Spring brings warmth, new energy and growth, and unfortunately for many seasonal allergies. About twenty to thirty percent of Canadians suffer from allergies with symptoms arising as early as March for those allergic to pollen. While most suffer from runny nose and sneezing, some of us may also experience itchy eyes, sore throat and even low energy. Symptoms may be so bad that some confuse allergies with a head cold. As with all that ails us, Chinese medicine views allergies as a sign of imbalance within the body. If you suffer from allergies the symptoms experienced will vary based on your individual constitution, as well as any underlying blockages, deficiencies or excesses that affect your organs on an energetic level.
So why do some of us suffer from allergies while others do not? The lungs open directly to the external environment through our nose and throat. For this reason it is the main organ affected by allergens such as pollen or dust through the air we breathe. Symptoms pertaining to the lung will include sneezing, runny nose, coughing, congestion, a feeling of tightness in the chest, shortness of breath and low energy. The lung is responsible for bringing air into the body to be converted to qi (energy) and if lung energy is weak there will be susceptibility to allergies and also colds and flu. In addition the lungs have a vital role in allowing energy to descend and disperse. When lung energy is not flowing in the correct downward direction this creates what is considered "rebellious qi" creating an upward force of sneezing, coughing, or runny nose. While all organs may play a role in allergies the other main organ involved in seasonal allergies is the liver. The liver is ruled by the season of spring and opens into the eyes. If liver energy is not optimal there may be additional symptoms such as red, itchy, watery eyes, irritability and even headaches around the eyes, temples or side of head.
Nature offers us many remedies for seasonal allergies. For springtime allergies foods that are green appeal to the energy of the liver. With this in mind load up on broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, spinach, kale and parsley. These powerful foods contain quercetin which may reduce histamines which are responsible for allergic reactions. Consider adding green tea which contains catechins, also found to have an antihistamine effect. To keep lung energy flowing in the correct downward direction avoiding mucus forming foods such as dairy and raw, cold or fried/greasy food. This will keep the lungs and nasal passages clear to promote free flow of breath into the body. Other foods that boost lung energy like onions, garlic, radish and pears will aid in reducing lung or nasal congestion. To help digestion and get the most out of any of these foods prepare them in hearty soups or stews.
Strengthening the body through the energy of the lungs and liver can go a long way in helping your body fend off allergy attacks. Reducing stress and ensuring adequate sleep by turning in for the night by eleven o'clock will aid the liver in it's role of detoxifying the body while we sleep. Working to improve the function of the lungs through mindful breathing practices or exercises that combine breath and movement, such as tai chi, qi gong or yoga, will allow the lung energy to flow in it's proper downward movement fuelling the body and maintaining our health.
If you are affected by seasonal allergies adding regular acupuncture treatments, before the season begins, may improve or eliminate symptoms. There are many acupuncture points to boost and balance the energy of the lung and liver and even points specifically prescribed to reduce allergy issues like runny nose, itchy eyes and accompanying symptoms while strengthening the defences of the immune system.
Jeanette is a Registered Acupuncturist and Reiki Master at Trinity Registered Massage Therapy located at Huron Crossing and Sage Naturopathic Clinic in Kitchener.