It’s a perennial challenge for many people. Just as the weather is getting nicer and we want to spend more time outside, trees, grasses, and many other plants begin to bloom and their airborne pollen will find a hospitable landing spot in your airways, where they can trigger an overreaction of your immune system and cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms.
What are seasonal allergies?
For a primer on seasonal allergies read Can You Nip Seasonal Allergies in the Bud?, where I explain in more detail how your body’s immune system can go into overdrive when exposed to airborne pollen and other irritants.
The symptoms of hay fever and other allergies are on the rise. More and more children suffer from them, but grown-ups can also be affected. It seems that our modern lifestyle is at least somehow involved in this trend. It may even be one of the primary causes.
Chemical sensitivities can undermine your body’s self-regulation
In just the last 100 or so years, we humans, along with animals and plants in our environment, have become inundated with chemicals that never existed naturally before. It is estimated that we are exposed to well over 50,000 artificial substances. These chemicals are in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, the clothes we wear, and the materials our homes, cars and workplaces are made from. Our bodies frequently do not know how to get rid of most of these chemicals, and so they accumulate in our tissues and slowly but surely begin to poison us and affect the ways in which our bodies function. In the vast majority of cases, we do not know or understand what disruptive effects these chemicals may have inside of us or in our environment.
It should be obvious then that sharply reducing our exposure to artificial chemicals is an important first step we should all take. That’s easier said than done, though, because they’re everywhere. Most of us also don’t have the luxury of being able to move to an unspoiled place on Earth (if it even exists at this point) where we could just become homesteaders.
But one of the most important steps we all can take is eliminating processed foods from our diet. Next you can look for organic options whenever you can substitute them for conventionally grown foods. Also, don’t overlook things such as harmful household cleaners, fire retardants, skincare products, and other chemicals you use around the house, in your garden or car. Look for safer natural alternatives or don’t use anything at all.
Your immune system and the microbiota
By now it’s dawning on most people that the friendly bacteria in our gut and on our skin (including the mucus membranes in your nasal passages) are crucial for good health. In fact, they play a major role in regulating our defenses, and we’re only now beginning to slowly understand how they work.
A healthy community of bacteria in and on your body requires care. Overuse of antibacterial soaps, pharmaceutical drugs and processed foods, as well as overconsumption of simple carbohydrates, can all undermine the health and balance of your microbiota. So, eating healthily, staying well hydrated and avoiding disruption of your healthy skin or gut bacteria are important for your body’s resilience. In fact, the health of your friendly bacteria even affects your mental-emotional well-being.
What does that have to do with seasonal allergies?
Our immune system’s job is to sort through all the molecules we’re exposed to, both natural and artificial, and decide what’s friend or foe. A defense or protective mechanism that’s out of balance is not functioning optimally. Especially our gut may be in such bad shape that some of these critters that would usually not gain admission can sneak through the barrier of our intestine and trigger responses by our immune cells that could raise an alarm and cause an allergic reaction. This could even lead to chronic conditions like asthma or autoimmunity.
What can you do?
In addition to the tips and recommendations in my earlier article, you can experiment with eliminating certain food groups that are suspected of setting people up for allergies and autoimmunity. Top-of-list are gluten-containing foods and dairy. Some, though not all, people notice an amelioration of their symptoms pretty quickly.
I always counsel people to look at their exposures through diet and lifestyle first before reaching for pharmaceutical drugs to relieve their symptoms of seasonal allergies. Most people will notice some improvement. Beyond that, we can employ several different homeopathic medicines and botanicals, such as Chinese herbal prescriptions, to both reduce symptoms and restore competence of your immune system. We call this a root-and-branch treatment approach.
Of course, acupuncture has also been shown in studies as well as in clinical practice to benefit people with seasonal allergies or asthma. We often use acupuncture to help body and mind transition from one season to the next—an elegant and effective form of preventive medicine.
If you are someone suffering from the symptoms of seasonal allergies, don’t throw in the towel! There are many steps you can take to help you get through the beautiful season of bloom unscathed.
© 2019 Christiane Siebert