People suffering from allergies and sinus conditions in the Autumn in San Diego dread the dry heat that wafts in from the desert during the “Santa Ana” conditions. This movement of air from the east brings with it dust, pollen and other un-pleasantries like agrarian pollutants from the Imperial Valley. At its best the Santa Anas are simply dry, at their worst, dry, windy and very hot. Allergies and sinus conditions are worsened by this weather. What can you do?
My first line of treatment for allergies is acupuncture and cupping. Acupuncture can help nip respiratory allergies (allergic rhinitis) in the bud during allergy season (whether that is spring tree pollen or autumn ragweed/sage brush ) and to prevent allergies and sinustits by treating the underlying causes in preparation for allergy season. We have specific acupuncture points that promote sinus drainage, clear heat and damp from the head, relieve “wind” which in this context refers to your body’s response of itching, sneezing, and tearing, and overall calms the nervous system response to allergens. At the same time. acupuncture is an excellent way to stimulate the body’s Agni and move its Qi. Where there is disease there is “stuck” Qi, where the Qi flows well it is much harder for disease to form. In the case of chronic allergies and sinusitis what we are talking about here is “resetting” the body’s sensitivity levels, so as to almost inoculate against the allergens and reduce histamine response. What is interesting is that people with high levels of allergy get a very high level of histamine response around the sites of our needle insertions. We think of that in Chinese medical terms as releasing heat and moving Qi. Perhaps it is giving the histamine response a chance to function innocuously so the body no longer has to attack itself. I myself got into Chinese Medicine in no small measure because of the dramatic success I had with the treatment of the awful Hay Fever Allergic Rhintis I used to suffer from and that was treated successfully with acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and diet therapy, by my first acupuncturist and teacher, Paul Zmuieski, of blessed memory.
Acupuncture helps your body reprogram itself so that it is less and less triggered by allergens. It helps rev up the body’s Qi/Agni engine to eliminate dampness and change the way your body processes foodstuffs so that it not longer creates the kind of toxic dampness and heat sludge that gums up the works at the cellular and immune level.. Live many chronic diseases Allergies are worsened by what we call stress. Stress amps up the nervous system via the fight or flight response. That is our negative response to stress. When that happens what Chinese Medicine calls the ministerial fire, which is akin to the Agni of Ayurveda, is disturbed and fans out from its source in the “ming men/dan tien” (located between the navel and pubic bone, halfway between the front and back…where martial artists punch from) to the periphery, making our skin hot and body’s more reactive. This a mechanism behind many diseases like acne, eczema, psoriasis, migraine, even more serious diseases like ulcerative colitis. Why acupuncture is so very useful is that it helps this Qi return to the source, it “puts it back where it belongs.” This would explain exactly how acupuncture lessens allergic sensitivity. When the fire returns to the source you feel less physically and emotionally reactive and stronger, too. When you see the kind of person who is phased by nothing and has no fear, that is because their ministerial fire/Agni is very strong and rooted. Acupuncture helps this process.
Wheat/Dairy/Gluten Free Diet
If you have had life long allergies or chronic sinus issues, or if they have suddenly developed, it is very valuable to go on a gluten free diet for 6 months. If it helps, stay on it longer. At a minimum, give up wheat and dairy, as both create the kind of cold damp condition in which the allergic response thrives. Especially if you are overweight with a doughy constitution, and by that i mean something subjective but to put it into words, that you have lots of evenly spread fat and loose skin with pale color and lots of fluid discharge from the eyes, sinuses, and salivary glands. Or if you have reddish oily skin with a heavy body type and strong body odor. Especially if there is bad breath and body odor this diet is for you. Plus add lots and lots of bitter green vegetables. Get your carbs from starchy veggies like parsnip and butternut squash, not from grains. Use spices and herbs in your food.
In Chinese Medicine allergies are both inherited and cultivated, meaning, you may have inherited the potential for allergy from your parental lineage, but whether it expresses itself can be a function of many factors, including the wrong diet for your constitution. It is useful to learn your Ayurvedic dosha combination (note: we are bi-doshic, so you need to look at primary and secondary dosha). Management of your body’s mental Qi is vital, and for this I recommend everyone to have some kind of meditative practice built into their lives that includes the healthy expression of emotions and the healthy processing of the emotions sadness, anger, and fear.
Chinese and Ayurvedic Herbal Medicines
Herbal medicines to a central piece of the puzzle. They help decongest your Qi, cleanse dampness and pathological heat, and to build defense, that aspect of the immune system Chinese medicine calls Wei Qi or Defensive Qi. One piece of the allergy puzzle is an inherited weakness in the Kidney Qi that creates weak defense. In Ayurveda this is weak Agni, which leads to an accumulation of Ama/toxins that in this case collect in the interstices and in the head. Again this is why an anti-Ama diet is so important, with restrictions on Kaphagenic foods like wheat, gluten, and dairy, and the inclusion of Agni-genic bitter and pungent vegetables and spices in the diet and medicines.
