My Solution For Spring Allergies
My father's pollen allergies (hay fever) were so bad that our family had to move to a different state when I was young. My mother also has terrible pollen allergies. Other relatives on both sides of the family have very bad spring allergies. My uncle cannot even go outside without a HEPA mask over his nose and mouth sealed with vaseline! Obviously, it was in the cards for me to have pollen allergies. My worst allergy seems to be oak pollen.
As fate would have it, my house is surrounded by acres of large, beautiful oak trees (and other trees). I also enjoy outdoor activities such as bicycle riding and playing Frisbee with my dog in the spring. And one of my favorite sporting events, Motorcycle Speed Week at Daytona International Speedway with Supercross, Superbikes and the Daytona 200, happens at the peak of tree pollen season in the Daytona area. This particular week is the worst for me because I am outside all the time during the peak of pollen season and all the factors related to attending the races at Daytona (such as travel, poor food, etc.) contribute to make my allergies almost debilitating.
For most of my life I suffered with spring allergies because no treatment (conventional or alternative) helped. I tried everything. At least I thought I had tried everything.
Several years ago, I tried the Ayurvedic program for stopping spring allergies. And guess what! it worked! Below I'll describe exactly what I did for success, how I later backslid and had a relapse, and how I once again got back on track.
The first thing I did was to start eating freshly cooked food before and during spring allergy season. I used the following spice mixture:
- 6 parts fennel
- 6 parts corriander
- 3 parts turmeric
- 3 parts cumin
- 1 part black pepper
- 1 part ginger
- 1 part cardamom
- pinch of cinamon
I sauté the spices in a bit of ghee (using as little ghee as possible) at no more than 300 degrees F for 1-2 minutes. I then use this spice mixture on my foods. The foods I favor during the spring season are vegetables and dishes such as kitchari (rice and dal with veggies). But any warm, light cooked foods and soups with fresh veggies are good. The best whole grains are quinoa, barley, amaranth and possibly corn. Kale is a great vegetable.
I drink plenty of hot water throughout the day, and I avoid foods that are heavy or cold and foods that have a predominant sweet, sour or salty flavor. I minimize my use of oils, ghee and salt when I am preparing to face allergy season. I eat light pure foods in general.
All the above steps clear the body's subtle channels and help remove toxins. This prevents spring allergies. In general, according to Ayurveda, preventing spring allergies is all about balancing the Kapha dosha. This is done with the following steps:
- Favor astringent and bitter tastes such as legumes, cooked greens and vegetables (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.).
- Avoid sweet, sour and salty tastes.
- Favor warm, light foods.
- Avoid heavy, cold foods.
- Get regular exercise.
- Follow a good schedule (go to sleep by 10 PM).
I have never actually maintained that last recommendation. I don't go to sleep early and I never have. I'll have to work on that in the future.
In addition to the above suggestions, I use some herbs and supplements. I always take a lot of vitamin C and if I feel any inflammation during pollen season I increase my vitamin C. I also use an herbal supplement called Aller-Defense starting a few months before spring. I also use quercetin, stinging nettle and pumpkin seed oil supplements.
I use a sesame oil based herbal nasal spray. This stuff is fantastic and I find it so beneficial that I tend to use it all year. However, I'm very diligent about using it during pollen season.
I include a moderate amount of raw local wildflower honey in my diet. Some people also recommend bee pollen, but I haven't used that myself.
I have a Hamilton Beach True Air filter that I put in the bedroom and use while sleeping. However, in general, I'm not much in favor of avoiding pollen. I like to go outside and I don't want to be limited by allergies. I prefer to solve the allergy problem at its root rather than simplly avoid pollen.
The above program worked incredibly well for me. Since starting it several years ago I have not had much of a problem with allergies. In fact, so much time went by without any allergy problems that I believed my allergies were a thing of the past.
Consequently, I got off track a bit this year -- and my allergies came back. I went on an out-of-town trip and didn't get much sleep. I came back tired and the next day I went to a doggie park with my family. We were outside all day in an area with lots of trees and a constant breeze. The next day I started feeling like I had been hit by a truck. My throat was burning, my sinuses were in bad shape and my whole body ached. For me, those are classic pollen allergy symptoms.
At first I was frustrated. I felt like I was doing all the same things I had done in the past, but that they were not working this year. The first couple days I just felt frustration. I resigned myself to the fact that my allergies came back. However, I also started to carefully analyze what I was doing and what could have caused the allergy problems to come back.
Here is what I found. In recent months I:
- Dramatically increased the amount of oils in my foods. I especially increased my intake of ghee because of its health benefits. Unfortunately, I forgot that heavy, oily foods are not good just before and during pollen season. I increased other oils because my doctor advised me to increase my omega-3 and DHA intake. That's a good idea, but I increased oils too much and at the wrong time of the year.
