The High Cost of Spring Allergies

While allergies may be year-round for some, spring is a special season for pollen allergy sufferers. Seasonal spring allergies in Portland, Oregon and the Pacific Northwest begin as early as March with tree pollen, and continue throughout the summer with grasses, ragweed and other plants. To add to the problem, air pollution also tends to get worse in the summer. Poor air quality, combined with pollen, amplifies the assault on your immune system.

Spring allergies are miserable and debilitating. Nasal congestion, watery eyes and inflamed sinuses lead to poor sleep, mental fog, and reduced productivity. Most people don’t take time off from work, but allergies cause a 25% drop in worker productivity, costing millions.  Moreover, oral antihistamines and over-the-counter medications make people drowsy, adding to the mental fog and reduced productivity. Many people are dissatisfied with their allergy medications, and feel they become less effective over time. Fortunately, natural treatment methods are available. Acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition and wellness can all be effective in preventing and treating spring allergies.

Here are a few key tips to help you prevent and minimize spring allergies, and avoid the use of pharmaceutical medications that have side-effects or become ineffective:

Key # 1: Plan Ahead for Spring Allergies

If you know you have spring allergies, start acupuncture treatment prior to the beginning of allergy season, before your symptoms are full-blown. Begin regular acupuncture treatments during the winter, while pollen allergies are in remission.  Continue treatment as the allergy season progresses. Many clients choose to continue maintenance treatments through out the year. With continued acupuncture treatment, allergy symptoms decline and are less of a problem with each successive year. Acupuncture acts as an immune-modulator, helping to regulate your immune system and toning down allergic reactions over time.

Key # 2: Immune Support through Nutrition

Prevent allergies by eating anti-inflammatory foods year-round. Eat nutrient-dense foods that help regulate the immune system. Some foods that are especially good for preventing allergies include nuts, apples, crucifers (broccoli, kale, cabbage), tomatoes, red grapes and fish. Many people believe that including raw, local honey in your diet can also help, by acclimating your immune system to local allergens.

Eliminating dairy products can help reduce congestion. Dairy tends to be mucus-forming in the body. Check for dairy sensitivities by giving up dairy for a month. Reintroduce it slowly, and see how your body responds.

Reduce your intake of pro-inflammatory foods, including refined carbohydrates, grains, sugary drinks, and sweets. And, last but not least, drink plenty of water.

Key #3: Herbs and Nutritional Supplements for Spring Allergy Relief

If prevention with acupuncture and whole-foods nutrition isn’t enough to keep allergy symptoms at bay, you may need to add a Chinese herbal formula or nutritional supplement during the spring allergy season. Herbal formulas and supplements designed to treat allergy symptoms can help you avoid the use of pharmaceuticals, and do not have unwanted side effects.

Always consult a professional herbalist and nutritionist to diagnose and prescribe what is best for you.  Correct prescription is complicated. In the long run, you will save money and time by consulting an expert, and avoid buying a bunch of over-the-counter supplements that are really not right for you.

Key #4: Home Health Habits to Avoid Spring Allergies

During the spring allergy season, you can minimize the impact of allergens by keeping them out of your house and off your body as much as possible. Use a neti pot or other method of nasal saline irrigation, to reduce inflammation and remove contaminants and dead tissue from the sinuses. If you have been out of doors, wash or shower to remove pollen from your hair and skin. Put on clean clothes. Change bedding frequently, especially pillow cases.

Keep your house clean and vacuum frequently. On high pollen days, keep the windows closed and run the air conditioner, if you have one. Pollen counts are highest in the morning, from about 5 AM to 10 AM. You may wish to consider using a high-quality HEPA air filter.

Inner Works Acupuncture, a northwest Portland acupuncture clinic, offers full-service treatment for allergies, with acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and nutritional therapy.  For more information or to schedule and appointment, call 503-227-2127.