Hayfever And Chinese Medicine
As we come into Spring, the sun is starting to shine once more, the trees are beginning to grow their leaves, and flowers are starting to bloom. It’s such a beautiful & joyful time of year, where we start to feel more active and our bodies can finally loosen up and shake off the cold of winter. However, for many people in Melbourne, it also signals the beginning of hay fever season.
If you are one in five of the population who suffer from hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis) you may be dreading the impending onset of sinus congestion & runny nose, sneezing, watery, itchy & irritated eyes, blocked ears, and in severe cases wheezing and asthma.
Hay fever occurs when a sensitised individual is exposed to environmental allergens such as pollen, which triggers an excessive immune reaction, and the subsequent release of histamines. Histamine causes inflammation & swelling of the nasal mucosa, which results in excessive mucus production and the onset of the many unpleasant symptoms associated with hay fever.
How can Chinese medicine help?
From a Chinese Medicine viewpoint, we are either aiming to relieve acute symptoms, or working to correct underlying imbalances within the body before the onset of allergy season, to prevent or minimise symptom severity once the season hits. Peak grass pollen season generally runs from October to the end of December, so we still have a few more weeks to prepare!
A review conducted by the acupuncture evidence project found acupuncture to be safe & effective in reducing symptom severity in allergic rhinitis sufferers. The therapeutic effects of acupuncture in treating allergic rhinitis is understood to be due to its anti-inflammatory effects, and capacity to reduce IgE levels in the body, which are associated with allergic symptoms.
It’s worth noting that acupuncture works best as a series of treatments, with most clinical studies being conducted over 10-12 sessions. While we might see some great results after one session, it’s not a one hit wonder and symptoms will often return without consistent treatments. We want to be continually building on your progress, to achieve lasting results. Herbal medicine, as well as diet and lifestyle adjustments are excellent ways to extend treatment effects and get the most out of acupuncture.
Chinese Medicine Diet Tips
Avoid cheese, dairy, refined sugars, fried, greasy food and alcohol. These foods introduce phlegm and heat into the body which can aggravate irritation, inflammation & nasal congestion. I know this sounds like all the yum stuff, and maybe it feels a bit harsh. However, following this principle will give good results, and you can still enjoy these foods every now and then.
Avoid excess intake of cold raw foods such as salads, smoothies, iced drinks, ice cream, and foods straight from the fridge which weaken our digestive fire and encourage the generation of phlegm.
Stick to regular meal times, eat warm, freshly cooked meals, and avoid overeating to support digestion.
Where possible eat seasonally and locally, nature knows what our body needs!
A tea made with goji berry (Gou Qi Zi) and chrysanthemum (Ju Hua) can help to soothe irritated eyes. A review of the therapeutic effects of Chrysanthemum flowers found that, among many other health benefits, they exhibit anti-inflammatory effects, and may help to alleviate inflamed itchy eyes, improve metabolism, and boost the immune system.
Other tips to help manage your symptoms at home
Avoid exposure to allergens. You can follow the Melbourne pollen count (or download their app) and avoid going outside or opening windows on high pollen or windy days. If you can’t avoid leaving the house, make sure to change your clothes (put them in the wash) and shower as soon as you get home to remove pollens from your body, and avoid spreading them through your home.
Consider purchasing an air purifier to help remove airborne particles including dust, pollen and animal dander that aggravate hayfever symptoms. Melbourne pollen count recommends looking for an air purifier with a HEPA + activated carbon filter.
Sinus rinsing with a saline solution can help to flush out irritants from the nose and clear congested nasal passages.
Book in for acupuncture! Due to its anti-inflammatory effects & capacity to down-regulate IgE levels within the body, acupuncture has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment option for allergic rhinitis.