Here we are again! It's that time of year and many individuals have been, are, and will be suffering from seasonal allergies.
You see, seasonal allergies are deeply rooted and not very simple of an issue to be addressed. According to Ayurveda, allergies generally are a condition of poor digestion, poor diet, poor lifestyle. Even with the understanding that there may be a genetic predisposition to allergies Ayurveda says that it is generally through diet and lifestyle that determines whether a gene is expressed or not. Similarly, a modern scientific approach to this concept is through Epigenetics. What are allergies? This is one way that Ayurveda defines them: the body's response to a substance(s) ("allergens") that are perceived as harmful and the body reacts to it by producing "antibodies." This is the "allergic reaction." Symptoms are then produced.
Often, it can vary how the body responds based on an individual's inherent constitution and whether there is already pre-existing toxicity in the body. If our digestion (Agni) is balanced, our toxins (Ama) are low or not present, and our immunity (Ojas) is healthy and strong, then health issues are least likely to occur.
It is mainly through diet and lifestyle that we can become more susceptible to all sorts of conditions. In fact, this is another example of how we are a product of what we eat. Food can be either medicinal or poisonous depending on how it is taken, for who, and the when. Lifestyle is a whole other beast in and of itself. The irony is that if we have a stable diet, which should be the concrete part of our lifestyle that we don't sacrifice, then the lifestyle will have fewer consequences to experience. But when the diet is off in addition to the lifestyle, then it is no surprise that conditions arise as they do!
Lifestyle has a momentum that is based on the investment we have put into it. Lifestyle can be a part of how we live this human precious experience or it can be that dynamic of our human experience that shortchanges our health, even robbing us of it. So often is the case that we don't have the time or make the time to take care of ourselves and then when we get hit with something we blame the something that happens versus take responsibility for the choices we make around not taking better care of ourselves. We are all doing the best that we can but one thing that Ayurveda teaches us is to use our health as a guide to determining our overall well-being and how it aligns with lifestyle. There is no blaming, only the opportunity to take a look at how we are feeling right now and how we would like to feel. Then assessing how it is that we can achieve a state of being better. What are we willing to sacrifice? Our health or aspects of our lifestyle that aren't serving us? It's not always easy to sit on this pivoting point but a good reminder is that we are good enough and deserving to feel amazing. Somewhere deep within is this desire. Therefore, it is up to us to make the choices and stick with them as much as possible. Right?
As far as seasonal allergies are concerned, this falls into the category of respiratory/upper respiratory ailments. Food sensitivities/allergies and other types of allergies are still influenced by the quality of digestion, as well as genetic factors, and stress. Ayurveda looks at the state of mind and digestion as being key components to understanding the nature of such conditions. Here's a link to another ARTICLE I wrote in the past about seasonal allergies.
Here are some other key points to consider with regard to seasonal allergies:
1) DRYNESS is a factor and this begins as early as the beginning of winter when we are closed up indoors with heaters that are drying and humidifiers (hopefully cooler ones, versus warmer ones) are providing moisture in the atmosphere. This affects the mucous membranes of the entire body. In and out. The longer the exposure, the deeper the roots into pathology and when we emerge into the warmer air we see this deep dryness surfacing and attracting more of itself. Pollen is drying and can suck up the moisture in our sinus and on our skin.
2) COLD/FROZEN/ICE beverages are also actually astringent. For instance, after drinking a cocktail with ice (especially) the mucous membranes of the mouth are dryer. This leads to the tickle that is often felt in the back of the mouth, or even in the ears where we get that sort of itchy sensation. Cold/frozen/Ice anything also affects digestion but putting a damper on things and significantly reducing if not halting enzymatic activity causing food to be malabsorbed and turned into toxins. The liver is also affected. Immunity is affected. The respiratory tract is affected being that is it lined with millions of cells that are moist. COLD and DRY is what gives way to getting colds, cases of flu, viruses, and then some!
3) HEAVY diets can also suppress digestion and increase the likelihood of toxins. The lymphatic system gets backed up and like a house with the drainage systems being inundated the house itself suffers.
4) ALCOHOL consumption, especially as mentioned above regarding cold/ice/frozen, has a negative effect on health and immunity due to its fermentation and excess sugar combination. This alone increases, if not creates, an inflammatory process.
5) SMOKING..yes I had to write this, and not so much because of cigarette smokers that I know (even though it is common they suffer from seasonal allergies) but my pot smoker friends. Whether cigarettes or pot smoking, even vaping, this compromises the entire respiratory tract for too many reasons to list here but it's self-evident. Smoking anything dries up mucous membranes. Mucous membranes are there for many reasons such as protecting the tissues of the body, lubricating, thermoregulating, immune-regulating, so on and so forth. Additionally, even the fact that smoke is heating as it is being taken into the mouth, throat, lungs, causes an increase in inflammation as well as dryness.