For long term allergies with that doughy damp Kaphic body type and Candida type symptoms I often use Health Concerns brand Phellostatin, and recently had a very good result even with a patient having interstitial cystitis using that formula. It rids the body of toxic damp heat and strengthens the ability to process food and fluids without creating more dampness. If such people are overweight and sluggish with Kapha dominance, then I add Guggul.
For treating the proximal pattern, depending on type I may use one of several Chinese herb formulas like Cinnamon Twig combination/Gu Zhi Tang, or Ge Gen Tang/Pueraria Combination. Sun Ten brand Pro Botanixx Tong Bi is near miraculous for allergy season symptoms causing sneezing, runny nose, congestion, headache and itchy eyes. It is a classic formula for removing the toxic cold dampness from the head that makes you susceptible to external allergens and works better than Claritan. If there is a lot of sneezing and nasal congestion I may combine that with an herbal formula like Modified Ma Huang Tang, what I call Allergease, which I have custom made.
Most allergy sufferers with benefit from lots of hot ginger tea during allergy season. In the morning feel free to combine with green or black tea, or also with cardamon or mint. It the person has lots of heat symptoms like very red eyes, then a cooling tea like Peppermint tea is better. Sometimes I mix ginger and mint. Ayush brand ProVatta and ProPitta teas are excellent, the first is good for the nervous energy provoked by dry or windy weather in the Vatta type, the second for the irritability provoked by hot weather in the Pitta type, and both help stimulate Agni fire to burn off toxins.
Neti Pot Saline Irrigation
Very valuable for the dry, irritated nasal passages due to allergies, rhinitis and sinusitis in any allergy season, whether the Santa Ana fall allergy season of San Diego, or the late summer/autumn hay fever season east of the Rockies, or even due to colds and flu in winter or from dried out nasal passages due to central heating in cold climates is saline irrigation of the sinuses. Also excellent to irrigate sinuses after sinus surgery which prevents mucus from accumulating in the sinus. I prefer the Neti pot, but some of my patients find the over the counter sprays from the pharmacy more convenient, like Ocean Brand “Complete Sinus Rinse” I use Ocean complete sinus rinse which is based on the Neti pot when I travel to dry places like the desert or polluted places like New York City.
Regular irrigation of the sinuses with saline has many benefits and is a critical component in the short and long term treatment of allergies and chronic sinus infections because it changes the environment in the nasal passages washing away allergens, particulates, dead skin cells, and mucus so that there is less for your body to react to, and a healthier mucus membrane which is harder for toxic bacteria or fungus to grow in. Saline/Neti pot reduces congestion by thinning mucus; it soothes dry irritated nasal passages caused by dry windy weather, allergies, rhinitis, colds, and flu, it also moistens mucus membranes that have been dried from dry weather, surgery, or drugs.
Warning: When using saline irrigation, whether the Neti Pot or the Ocean Spray, do NOT blow your nose. Allow the water to drain out your nose and down the back of your nose and dry your nose with a handkerchief or tissue. If you blow your nose you can send unwanted matter into your eustachian tubes. Moreover, when blowing your nose at any other time, please blow one nostril at a time. Blowing both nostrils at once also sends unwanted mucus and other matter into your eustachian tubes and may lead to ear infection. Especially with children, teach them to blow one nostril at a time.
How to Use the Neti Pot Correctly:
Mix your salt with water that is body temp, not too cold nor too hot. Use enough salt so it tastes like the ocean.
Lean forward over the sink, but turn your head 45 degrees to the side.
Insert the neti pot nozzle as far up the nostril as is comfortable, and allow all the contents to drain through one nostril. If your head is turned to the side adequately, the water will drain out the opposite nostril.
Allow the water to finish draining, DO NOT BLOW YOUR NOSE, but dry your nose with a towel and allow the rest of the water to drain down into your throat. Spit if neccessary.
Repeat with opposite nostril.
Anu Thailam Ayurvedic Nasal Oil
In addition to saline and the Ayurvedic Neti Pot, a wonderful traditional Ayurvedic remedy for Allergies, Sinusitis, and Colds is an oil used to lubricate and open the sinuses called Anu Thailam. Read more about here on my separate article Anu Thailam. Please be clear. NEVER USE ANU THAILAM AND SALINE OR THE NETI POT ON THE SAME DAY. IT WILL BURN YOUR MUCUS MEMBRANES.
copyright eyton shalom, l.ac., san diego ca october 2013 all rights reserved use with permission