Sunday, September 21, 2014

Seasonal and Food Allergies

Every year, this time of year my body normally shuts down. It goes into a hyper-sensitive, constantly sneezing ooze fest of watery, itch eyes, runny nose, scratchy throat joyousness of seasonal allergies that comes with living in rural Maine.

I have always had allergies even in CA. When I visit, Dad always adoringly mentions how he knows I am home, because the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is blow my nose. My seasonal allergies were never as bad as they are until I moved to Maine. Every spring and fall it feels like my face is going to fall off, between the constant sneezing and blowing and itching, I bring my tissue box in tow where ever I go.

Before I was gf and lf, my seasonal allergies were horrendous. Coupled with my asthma, eating gluten regularly and the seasonal pollens, I regularly couldn't breathe. I would wake up in the night gasping for air, only to find temporary relief from my rescue inhaler; doze off sitting up, only moments later startled awake gasping for air.

Fall, while beautiful here, is one of my most dreaded seasons. I first discovered my gluten allergy in the fall. And I have spent many years hyper-aware of my body freak out that inevitably happens as the air cools and the leaves turn colors. The first year my body started shutting down, I barely was getting a few hours of sleep a night, I had started a new job, I couldn't eat, I couldn't breathe, I could barely walk up the stairs without getting winded. I was scared. That fall was the start of my Elimination Diet into trying to figure out and potentially eliminate my food allergies. 

That was 3 years ago. I removed gluten from my diet 3 years ago and lactose 1 year ago. But up until this fall, every fall would come the sleepless nights, the panic-y gasping for air in the middle of the night. The endless attempts from my sweet Man to try to help me. Rubbing my back as I sat up on the side of the bed, panicking, crying and struggling to breathe as I disrupted his sleep. He has bought countless HEPA air purifiers over the years. Ones with cool air because he knows the warm air makes it worse and makes me feel claustrophobic. Last year he rigged a window sized air filter that filters out the finest of air particles and pollutants, "See babe," he said, pointing at the long list of things it would trap and strain out of the air; in our bedroom window, sealing the edges with plastic and duct tape. He makes me extra strong peppermint tea in the middle of the night, sitting on the floor in the dark as I sit in the reclining chair in our living room with a fan on my face, attempting to calmly breathe in the soothing mint and eventually be able to fall asleep in an upright position. He has been there through it all, supported me the entire time and never once complained that I disrupted his sleep or was keeping him awake, even though he might have to get up in a few hours for work. Even after I would snap at him out of panic, exhausting and frustration he still waits to see what he could do to help and make me more comfortable and less scared. (And yes I know he is a KEEPER!).

He noticed the other day that "it" hasn't happened yet this year. He's right. September is almost over and none of my typical seasonal allergy madness has happened. Yes I sneeze about 50 times a day. And I blow my nose a lot. And I can't wear my contacts all day. But none of the super scary, middle of night gasping for air, panic attacks are happening. Even as I am typing this I am worried about saying it out loud for fear that it will happen tonight. My many, many sleepless fall nights and inability to breathe will haunt me forever.

Normally my seasonal allergies will start with the typical signs: sneezing, itchy eyes and throat, blowing my nose constantly, then it will transition into feeling overly full after every meal even when I consciously didn't overeat, then it will turn into waking up in the middle of the night to pee or drink water only to turning into a sniffling, stuffy nose escapade where I can't fall back asleep for hours due to a stuffy nose, which eventually turns into repeated fitful nights where I just barely fall asleep and then wake up in a panic gasping for air and my rescue inhaler does nothing to help, repeating throughout the entire night.

Normally this time of year, I really pare down my diet to basically an Elimination Diet of organic, gluten free brown rice and veggies, with smoothies, green juices and simple salads during the day, no dairy, no gf products, no nightshade veggies, no extra seasonings, no meats. Last fall, I introduced anti-inflammatory supplements and supplements that aide with seasonal allergies: slippery elm, tumeric, ginger, licorice, ginko biloba, quercetin and stinging nettle. While I have trimmed my normal diet down and started my supplements again in anticipation of the immanent seasonal doom, I am still able to occasionally eat gluten free bread and some lactose free cheeses. I even made gf scones this morning. And I am still not getting that telling overly full feeling. Something is different this year....

I noticed last week that I can't drink alcohol right now, which is a normal cutback for my fall. I can tell when I have to cut it out, because I will have a small drink and immediately get stuffed up and get this really weird pressure behind my eyes and nose. I noticed this the other day after a few sips into a glass of wine. I tested it again the other day, same thing, so booze is out for now, but if that is it, I will gladly give it up!

I am not sure what is different this year. I know the pollen levels and pollutant levels have been extraordinarily high this season. So what gives? Not that I am by any means looking for the usual body freak out, trust me! It just seems too good to be true, I am knocking on wood right now just in case. I have noticed some mild versions of my typical allergy freak out but not the full on I feel like I am going to die scenario, phew.

A couple things that are different this year that I am considering might be helping: 

I practice yoga daily. This is new for me this year. I started daily practice back in February. So this is my first fall with regular practice. I have heard yoga has amazing benefits for those with asthma. Possibly yoga is helping in yet another amazing way. I heart yoga. Exercise is normally impossible for me in the fall because it asks too much of my already drained body and requires me to breathe harder, which normal breathing is already a challenge. Especially outside exercise, but I have even been practicing outside regularly with no additional aggravation.

The other thought is we recently tore out the carpet in our house. We have talked about tearing out the carpet for years and we finally did it over Labor Day, but come to think of it, my seasonal freak out normally starts around the last week of August or the first of September, and I wasn't reacting then either....hmmm. We pulled out the carpet which was god-knows-how-old and put down hardwood flooring. I always thought the carpet was evil, not just because it was a heinous old-lady-blue, but because I swore it made my allergies worse, and now it's gone. So maybe it was the carpet...who knows!?

Either way, something is different this year. I have limited my diet like normal, but actually not as strictly in years past. I normally let my body reactions and allergies guide me, right now my body is not making rigid demands. So far I am actually surviving a fall season! No sleepless gasping-for-air-nights. And I can exercise daily, yoga, running, TRX and all. I haven't even used my rescue inhaler yet. Just the typical sneezes and nose blowing. Here's hoping that's all it will be this year, maybe I have finally found some relief to this seasonal allergy madness. I have worked so hard to control my diet and remove the probable causes of food allergies. Maybe the perfect combination of yoga, clean eating, added supplements and a hypoallergenic home have lead me to seasonal allergy nirvana.

Fingers crossed....

Saturday, September 13, 2014

"Balance is key. In everything you do. Dance all night long and practice yoga the next day. Drink wine but don't forget your green juice. Eat chocolate when your heart wants it and kale salad when your body needs it. Wear high heels on Saturday and walk barefoot on Sunday. Go shopping at the mall and then sit down to meditate in your bedroom. Live high and low. Move and stay still. Embrace all sides of who you are and live your authentic truth! Be brave and bold and spontaneous and loud and let that complement your abilities to find silence and patience and modesty and peace.

Aim for balance. Make your own rules and don't let anybody tell you how to live according to theirs."

#love #live #life #balance #yoga #yogaeverydamnday #beach #inspiration#freedom #happiness

Rachel Brathen