6) HYDRATION is important but doesn't happen with cold beverages and it doesn't completely occur with plain water. Plain water is a great anti-inflammatory and purifies the cells of the body but to fully hydrate some natural salt should be available. Water goes where salt goes. Salt takes water in and out of the cells and helps to hydrate the cells more effectively. Therefore, drinks that are like natural (I emphasize natural) gatorades and lemonades/limeades, even pure juice (1/4) to water (3/4) with 1/2 tsp. of sea salt is a better way to hydrate.
7) OIL everywhere. Oil is a fluid. The body is made up mostly of liquid but not all this liquid is actually water. Cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, interstitial fluid, cellular fluid, digestive fluids, blood-related fluids like blood itself and plasma, and lymphatic fluids, to name a few. Oil has an affinity with all these tissues and connects with phospholipid layers. Therefore, having proper oils in the diet such as ghee, coconut, flax, and olive are great sources. Some foods have natural fats such as butter, and some animal protein based foods. Additionally, supplements such as Fish Oils can be amazing in the right quantity and regular basis. Amazingly, Ayurveda applies oils in the ears, eyes, nose, mouth, on the skin, and even in the rectum for medicinal purposes. Check out the above link for more details.
8) EXERCISE gets things moving and this includes strengthening immunity. Overdoing exercise or doing the types of exercises that aren't aligned with an individuals constitution can also have a negative effect on health and cause immune and digestive compromise (though, both are interconnected.) According to Ayurveda, exercising in the morning and earlier part of the day is optimal. The later the exercise, especially when it's contrary to the body's wisdom, such as after 8/9/10+ at night, this will increase inflammation, depletion, and hormonal imbalance in the long run. Yet, proper exercise helps to regulate the whole body and strengthen immunity.
9) ANXIETY has a drying effect. I have never heard anyone say "I feel warm and fuzzy while I'm anxious." Anxiety can also increase if there is dryness in the body. Then we are left with "what came first?" Anxiety is light in nature. It is ungrounded of an emotion. This can deplete the tissues.
10) ANGER, due to its heating nature, can also be drying and overall consuming, causing the body to turn against itself if it isn't expressed properly. This suppressed heat is like the rubbing of two sticks to create heat as per the friction. Similarly, this inner pressure can cause dryness and increase inflammation.
11) MUCOUS is not necessarily the enemy! The body has a lot of natural sources of this. Usually, a post nasal drip is the body's response to the root cause which is the dryness. It is the body's natural way to remedy the dryness. If you address the dryness, the mucous will balance itself. Here we can examine even the quality of the mucus. If the mucus is clear and lighter, this is more of a Vata type of mucus. If the mucus is thicker and yellow/green, this relates to Pitta and indication of infection. (Especially if there is blood in the mucus) If the mucus is thicker and more white, this is Kapha type of mucus. Assessing the mucous can be a beneficial way of getting to the root of imbalance and remedies for health. Furthermore, when inflammation is being created or provoked, the body's natural response is to produce mucus to resolve it and attempt to regain homeostasis. If the root of inflammation is addressed, the mucus will balance itself out in the long run.
12) SLEEP is a natural anti-inflammatory when we are asleep at the right time which involves being in bed around 10 (optimally.) The later we stay up, the likelihood of increased inflammation since we are stressing the liver and nervous system. This also affects immunity. It compromises our diet/appetites, increasing cravings for things such as coffee, sweets, treats, and general comfort foods. The body is compensatory and is always looking to maintain homeostasis which includes even looking outside of itself when it can't find within itself the resources it needs or the resources within that it can not for some reason access. Sleep reorganizes the body. According to Ayurveda, Vata's benefit from around 8-9 hours sleep (but not always easy for the Vata predominant types to access it. ) Pitta's benefit from around 7, and Kapha's around 6 hours. It's easy for Kapha predominantly types to sleep more. Pitta's can benefit from 7-8 and this helps them to feel calmer, and cooler (but not if they're up until midnight or later) Daytime sleep has nowhere near the quality or benefits of nighttime sleep. So make sure that the rest is taken into account as a priority.
13) GENERAL REMEDIES include being mindful of and avoiding the root cause or causes that create the opportunity for such conditions to arise. Balancing DIET, Balancing SLEEP, Balancing EXERCISE, HERBS (such as Ashwagandha, Licorice, Guduchi, Haritaki, Amalaki, Triphala, Turmeric, Ginger, Manjistha, Goldenseal, and Echinacea.) Vitamins such as D, B-Complex, C, can be helpful in immune strengthening. Minerals such as zinc, iron, and magnesium are helpful overall. Even cultivating sexual/creative energy can be helpful in the long-run to the balance of an immune system and nervous system regulation.
Health is in the palm of our hands and at the tips of our fingers. If we make the choices that support it, then the body and mind will support us back with the feeling of well-being. When we deviate from ourselves, when we allow ourselves to let our "lifestyles" to take us away we are on some level even responsible for this through the choices we make or don't make, we will experiences this as a rippling effect into consequences or benefits. The body is an amzing indicator of whether we are in balance or imbalanced. Listening to it, taking time for it, loving it can ensure less health issues.
DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.