Sunday September 25th 2022

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Tips To Get Through Allergy Season

Spring Blooms – Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash


Most of us are more than ready for spring, but for allergy sufferers the anticipation of spring is often accompanied with a slight sense of dread. It’s hard to look forward to the cyclical promise of a stuffy nose, itchy red eyes, headaches, fatigue and sneezes. Due to climate change, seasonal allergies have escalated in many places extending the duration and severity of symptoms. Feeling low grade ill for weeks on end isn’t fun for anyone, but there are some simple tips and lifestyle shifts that can make the season much more bearable…even enjoyable!

When we are exposed to allergens, antibodies release chemicals like histamine which are often responsible for frustrating symptoms and all of the gunky mucus that comes along for the ride. Overconsuming foods that are high in histamine or mucus forming is not ideal when allergens are high. Examples include: milk, cheese, smoked meats, bananas, alcohol, tomatoes and ultra processed foods. It’s best to enjoy these foods in moderation or take a pause altogether. If you know you have a food sensitivity, allergy season is not the time to indulge as this can also exacerbate symptoms.

Showering at night and washing your bedding weekly are good ideas to avoid pollen and dust building up in your sleep space (we spend a lot of time here). If you have animals, try to resist those nightly cuddles on your bed. Set a reminder to change your HVAC filters, vacuum and clean rugs regularly to keep your household pollen count low. Changing your clothes and washing your face after being outside for a while can also make a big difference.

Salt water is a cheap and effective cleansing treatment that helps to break up mucus and clear sinus headaches. Doing a sinus rinse, gargling salt water or using a neti pot regularly are all great ideas during allergy season. Salt is great at breaking up mucus while clearing pollen and dust from the nasal passageways and back of the throat. If you want to use a gentle nasal spray, I prefer Xylitol which can be found at Target or most drugstores.

Regular acupuncture may help alleviate symptoms while modulating the body’s immune, nervous and digestive systems which indirectly lowers allergic reactions, stress and inflammation. Clinical studies have shown that certain acupuncture treatments for allergic rhinitis outperform many western medicine interventions. Western medical interventions can be useful, especially in a pinch, but long term, frequent use may cause sinus irritation, dryness, digestive issues, drowsiness and other complications.

One area acupuncture often addresses for this condition is the large intestine channel (meridian). In Chinese medicine the lungs and large intestines have a special relationship. This is why many people with allergies notice shifts in digestion during spring or fall. Our large intestine in Chinese medicine directly relates to our sinus and lung health. (Note: When I’ve had patients experiencing constipation often their sinuses are inflamed or blocked). It isn’t a bad idea to support optimal digestion with a balanced and nourishing diet during this time.

Many people that experience allergies advocate that drinking nettle tea (which grows in abundance here) can be useful while butterbur has demonstrated clinical effectiveness in treating intermittent allergic rhinitis. Chinese herbal medicine and supplemental therapy are also important tools when used under the supervision of a qualified provider. It’s always important to speak with your provider before implementing any new herbal or supplemental therapies.

Mi J, Chen X, Lin X, et al. Treatment of persistent allergic rhinitis via acupuncture at the sphenopalatine acupoint: a randomized controlled trial. Trials. 2018;19(1):28.

Schapowal, A. (2004). Butterbur Ze339 for the Treatment of Intermittent Allergic Rhinitis. Archives Of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, 130(12), 1381. doi: 10.1001/archotol.130.12.1381

Yin, Z., Geng, G., Xu, G., Zhao, L., & Liang, F. (2020). Acupuncture methods for allergic rhinitis: a systematic review and bayesian meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Chinese Medicine, 15(1). doi: 10.1186/s13020-020-00389-9

Nikki Fleck L.Ac, NTP is a Licensed Acupuncturist and nutritional therapist at Perennial Acupuncture and Companion Medicine in South Minneapolis.

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