Pollen is in integral part of the web of life, but it is also what wreaks havoc on the immune systems of millions of people every year. With short, warm and dry winters, and early springs and summers allergy season has become longer and more intense in recent years. I’ve seen a growing number of people in the clinic suffering from itchy eyes and runny noses. People who have had allergies in the past have worsening symptoms, and people who did not suffer before suddenly find themselves sneezing.
The Mayo Clinic has quite a few tips on how to mitigate your seasonal allergies, including nasal irrigation (neti pot), and keeping doors and windows closed during high-pollen times. This is especially true at dusk when warm air cools and descends, blanketing the world with whatever pollen is in the air. To keep track of pollen fluctuations in your area visit pollen.com. It can help to tell you what exactly what you might be reacting to in order to prepare for symptoms in advance. Rain storms like the ones we had last week in the Portland area are a blessing for allergy sufferers, since they clean pollen from the air. It can be helpful to plan activity around weather patterns and pollen counts if your allergies are severe.
Diet is also something to keep an eye on to keep allergies under control. The Huffington Post has a slide-show of simple foods you might consider adding or avoiding during allergy season. A big one to avoid is, you guessed it, alcohol. Sugar also suppresses the immune system, so cutting down on refined sugar in general is helpful. 2,000 mg/day of vitamin C has also shown some promise in research trials to help reduce allergy symptoms.
There are many other natural remedies for allergies, including homeopathy, herbal remedies, and (my obvious favorite) acupuncture. Of course, it’s best to work with a trained clinician when deciding what is right for you. Acupuncture can be amazingly effective for acute allergic episodes, helping relieve sinus congestion and itchiness, as well as chronic allergies. Allergies result from an over-active immune response and acupuncture is great at modulating the immune system, either calming it in the case of allergies or boosting it during cold and flu season. It simply works to support the body’s natural resources. I have seen patients who use acupuncture regularly decrease the frequency and severity of acute attacks over time. And, because allergies are often a big trigger for asthma attacks, it can help reduce them as well, improving overall lung health.
Here’s to enjoying the sun and the summer with less sneezing and wheezing!
(Image taken from http://windomallergy.com/pollen-pollen-everywhere/)