The biggest spring-allergy trigger is pollen—tiny grains released into the air by trees, grasses, and weeds for the purpose of fertilizing other plants. When pollen grains get into the nose of someone who’s allergic, they send the immune system into overdrive, causing increased allergy symptoms: stuffy nose, ears, and sinuses; inflamed eyes; headaches; sore throat; and difficulty breathing.
Many of us (me included) have been severely affected by seasonal allergies; some unfortunate folks experience them year-round. Mine were so bad they led to asthma attacks and a few trips to the emergency room for adrenaline shots as a child. I outgrew the original severity but was continually plagued with symptoms for many years.
In desperation, I tried every traditional drug-based therapy—both over-the-counter and prescription. Without a doubt, it’s exhausting to have to sleep upright, and it’s an extremely scary feeling to be sucking on your steroidal inhaler and not getting any relief. Gradually, as I became aware of more natural ways of taking care of myself (with diet, acupuncture, and herbs) and started seeing results, it was unbelievable to think I had once thought it was my lot to live with steroidal inhalers.
Of course, there are other causes of allergies that have nothing to do with pollen. They are due to indoor toxins (cleaning chemicals, chemicals in carpets, paints, furniture glues, and resins), outdoor toxins (factory and automobile exhaust, pesticide sprays), and myriad other environmental chemicals. We can’t all walk around wearing gas masks, and yet it’s a miracle to me that every single one of us is not in a heightened state of allergy-induced trauma.
Some allergy suffering doesn’t have to be chronic and inevitable; it can be prevented or at the very least reduced through some fairly simple daily health habits:
Through relaxation, the nervous system can tell the immune system to settle down and stop attacking the foreign bodies, which are naturally cleared out in a nonallergic person by sneezing once or twice a day. When the immune system backs off, inflammation and mucus decrease and symptoms diminish. Practicing any yoga posture in a relaxing way with slow, deep breathing and the intention to let go and relax the nervous system can be very beneficial in decreasing the symptoms of allergies.
2. Nasal Wash
Use a neti pot—devised by the ancient Ayurvedics—to cleanse your nasal passages. Nasal washing thins the mucus in the nasal cavity, which makes it flow more easily out of the body and removes bacteria, allergens, and other irritants that cause problems. The job of the nose is to moisten the air for the lungs. It’s important for water to be in the air for the lungs to function.
When the nose becomes inflamed from allergens or even colds, the inflammation decreases moisture, causing the nose to get dry. When the nose gets dry, the brain pumps more mucus to keep the air sent to the lungs moist. Adding water to the surface gives the nose the ability to add water to the air, which calms the brain and lowers inflammation.
Studies are looking at whether probiotics might help asthma and allergy sufferers by switching off an inflammatory response in the intestine. Research shows people with allergies have lower levels of healthy gut flora and are overrun with bad bacteria. Probiotics are good bacteria that can be taken as a supplement to help to reset the bacteria balance and provide a protective barrier in the gut.
Make sure you are taking one that can withstand stomach acid during digestion; these will have an enteric coating. Probiotic supplements can take between eight and ten weeks of daily use to change the environment of your gut for you to notice a difference, so be diligent and patient.