or: How to Survive Allergy Season with (relatively) Dry Sleeves
The trees are budding, flowers are beginning to open, and the breeze is warming up! This is a lovely time of year to be alive, but millions of people with seasonal allergies are kept from fully enjoying Spring by bothersome autoimmune reactions.
Allergies are messages from our bodies. An allergy to cat dander may have developed to tell our ancestors: this cozy cave is already occupied by a mountain lion; find somewhere else to sleep! Allergies to molds are useful warnings which get us away from dangerous indoor air contamination.
I can’t pretend to know why people developed allergies to pollen, though. Certainly, some sensitivity to it would be useful as a seasonal cue, but why it’s so pronounced for some people is a mystery to me. But it is my nature to trust our bodies, and see all deviations from baseline as allies, helping to guide us on the best path.
In addition to seasonal use of our Allergy Magic tincture blend, here are some simple tips for supporting your body as the pollen count climbs. Almost all of these tips will be equally effective for those with indoor allergies, as well.
1. Stay hydrated.
Think about a pond in Springtime. There may be areas along the edge that are covered with pollen, but the whole center of the surface, not to mention the entire volume of water below the surface, is pollen-free. Now think of a shallow puddle, completely choked with the stuff, and you’ll see why having more water flushing your system is a good idea. Not too much–more than a gallon of water a day is too much for most adults.
The best way to stay perfectly hydrated is to have good, clean drinking water or nourishing herbal infusion on hand in a vessel you feel good about and drink whenever you feel thirsty. If you want numerical goals, take your weight in pounds, cut it in half, and aim for that many ounces of water per day (so a 150lb person should aim for 75oz/day)
2. Stay clean
Once your inside is getting regular rinses, give the same treatment to your outside. While you don’t want to over wash your hair and skin (your natural oils are the best moisturizers!) hair washing is big for allergy control. Hair traps tiny particles of pollen, dust, mold and dander and keeps them within easy access of your eyes and nose. Regularly washing hair as well as hands, face, bedding, hats and hoodies are all good ideas. But do add moisture back to your hair and skin!
3. Eat harmoniously
One way that allergies help us is by reminding us to eat in harmony with our constitution. Allergy symptoms go from mild to wild when our diets don’t agree with us! In fact, I have a hunch that much of the purpose of Spring allergies is to remind us to change over from Winter eating: heavy, warming foods that have good shelf life, to Spring eating: fresh baby greens and tonic weeds.
Sugar, salt, chemical additives, over-processed dairy and genetically modified grains can all significantly increase mucous production. Inflammatory foods, including the above list as well as spicy foods and nightshades, can increase heat in the body, worsening hives, itchy eyes and rashes.
DO eat raw, LOCAL, fresh, seasonal honey! The bees will gather the pollen that’s in your environment and partially digest it. Eating this super-nutritious syrup will further desensitize a person with pollen allergies.
Eat lots of green, leafy veggies, especially herbs known as “Spring Tonics” like Nettles, Dandylion and Chickweed. These will safely and gently help remove histamine from your bloodstream. And don’t be afraid of grains and dairy– well-cooked, whole, organic grains and raw, unhomogenized dairy do not cause excess mucous production for most people. Of course, raw milk is a hot button topic, so make your own calls on that. But stay away from ultra-pasturized and homogenized if possible.
And don’t forget your ferments! Keeping these microscopic fairy friends close at hand will keep your whole self happy. Eat a serving of fresh, local probiotic food with every meal! We are in the process of getting certified to make sauerkraut, kombucha and other ferments for sale, so look for those to hit the shelves of Warm Springs Herbal, our Roadside Apothecary this Summer! They’ll also be frequent additions in our CSA shares, if all goes well!
Do you need allergy testing or meds?
Let’s start with this: why would you? If your allergies are severe, if they’re keeping you from enjoying your life, they need to be dealt with. But regardless of what’s causing them, staying hydrated and clean, eating harmoniously, and partnering with gentle, safe herbs like the ones listed below are the most effective, safest way to handle the symptoms.
Allergy medicine can be extremely effective in the short term. Unfortunately, there is often a boomerang effect, where your body produces more histamine when the medicine stops artificially suppressing histamine production.
The same can happen with allergen avoidance. There’s something called sensitization when it comes to allergies, where our tolerance for contact with allergens lowers. Being exposed to small amounts of pollen gradually will tend to desensitize a person, while avoid avoid avoid and then inevitably encounter will tend to exacerbate allergic responses. Staying inside and keeping windows closed when pollen count is highest is fine, but do get out and enjoy the Spring!
As is generally the case, allopathic medicine is often effective at getting quick, reliable results. But the long-term effects of suppressing what is at root an immune response has not been well studied. Make your allergies your allies for whole health, and let them guide you to deep, harmonious nourishment!