- I increased my salt intake. I have low blood pressure when I sleep. I recently measured my blood pressure at 90/50 while sleeping. My doctor recommended that I increase my salt intake (because it is critical for my optic nerve that I maintain ocular perfusion).
- I included a lot of nuts and dates in my diet. Nuts are heavy and oily. Dates are sweet. Those are generally great foods for me, but I let them become too high a portion of my diet recently. These are not good foods for balancing Kapha dosha.
- I did not take the Aller-Defense, quercetin, stinging nettle or other herbs I have been using with success in the past. As I said, I thought allergies were a thing of the past, so I didn't take the herbs this year.
- I did not use any local honey the last year.
- I dropped the fennel and coriander spices and increased spices that are good for Vatta and Pitta. This isn't a bad change - but I have to remember that the spices I use in the summer or winter are not the best spices to use before and during allergy season.
In general, I was no longer paying any attention to balancing Kapha dosha during the spring. I was still eating a good Ayurvedic diet, but I was focused solely on eating for my natural body type (which is Pitta-Vata). I forgot that the best way to eat is to adjust one's diet for the seasons.
Reviewing the details of my mistakes gave me confidence that I could get back on track next year and avoid a repeat. However, I still had really bad allergy problems this year. In fact, I was suffering a lot, missing work and not having any fun. My sinuses were infected and I felt like I was getting bronchitis, which is sometimes a consequence of the pollen allergies for me.
Below I will explain how I quickly got back on track. It is still pollen season. In fact, today the tree pollen count is the highest I have seen all year, yet I have been outside playing Frisbee with my dog and enjoying the spring weather! I made a dramatic turn-around and I learned a few things in the process.
While my sinus, throat and lung problems were at their worst, here is what I did:
- Used my True Air filter in the bedroom.
- Used Olbas oil for steam inhalation several times a day. This stuff is great.
- Used the Olbas pastiles (throat drops) frequently - and I am still keeping one in my mouth whenever I go outside. These Olbas drops seem to prevent throat inflamation due to pollen for me.
- Doubled my vitamin C intake to astronomical levels.
- Used the sesame oil-based herbal nasal spray regularly.
- Purchased a neti pot for sinus irrigation and started using it frequently. The first day I used it three or four times. Within a couple days the infection in my sinuses was gone. I think this was a real turning point for me. Now, while it is peak pollen season, I am using the neti pot to irigate my sinuses every time I come in from playing outside with my dog. The neti pot has been such a profoundly positive experience for me that I think I'll continue to use it year round.
I cut down on my ghee and oils, cut down on my nuts and seeds and generally started favoring foods that balance Kapha dosha as described above. The dietary change together with the sinus irrigation really turned things around for me. I ordered some herbs, but things were already on the upswing after the above changes.
Here are the herbs I added on a short term basis:
- Butterbur (an anti-histamine)
- A special sesame oil-based herbal nasal spray from Alan Tillotson that includes neem
- Banyan Botanicals Immune Support
- Banyan Botanicals Lung Formula
- MAPI Aller-Defense
- The homeopathic combination of these three ingredients for cough:
- ipecacuanha 30c
- spongia tosta 30c
- antimonium tartaricum 30c
- Zand Insure Herbal Formula with Echinacea and Golden Seal (I actually only used this once or twice)
- Umcka Cold Care liquid. This stuff seems to work really well. It also makes my throat feel better when I drink it.
I'm still taking the extra vitamin C. I'm also using a bit more NAC than usual. I'm keeping up with most of the above herbs except the Zand. I am almost out of the Aller-Defense, so I cut down from two tablets to one.
I'm not doing the Olbas steam inhalation because my sinuses are clear. I am continuing to alter my diet in favor of Kapha-balancing foods and I am using the neti pot heavily.
I'm sitting here typing this with my office door open and the spring breeze blowing plenty of pollen right in. My dog is running in and out (dogs carry pollen) and I've been outside a couple times playing with my dog. I feel fine.
It may sound like I'm not being careful with the way I'm leaving my door open and playing outside in the midst of oak trees (worst for me) on the day with the highest oak pollen counts I've seen all year. However, I am eating carefully, using the herbs, and using both the neti pot (sinus irrigation) and sesame oil-based herbal nasal extensively. It is amazing how good I feel and it is amazing how well these simple things work. Before I found out about the Ayurvedic program for stopping spring allergies I tried some very heavy-duty medicines and very complicated programs (including a ton of vitamin supplements, etc.). Not only did that stuff not work, it was harder than what I'm doing now. For example, the neti pot is a super simple thing - I wondered how pouring a bit of salt water through one's nose could have a very powerful effect. But I sure was surprised to discover that the neti pot combined with my other changes halted my rapid allergy-related decline into a non-functional state and completed turned things around for me. The results came fairly quickly too.
I actually made it to the Supercross race in Daytona. Just two days before the race I thought there was no way I could go outside for even a few minutes. But this program got me back on track (pun intended)!
Let me know what your results are if you try any of this.