Natural Treatments for Allergies
By Dr. Mao Shing Ni
The human immune system is designed to identify and combat matter that is foreign to the body. In most circumstances it performs this duty very well, protecting you from bacteria, viruses, and other potentially harmful substances. But throughout the last century, our immune systems have been overwhelmed with chemicals and pesticides, not to mention the stresses of modern life. As a result, our immune systems have become oversensitive.
When the immune system overreacts to a pathogen or particle, it mobilizes with full force, producing severe inflammation and allergic symptoms. Allergies were first identified in Western medical literature at the turn of the twentieth century when doctors began to notice that some people were more sensitive to dust or pollen than others. Today allergies in various forms affect over 50 million Americans, and that number is on the rise. In addition to respiratory symptoms, allergies may show up as eczema, rashes, and digestive disturbances.
In recent years I’ve seen an increasing number of people who have suddenly developed allergies. I see many allergy sufferers here in Los Angeles, the city with the worst air quality in the nation. But many others fly in from high-allergy areas of the country such as Phoenix, Atlanta, and Virginia seeking treatment. One patient from Phoenix typical of the trend suffered from allergic rhinitis, a type of sinus inflammation, and eczema for over ten years. He had received allergy shots, and he used antihistamines, decongestants, and steroid creams without consistent relief. After eliminating dairy, wheat, and corn from his diet and undergoing a course of acupuncture and herbal therapy, he has been allergy free for the past six years.
In Chinese medicine, the immune system relies heavily on the lung network or respiratory system. The lungs are responsible for managing the defensive energies of the body, which protect you against foreign invaders and nourish the skin. If the lung network is not nourished properly, or if its energy is weak, the immune system becomes debilitated. Nourishment for the lung network comes from the spleen or digestive system, so an appropriate diet is critical for treating allergies. When I treat allergies, I focus on getting the immune system to work properly by restoring balance in the digestive and respiratory systems. Acupuncture, herbal therapy, and specially tailored diets are essential for achieving a healthy functioning immune system.
Related conditions: Asthma, Eczema
Here are some recommendations I make to my patients.
DIET FOR ALLERGIES
A wholesome, seasonally balanced diet rich in soluble fiber and complex carbohydrates can help maintain good respiratory health and vitality of defensive qi.
- Water is essential for proper lymphatic drainage, so increase your water intake to 80 ounces a day - that’s ten 8-ounce cups. Avoid cold water - drink it either hot or warm.
- Incorporate whole grains, including quinoa, brown rice, and millet into your diet.
- Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale contain essential nutrients for healthy immunity, as does broccoli. Eat more cabbage, beets, beet tops, carrots, and yams.
- Fruits: papaya, cranberries, pears, pineapple, wild cherries, mangoes, and citrus fruits such as grapefruit and limes also help.
- Herbs and spices that fight inflammation: Ginger, onions, basil, garlic, bamboo shoots, black mushrooms, dandelions greens, and chrysanthemum flowers help fight inflammation.
- Vegetables need to be thoroughly washed in running water to remove residues of pesticides and chemicals.
- Avoid foods that produce mucus and dampness, including dairy products, cold raw foods, greasy foods, and simple sugars such as white sugar and bleached flour.
- Be wary of wheat, chocolate, shellfish, potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant that may overstimulate the immune response and should be eaten in moderation.
- Avoid soft drinks and most fruit juices that have a high content of corn syrup, which produces dampness and mucus.
- Rotate your foods: short of performing an exhaustive allergy test, you can try rotating your foods by waiting at least four days before repeating any one food item. For example, if you eat wheat bread on Monday, don’t eat it again for at least four days. Eat brown rice on Tuesday, millet on Wednesday, oats on Thursday, and, if you like, eat wheat products again on Friday. This will reduce your body’s allergy burden immediately and substantially.
HOME REMEDIES FOR ALLERGIES
One of the key factors in treating allergies is eliminating the substances that overstimulate the immune system. Our homes, cars, and workplaces need to be free of these substances.
- Clear the air: dehumidify and aerate your home regularly, and use the air conditioner and central heater sparingly, as they tend to permeate the home with the dust and particles collected in their ducts. Fungal colonies, dust mites, and pollen can collect in the house, so clean the floors regularly, and consider opting for solid wood or stone floors rather than carpet, as carpet collects enormous amounts of dust and bacteria.
