Hay Fever - It's Not the Pollen


by Mickey Nguyen

Spring is in full bloom and so are your allergies. Although the birds may be singing to the warm sunny skies, those that suffer from Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis) dread the outdoors this time of year. Just a whiff of the pollen filled air can instantly induce common symptoms we all know too well; nasal congestion, sneezing, cough, irritated eyes, ears and throat. The first reaction is to reach for the nasal corticosteroid sprays or decongestants so that you can actually breath. Next up are the antihistamines to relieve the rest of the symptoms taking over your body. Lastly you avoid going outdoors altogether, until you have to, then the cycle repeats all over again. Today we’re not going to talk about how to treat these symptoms. Most seasoned allergy sufferers know how to manage them with a variety of medicines and lifestyle changes to lessen exposure. Instead we’ll be discussing the reason why you suffer from these allergies from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective. 

Although it may be the bane of your existence right now, it’s not the pollen. The real culprit is your immune system and why it responds the way it does to these allergens. Western medicine classifies these allergies as a hypersensitivity reaction produce by your immune system. But from a TCM perspective, your body’s weakened immunity or defensive energy is the reason these external pathogens can enter the body and wreak havoc the way they do. Defensive energy is best explained as a shield that circulates around the exterior of your body protecting it from invasion from the outside world. When this shield is weak, the body is more prone to being attacked which results in the symptoms brought on by hay fever. 

A weakened immune system indicates an underlying imbalance in the TCM organ systems. The Spleen and the Lungs are essential to your natural defense system. When one or more is weak, your allergies are often easily triggered. An important aspect to managing your allergies is keeping these organs happy and healthy.   

The Spleen is an important part of the digestive system in TCM. It helps digest and absorbs the nutrients from the food we eat. When the Spleen is impaired symptoms such as poor appetite, bad digestion, excess gas, abdominal issues and loose stools are a common occurrence. If you experience these symptoms it is important to avoid excess consumption of foods such as spicy foods, dairy, raw foods, and cold foods and liquids which overworks the Spleen. Another function of the Spleen is to absorb the fluids and liquids we consume. These fluids that are processed by the Spleen are sent to nourish the function of the Lungs. 

The Lungs are not only essential for breathing but also controls your skin and pores. When the Lungs are optimal the body’s fluids are dispersed evenly throughout the body. An example of this is when the pores of our skin can open and close properly, we can adequately sweat. The sweating process is important to regulate the fluid balance in our bodies. Imagine if you were outside on a hot summer day with no shade in sight. Your body temperature gradually rises and to keep your body from overheating, your pores must open for sweat to escape. Once the sweat is released it evaporates on the skin effectively cooling your body. Another instance of how the Lungs disperse body fluids is when you have a stuffy or running nose. When the Lungs are impaired, these fluids are not moving and tend to back up in the Lungs, eventually spilling over as mucus from orifices such as the nose. 

So how does this all tie into your body’s immunity? In the beginning of this article we touched on the concept of the body’s immunity as a defensive shield. It is not a coincidence that in TCM, the Lungs are actually responsible for circulating this shield along the exterior of the body. The Lungs are most vulnerable to attack due to the fact that they open to the outside environment through breathing. The Lungs also control the skin and pores which is also the body’s first line of defense to the outside. Having strong healthy Lungs help the body circulate this protective shield and keeps our defenses resilient to attacks. 

In TCM, we have to look at everything from everyday factors to past health history to determine the underlying causes of your symptoms. A few common areas of concern are diet, stress management, and recovery. Is your eating schedule erratic? Are you having issues with digestion? Are you having more than 1 bowel movement a day? How are you managing daily stress and are you overworked? Are you getting adequate exercise? Do you having problems getting restful sleep every night? If you thought yes to any of these questions, then your body is telling you that is an area you need to address. With proper guidance some of these lifestyle changes are more than enough to correct any imbalances in your body. For some individuals, further treatment with Herbal medicine may be needed. Each herbal treatment plan consists of a specific combination of formulas and dosages that is carefully designed for your unique condition. We not only help to resolve those pesky symptoms, but correct the organ imbalances in your body to prevent issues in the future. Once your body is in balance not only will your allergies improve, but also your sleep, digestion, and overall wellbeing. Ultimately our goal is that your body and its defense mechanisms are working optimally so you don’t have to deal with any symptoms in the first place.  

If you would like to learn more about Hayfever and TCM, schedule an online consultation with one of our herbalists. You can attend this consultation from the convenience of your home by joining a video chat from your computer. Click here to schedule an appointment.

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