Four Ways to Prepare for Allergen Season
Are you one of those people who start sneezing the minute spring flowers bloom? Outdoor allergen reactions, also called ‘seasonal allergic rhinitis’ (SAR), ‘hay fever’, or ‘nasal allergies’, occur when people inhale mould spores or pollen from trees, grasses, or weeds.
Many people who have outdoor allergen sensitivities also suffer when exposed to indoor allergens such as dust mites and dander of cats, dogs, or rodents.
Whatever the cause, the inflammation, runny nose, itchy eyes, and headache that accompany an allergic reaction can make you feel miserable. Prescription injections and antihistamines may reduce inflammation, but can cause harmful side effects.
What Causes an Allergic Reaction?
Doctors often tell patients to avoid the allergens, but according to Maharishi Ayurveda, it’s not the allergens that cause the problem, but a weakened immune system. The long-term solution to eliminating allergen reactions is to improve immunity. AyurVedic texts equate strong immunity with strong digestion. When digestion is weak, impurities and toxins build up in the body’s cells and channels, blocking the normal supply of nutrients that nourish the cells — and also stopping the outflow of waste from the cells.
This is especially a problem in spring, when the impurities of winter “melt” and flood the micro-circulatory channels of the body with more toxins than usual. At the exact moment the body’s immune system is already weakened, flowers burst into bloom and further tax the body’s already-compromised ability to deal with impurities and pollens.
The good news is that immunity can be strengthened. Here are five ways to restore immunity and fight allergens the AyurVedic way:
1. Cleanse the body of toxins before the onset of spring and autumn seasons
Get a jump-start by eating a cleansing diet during the month before allergen season starts. Avoid eating heavy, indigestible foods such as ice cream and other ice-cold foods and drinks. Heavy desserts, oily or fried foods, sour yogurt, red meat, and hard cheeses are other foods to avoid. Stay away from leftovers, and packaged, canned, frozen, or processed foods of any kind, as these are difficult to digest and include chemicals or preservatives that tax the liver and cause the creation of reactive impurities.
Instead, eat a light, nourishing diet of cooked, lightly-spiced organic, fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and dhal soups for protein.
Make sure the food is warm and deliciously cooked with spices. Go easy on the oils, but include a small amount of organic ghee or olive oil to saute your spices in. Sip plenty of hot water throughout the day to help the body flush out toxins.
2. Once allergen season starts, eat according to the seasons
During the allergen season (i.e. once spring or late summer starts), follow the seasonal diet recommended for that season, taking into account your body type. For instance, spring is the Kapha season, when there is more of the heavy, earthy, watery Kapha dosha predominant. So the AyurVedic dietary recommendations are to eat more pungent, bitter and astringent foods.
To continue to detoxify your body during the allergen season, eat lots of green vegetables and summer squashes, such as courgettes or lauki (bottle gourd). Hard winter squashes such as pumpkin and butternut squash, on the other hand, are not recommended for preventing allergen reactions, as they are more difficult to digest.
3. Flavour your food with allergen-fighting spices
Many spices contain allergen-fighting chemicals such as flavonoids and phenols and can reduce plant-induced allergen reactions. For example, turmeric is rich in curcumin, a compound that is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric can also help improve digestion and balance the flow of bile. Sage, cumin and coriander are other known allergen fighters.
4. Get more rest during allergen season
Diet, sleep, and meditation are the three pillars of health in AyurVeda. And when you think about it, whenever you’re sick, your doctor tells you to get lots of rest to boost a depressed immune system. During allergen season, your immunity is under attack, so make sure you are getting enough sleep during the night.
Maharishi AyurVeda adds another precaution: make sure that you are sleeping at the optimal times. It would only increase your allergen reactions if you went to bed late and woke up late, as this kind of schedule throws the body’s natural rhythms out of balance, causes toxins to block the microcirculatory channels and, taxes the immune system. So make sure you’re in bed well before 10:00 pm. and up before 6:00 am. This will support the body’s tendency to cleanse and purify itself after 10:00 pm.
Maharishi AyurVeda also recommends that you reduce stress by meditating as part of your daily routine. Research shows that the Transcendental Meditation technique, which takes only twenty minutes twice a day to practice but provides deeper rest than sleep, boosts the immune system and dramatically reduces stress. Studies indicate that allergen reactions and other immune-deficiency problems improve significantly after subjects start the practice of meditation.
Take herbal supplements to shore up immunity, help with inflammation and bolster one’s defences against seasonal allergens in the future. Our natural herbal formulas can have a dramatic effect.
Susan is a vastly experienced practitioner with a Masters degree in Complementary Health Sciences (AyurVeda), recognised by both the Indian and UK governments as a medical degree, and over 30 years working as a teacher of Transcendental Meditation.