Allergy season starts early in the Valley of the Sun, thanks to the warmer weather and early blooming of nature’s beautiful plants. Spring is often a joyful time of year, as we are able to enjoy the outdoors through hiking, sports, festivals and more. It’s a time that brings people together, particularly in Phoenix. Some people, however, struggle to enjoy these activities because of what nature can bring – seasonal allergies.
Seasonal allergies are a hypersensitive immune response to substances generally considered harmless, such as pollen, dust, and pet dander. Symptoms often include coughing, sneezing, congestion, itchiness, irritation of the eyes, and shortness of breath.
In both Western and Eastern (Chinese) Medicine, seasonal allergies are generally an inflammatory condition, resulting from a weakened immune system. In Chinese Medicine, the immune system is called the wei qi. There are many types of qi that make up the human body and the most superficial layer is called the wei qi, or “defense qi”, which lies at the surface of the skin like a barrier. If the wei qi is strong, the “barrier” remains closed so pathogens cannot penetrate. If it is weak, the “barrier” opens more frequently, allowing pathogens to penetrate into the body causing disharmony and imbalance.
In Western Medicine, the body releases histamines when exposed to certain substances that trigger the immune reaction and we can become congested. In Eastern Medicine, once the wei qi is penetrated, the body begins to accumulate phlegm (the Spleen produces the phlegm and the Lung contains it). In either case, the symptoms of sneezing, coughing, blowing the nose constantly ensue.
Our overall health and function of our immune system begins with the gut. It goes back to the saying “you are what you eat”. The quality of our qi depends on the food and drink we consume. If we consume a poor diet with little nutritional value, our qi will not be strong. As seasonal allergies are an inflammatory condition, an anti-inflammatory diet can help with symptoms. Ease in to it – start by eliminating artificial sweeteners, refined sugars, processed and packaged foods, and dairy. By replacing those things with whole, unprocessed foods, our qi will improve and our wei qi will be strengthened.