local honey, which contains pollen from flowers and blooms in your immediate environment, is also a great supportive tool. This acts to desensitize the body and the immune system in the same way injections from an allergist would. It’s a good idea to start at least 6 weeks before the season begins and continue throughout.
- Horseradish is useful in cooking as it has an affect on airways by clearing heat, breaking up mucous, is an expectorant and opens up sinuses.
- Drink 2 cups of Fenugreek tea daily as it acts as an expectorant. It is also anti-inflammatory to mucous membranes.
- Dried Chrysanthemum Flowers seeped in 2 cups of water helps reduce itchy eyes, irritability and sneezing. Allow infusion for 10 minutes.
- Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties. Include grated ginger in cooking or slice ginger and seep it in boiling water for 5 minutes for a soothing tea.
- Include more Garlic in your cooking as it decreases mucous, is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.
- Eat an array of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. Bioflavonoids help inhibit histamine released by mast cells in response to allergens. In nature, bioflavonoids are found together with Vitamin C and work together to reduce allergies. Found in citrus fruits, apricots, berries, grapes, papaya, green tea, capsicum and tomato.
- Decrease Alcohol consumption as it swells mucus membranes.
- Decrease your consumption of cold/raw foods as these foods weaken the spleen and are difficult for the spleen to breakdown. Excess consumption leads to damp formation.
- Decrease wheat and gluten containing products because they are inflammatory to the Gut.
- Decrease your intake of sweets. Sweets weaken the spleen and again this leads to damp.
- Hot spicy foods may assist in opening up the nasal passages clearing congestion
- Avoid fried foods as they encourage damp formation. Colours, flavors, preservatives & refined carbohydrates should be greatly decreased or better still removed as they unquestionably suppress the immune system.
- Zinc + Vitamin C Lozenges can be useful at soothing the throat and assist in drying up mucous from the nasal passages.
- Coenzyme Q10 is useful in regulating histamine release, improves oxygenation and immunity.
- Vitamin C acts as a potent immune-stimulant and is anti-inflammatory
- Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that stabilizes the membranes of cells responsible for the release of histamine which triggers allergic symptoms.
- Probiotics increase your levels of good bacteria in the Gut. Healthy bacteria levels are essential for an effective immunity, which hence decreases susceptibility to allergies.
- Vitamin D’s importance cannot be emphasised enough. Low Vitamin D levels have been linked to asthma, allergies be they environmental or food related.
Some Other Tips
- Weekly washing of bed sheets & towels and finishing off the drying process in the dryer to remove any pollen, which may be sitting on the clothing, is important.
- Advised to stay indoors on particularly windy days
- Applying some organic paw paw ointment to the inside of your nose will trap and prevent pollen particles from entering the nasal passengers causing symptoms
- Steam inhalations with bicarb soda can also be useful at clearing up nasal congestion.
- Pollen count is highest in the early morning and at night so keep windows and doors closed.
- Wear sunglasses to prevent pollen from getting into your eyes.
- Self massage techniques.. Massage along and down the sides of your fingers. Also find the web between your thumb and index finger. Press several times. Acupressure just to the side of your nostril several times.