Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Hellacious Allergy Season - My Plan of Attack

If you are anything like me, this time of year is a double-edged sword, while beautiful in the changing of the seasons, the stillness reestablished because all the tourists have gone home and the luxury of a bug-free outside, the flip-side is horrendous allergies; and this year, in particular, seems to be the worst ever. I am not quite sure why, but the allergy season seems longer and more intense this year. Granted though, typically in October it has considerably cooled down and we are not still basking in the 65+ degree sunny weather we have been having. Talking to fellow snot-oozers and itchy-eyed friends, it has been bad for everyone this year. The exhaustion, sleep deprivation, inability to get a deep breath, the going through box after box of tissues, the itchy eyes, you name it I've got it all, including the irritability that comes with all these glorious side effects. (A major Thanks to my Honey for putting up with me and helping in every way he can see fit, yes that includes running to the health food store for me and Home Depot last night to pick up Another air purifier).

While most turn to some OTC antihistamine, I have to be pretty miserable in order to do that, but even then, when I do, I instantly regret taking the OTC. Yes, even when it says non-drowsy, non-foggy, non-whatever, I am so sensitive that I turn into a blob of foggy-brained-drymouth-tiredness that I can't shake until the damn thing passes through my system.

So I take a different approach. I am the trifecta of allergy-heinousness, I have seasonal allergies, asthma and food allergies, yay me! So if you happen to be in the same boat as me, welcome to the grumpy snot club. Your body receptors register everything as a gnarly invader attacking your system constantly, so my springs and falls are spent miserably stuffy, draining from my face, itchy eyes, respiratory issues and a very close relationship with my rescue inhaler (of which I am forced to use during the glorious time).

My plan of attack that works for me. I might not work for everyone, and I am by no means encouraging this for those with excessive allergy issues and asthma without consulting your doc and allergy specialist.

I sense my body's reaction to seasonal allergens because foods that don't normally give me digestional and respiratory issues all of a sudden do. I start to think "Oh I am allergic to everything," "God-damn why am I so sensitive," and then I look around at all the orange, red leaves and think, "so pretty....oh right!" So I immediately strip my diet down to an elimination diet (see My Journey tab for more details) to foods that don't bother me, basically fruits, organic gf grains and some veggies, avoiding the nightshade family and all inflammatory aggravating foods. I also err on the side of slightly hungry than full because then my body does not need to exert so much energy digesting, as it is already taxed fighting off every inhaled particle that passing through my nostrils. 

A side note about inflammatory food, basically when you are having an allergic reaction your body identifies any foreign particles/molecules in your body, ie pollen, dust, pet dander, ragweed, gluten, etc. and releases histamine, causing the seasonal allergy oozing effect from all orifices that we all know so well, along with sneezing, watery eyes and itching. For some people, particularly those with asthma, this reaction may also include swelling in the bronchial tubes that makes it difficult to breathe. Your body has a protection mechanism of swelling, created by a "liquid" barrier that aims to protect itself, functioning as a buffer to any additional harm and as a vehicle for moving the particle out, by sneezing, coughing or oozing. Removing foods that naturally have an inflammatory "liquid barrier" effect on the body, like nightshades: tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, etc., will further help calm your body down from defense mode.

So I strip down my diet to be so clean that I know for a fact my body is not having an allergic reaction to anything I am eating. This means, no dairy, no caffeine, no gluten (obviously, as always, but this time of year I choose not to eat any gluten-free products either), no animal proteins (of which I already eat very little). I juice daily and make a lot of jam-packed smoothies with organic bee pollen and spirulina; eat tons of dark leafy greens to help with oxygen and wait it out. Then I can properly focus my attention to the environmental allergens.

I use my rescue inhaler only during seasonal allergy season and then it is only when I am in dire need. I also recently found Olbas natural inhaler, of which I have yet to need to try, but have high hopes for it replacing my rescue inhaler. We have HEPA air purifiers throughout the house that run on an almost constant basis when my body is in freak-out mode. I turn to herbs that have natural benefits for helping with allergies and asthma. Gingko biloba contains a dozen different anti-inflammatory chemicals and seven natural antihistamines. Stinging Nettle has natural antihistamines and anti-inflammatories (including quercetin), that open up constricted bronchial and nasal passages aiding with the complications from seasonal allergies and asthma. Another issue we combat during allergy season is inflammation and there are tons of herbs and foods that help with inflammation, I turn to unsweetened, organic pomegranate juice and licorice capsules. Herbs like turmeric, ginger, garlic, onions and cayenne, can help with inflammation and asthma so cooking with these herbs in particular will also help. Lastly, for comfort and to aid in breathing, I drink a lot of hot tea. Turning to double stepped peppermint tea, sipping slowly and holding near your nose to take deep, calming breaths, really helps open up your sinuses. Aslso ginger tea, which again helps with inflammation, but also assists your digestive tract, which at this time of year needs all the help it can get.

During allergy season I turn to yoga to help during this time, more-so than just my regular practice. I know it seems counter-intuitive to workout when you are already having breathing issues, but the low impact, focused breathing of yoga, really helps calm my respiratory system. I find I can breath deeper and better after doing yoga, especially during allergy season. I would highly recommend doing your practice in a room that has a HEPA air purifier running to further aide in your breathing exercise.

Good luck and good breathing. See you on the other side with less snot-ooze.