- Clean with vinegar: To prevent mold, use vinegar to disinfect surfaces that tend to get wet or damp.
- Pets shouldn’t be allowed free reign in the home. Beds, bedrooms, and couches should be off limits.
- Green Tea: drink green tea and chamomile tea-they both contain natural antihistamines and can help balance the immune system.
- Ginger Tea: steep 2 slices of fresh ginger in a cup of boiling water for s minutes; drink this tea twice a day.
- Honey: eating 1 teaspoon of local, unfiltered, and unprocessed honey daily can do wonders for allergies.
DAILY VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS FOR ALLERGIES
- Taking up to 10,000 IU of beta-carotene can help balance the immune system. Vitamin B6 (30 milligrams), pantothenic acid (300 milligrams), and vitamin’s C (1,000 milligrams), D (800 IU), and Vitamin E (800 IU) help maintain a healthy immune system.
- Taking 500 milligrams of the enzyme bromelain and of the antioxidant quercetin daily can help modulate histamine release, the function that causes the allergic response.
- Selenium (100 micrograms) is useful for reducing inflammation caused by chemical allergies.
- Probiotics (3 to 5 billion organisms), with their benefits for intestinal flora, are essential in protecting against allergic reactions.
HERBAL THERAPY FOR ALLERGIES
- Mint, echinacea, licorice, chamomile, rose hips, fenugreek, elderberry, and black cumin help maintain a healthy and balanced immune system.
- Allergy Tamer is a traditional chinese herbal formula to address allergies that contains: Xanthium Fruit, Chickweed Root, Siler Root, Magnolia Flower, Chrysanthemum Flower, Rehmannia Tuber, Summer Cypress Fruit, Schizandra Fruit, Japanese Apricot Fruit, Kudzu Root, Fragrant Angelica Root.
- Magnolia flowers, xanthium, dandelion, Chinese basil, siler root, and schizandra all have allergy-reducing properties.
EXERCISE FOR ALLERGIES
In addition to strengthening the body against infection and illness, exercise also helps regulate immune function. Simple cardiovascular exercise such as a brisk walk (2 to 3 miles per hour) for 30 minutes a day or a more intense aerobic workout can help improve circulation and strengthen the body.
QIGONG MOVEMENTS FOR ALLERGIES
Massaging the Wind Pond Acupoint (GB-20) is a simple exercise to help harmonize the immune system.
• Sit at the tip of a sturdy chair with your back erect, spine stretched, and head tilted slightly forward. Keep your legs at a comfortable distance, forming a 90-degree angle.
- As you inhale, using your thumbs press and massage the Wind Pond acupoint located in the natural indentation at the base of the skull on both sides of your neck, tilting your head slightly upward.
- Exhale, and massage the point as you bend forward at the waist, tilting your head forward. Bend only as far as you comfortably can do so. Continue breathing and massaging for 30 to 60 seconds.
- On an exhale, return to the original position while continuing to massage the Wind Pond point.
You can do this exercise anytime during the day- It’s great to counter lack of energy and fatigue.
SELF ACUPRESSURE FOR ALLERGIES
- For immediate relief from sinus allergies, locate the acupoint
Welcome Fragrance (LI-20), on either side of your nose, where
your nose and cheek meet. This is traditionally used to open nasal
passages. Apply moderate pressure with both index fingers, one on each side of the nose. Take deep, slow breaths and continue pressing for 3 minutes.
- Locate the acupoint Wind Pond, in the natural indentation at the base of your skull on either side of your neck. Press and lift up toward the base of your skull with your thumbs and lean your head back. Use the weight of your head against your thumbs to apply steady pressure. Breathe deeply and slowly and continue pressing for about 5 minutes.
ALLERGIES: WHAT TO AVOID
- Avoid extreme temperature and weather fluctuations by dressing and protecting yourself appropriately.
- Avoid exposure to substances and circumstances that cause allergies, including dusty, dirty, and polluted environments. Use a respiratory mask if necessary.
- Avoid stress and exhaustion, as they weaken the immune system. Get plenty of sleep and relaxation.
- Avoid alcohol, smoking, and drugs.
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©2015 Dr. Mao Shing Ni
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