During certain times of the year, I see an increase in patients who are suffering from similar conditions. In the late fall, I tend to see more patients who are struggling with seasonal depression, and around the holidays I see an increase of patients coming to acupuncture to be treated for stress. I also see a bump in patients with seasonal allergies in May and again in late August/early September. However, this year spring has sprung early, and throughout April, I have seen a spike in people suffering from seasonal allergies—a month early!
In Chinese medicine, allergies (along with viruses and bacteria) are considered external pathogens, or invaders from the outside that can make you sick. You have a defense system against these invaders, called Wei Qi, which guards the exterior of your body like a protective bubble or shield. When your Wei Qi is weak, all kinds of pathogens can get past your defenses and cause colds, flu, and allergies.
The solution to dealing with allergies is two-fold. You need to strengthen your Wei Qi and deal with the pathogens (in this case, allergens) that are causing your symptoms. Strengthening your Wei Qi, and your energy in general, is important in relieving your allergies in the long run. This can be done by eating really well: whole foods in their original form, lots of vegetables and fruits, avoiding sugar and sweeteners, and staying clear of saturated fats. In addition, you may need to avoid foods that are hard to digest, such as concentrated juices, rich foods, and in some cases dairy products.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be an effective way to deal with allergies on a fundamental level, too. A good practitioner will combine acupuncture, Chinese herbs, food therapy, and some lifestyle tweaks to help boost Wei Qi and alleviate your current symptoms. The best way to do this is to work with your acupuncturist before your allergies act up, if possible. In doing so, you can face the assault of allergy season with a stronger defense system.
The second part of dealing with seasonal allergies is minimizing your symptoms by dealing with what’s causing them. In this case, it’s pollen, which to susceptible people is like a toxic dust that settles on clothes, hair, carpet, and even pets. A few simple tips for getting the p word out of your life include:
-Shower in the evening to get the day’s pollen off your skin and out of your hair.
-Realize that during allergy season, the wind is not your friend. Close your windows when it’s blowing.
-Wash your hands after handling a pet that’s been outside.
-Change your clothes after you’ve been working or exercising outdoors.
-Get a Neti Pot and use it. It’s a small pot to help you cleanse your nasal passages of all that pollen, and can be found at most drug stores.
-Think about buying a really good vacuum, as pollen is extremely fine and will settle on your floors. Dusting is a good thing, too.