2006-04-28 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Allergies
By Dr. Nancy Gahles


DR. Nancy gahlesDR. Nancy gahles Allergies that present themselves at this time of year are primarily due to the pollens of the blooming trees, grasses, weeds and flowers. While we welcome them into our environment, their ebullient bursting onto the scene often overcomes the vitality of those who are vulnerable.

Daylight savings time affects our sleep cycles and while we are in the process of adjusting, our immune system can become run down. Add the intermittent warm days when the tendency to wear shorts and no jacket end in cool evenings and you are setting yourself up for the sore throat and nighttime cough that echoes throughout this season.

Is it a cold or allergies? The symptoms of sore throat, sneezing and chills can lead us to believe we are infected with a virus. While this must be ruled out, the likelihood, at this time of year, is seasonal allergies. The trees are blooming and the wind is blowing and there is dampness and rain. You may feel the congestion in your head, sinuses, nose or chest as the inflammatory response of your body to the allergen takes place.

The first line of defense that I recommend is a program of anti-inflammatory herbs and vitamins as soon as the clock changes. Every time there is a seasonal or light change our immune systems take a dip in energy. Forewarned is forearmed and so I recommend daily doses of Vitamin C, 500 mg. per day. An anti-oxidant, Vitamin C protects the cell from the oxidative stress that the allergen exerts on it. Other powerful anti-inflammatory agents are Quercetin and turmeric. Quercetin has the ability to stabilize the mast cell response, that is, the cells that release histamine and cause swelling of the mucous membranes. Turmeric is an herb that is a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory.

The products that I use include Quercetin Complex by Solgar; Inflavinoid (turmeric and ginger) by Metagenics.; Activated Quercetin Plus by Nutrition Now (a combination of herbs containing Licorice, consult your physician first if you have high blood pressure).

A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and poor in fried and processed or refined foods will help to reduce the whole chain of events that allergens trigger. Daily use of flaxseed (oil or fresh ground seeds) as well as wild salmon and mackerel are advised. I find that people would rather take the omega-3's in capsule form and therefore I recommend products by Nordic Naturals.

Maintaining good health of the liver as a major cleansing and detoxifying organ is of great importance. In Europe one can find the daily use of dandelion in salads or in tonics this time of year to prepare the liver and gallbladder for the work of digesting the foods of spring and summer. Organic dandelion root tincture and milk thistle are herbs that one can easily use on a daily basis if you are not in Greece picking the dandelions from your garden.

Natural Health magazine, May 2006 reports that "an ingredient in butterbur ( Petasites hybridus ) inhibits histamines and leukotrienes chemicals released after allergen exposure that make you itch, sneeze or stuff up). A study in the British Medical Journal showed butterbur was as effective as cetirizine (Zyrtec), and a report in Clinical & Experimental Allergy found 50 mg. of butterbur twice daily works as well as 180 mg. daily of fexofenadine (Allegra). With the use of all herbs, there are contraindications with other medications so please check with your health care provider before embarking on an herbal strategy.

Homeopathy is safe, effective and does not carry the same contraindications as herbs do, as homeopathic remedies are vibrational/energetic in nature. My top two favorites are Euphrasia (Eyebright) and Allium Cepa (onion).

People needing Euphrasia will have itchy eyes that feel as if sand is in them or that they must blink in order to remove the grit or film from their eyes. The eyes tear and create redness and cracks at the corner of the eyes. The tearing is worse when lying down and may cause the eyes to be crusty in the morning. This looks like conjunctivitis. There can be a headache with shooting pains in the temples. There can be an eczema type rash under the eyes or on the eyelid. This can be associated with a feeling of weepiness and lethargy. The cough of Euphrasia is worse in the morning or daytime with lots of expectoration.

People needing Allium Cepa can have the exact characteristics of someone cutting an onion for dinner. The eyes tear profusely but the discharge is bland. The nose runs profusely with sneezing also but the discharge is acrid and one will notice a raw, redness under the nose and upper lip. There can be a skin rash and melancholy. Hoarseness and tickling of the throat may be present with a hacking cough.

There are as many homeopathic remedies as there are variations of symptoms so if these descriptions don't sound like your allergies, consult a Certified Classical Homeopath at www.homeopathic.org.

The delicate balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system figures prominently in the allergic response. A doctor of chiropractic can help you minimize symptoms and prevent further attacks through musculoskeletal alignment and cranial sacral therapies. Yoga poses that emphasize chest opening decrease fixation and encourage proper breathing patterns are key to augmenting the basic constitutional therapies. I advise Cobra Pose and Salute To The Sun, daily.

Other simple tips: Before retiring to bed, be sure to bathe or shower especially your hair to remove all traces of pollen. Irrigate the nasal passages with a simple saline solution to cleanse the mucous membranes. When it's especially windy and blowing the pollen about, it is a good idea to stay indoors with the windows closed. Choose a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter for your room.

Rest, relax and go with the flow. This season, too, shall pass. When you are feeling uncomfortable use heart centered breathing to remind yourself that one breath follows the other moving you into the next moment with each breath. Use creative imagination to build upon each moment elaborating on a vision that serves you well. One that makes you feel happy and centered. What we perceive as "down time" can be productive also. Always use your vulnerabilities to your advantage. Often we find strength through our weaknesses. As I always remind my son during this season, "If you didn't have seasonal allergic asthma, I would have never studied homeopathy and many people have been helped because of your suffering." Of course, the happy ending is that he doesn't suffer anymore...he was my experiment for all the above information.

May The Blessings Be!

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