Allergy- A growing Health concern:
Irritating allergic symptoms like runny nose, sneezing, itching to even asthma at times, occur because your immune system is hyper sensitive and reacts aggressively to external substances called allergens like chemical toxins, food, dust, animal hair, pollen or parasites.
According to a recent article in the U.S. News & World Report, with up to 30% of adults and 40% of children now suffering from hay fever symptoms — nasal congestion and itchy, watering eyes, make allergy as one of the top 10 reasons for visits to doctors’ offices.
Factors affecting your risk of Allergies:
– Heredity: If one of the parents is allergic then your risk of developing allergies increases by almost 30% and if both, then by 60%.
– Digestive Fire: Ayurvedic believes that apart from hereditary reasons, when and how severe a reaction will be, depends on the person’s immunity, strength of the digestive fire (agni), and the amount of allergens exposed to.
– Dosha Imbalance: Undigested toxins or ama, carried through channels into the various tissues in the body, results in toxin accumulation within the tissues leading to imbalances in the doshas. Ama toxicity aggravates Pitta or Kapha, with varying symptoms irrespective of the base dosha of the person.
– Shleshaka Kapha: Shleshaka Kapha, a particular sub-dosha of Kapha, is responsible for maintaining moisture in the upper respiratory tract. Melting Ama combines with Shleshaka Kapha to form a thick, sticky toxin called shleshma that fills the respiratory tract and sinus cavities creating a fertile breeding ground for bacteria and infection.
Ayurveda: Natural Ways to prevent and cure Allergies
Suppressive symptomatic treatments and advice on avoiding allergens is counter-productive in ridding the body of allergies. The best way is to fortify our systems and “retrain” our bodies to fight these allergens internally. Ayurveda believes that by strengthening our agni, balancing our doshas , and gearing up the body’s own immune systems the body can heal and defend itself in the long term.
Strengthening Agni: According to Ayurveda, agni (digestive fire) is a critical indicator and vital factor to maintain great health. A strong agni absorbs positive energy from our food and environment, effectively eliminates unwanted matter (toxins leading to ama), and reacts in a healthy resilent way to external allergens (avoids a knee-jerk response that leads to imbalances). Ujjayi (pronounced oo-jai or ocean’s breath) is an ancient yogic breathing technique that helps calm the mind and body and strengthen the agni.
Diet: Diet rich in allergy-fighting chemicals like flavonoids and phenols helps avoid majority of seasonal allergies. Turmeric is rich in anti inflammatory curcumin and helps improve digestion and balance the flow of bile. Sage, red pepper, cumin, ginger, black pepper, and coriander are some other spices that are known to be allergy fighters. Ayurvedic suggests a Kapha-Pitta pacifying diet to counter allergies. Pitta regulates chemical functions in the body chemicals and supports immune system releases chemicals in response to an allergen attack. Kapha balancing diet is needed to avoid the sluggish digestion and congestion induced by Kapha imbalance.
Controlling Allergen exposure: Ayurveda, suggests that we should be mindful of the environment that can leave us exposed to increased allergen exposure. Allergen exposure beyond a certain threshold is difficult for the body to heal and even the best treatment to cure.
Neti Pot: Performing a gentle saline rinse using a neti pot (small container with a spout) by allowing warm salt water to flow in one nostril and out the other can cleanse your nasal passages of excess mucus or blockages leading to allergic reactions.
Nasya: Normally recommended after treatment with the neti pot, Nasya consists of applying a few drops of herbalized oil to the nasal passages that forms a protective layer on the nasal tissues and prevents allergens from directly attaching themselves to nasal membranes.
Shaman treatment: Shaman (pacification) treatment uses Kapha pacifying herbs like mulethi, vasa, pushkar mul and kantakari; powders like Palishadi Churna and Sitopladi Churna; and tablets like Lakshmivilas Ras and Vyoshadi Guggulu to pacify Kapha that leads to sluggish digestion and congestion.
Avoid Dairy: Dairy (especially cold) has the same cold, heavy and dense properties as excess Kapha, so avoiding dairy has shown good results in most cases.
Eat warm, cooked foods: As per Ayurveda, warm, cooked vegetarian foods, prepared in ghee (clarified butter) is much lighter on your digestive system and needs less agni to get completely digested and is free of ama.
Ayurvedic Detox: Undergo a panchkarma or natural detox to manually cleanse your body off toxins.
Pranayama: Pranayama, or breath techniques (anuloma-viloma, bhastrika and kapalabhati) help you not only on a physical level, but also on a mental and spiritual level, bringing calm, attention, and space.
Herbal Supplements: Supplement your diet with Ayurvedic herbs that support and rejuvenate the respiratory system, like tulsi, pippali, triphala, and licorice.