Acupuncture and the Seasons – Spring & Allergies 

 

The first day of Spring is March 20th and finally the snow has melt away, the sun is warm, and the plants are in bloom.  Sounds like a fairy tail really; except with the blooms come sneezing, itchy eyes, congestion, cough, scratchy throat, fatigue…does this sound like you?  Then perhaps you have allergies, or maybe you already know you do, or maybe you have allergies in the fall, or to certain things; regardless this blog is for you.

First lets talk about spring, as a season.  In the spring the world comes alive, awakens from being dormant over the winter.  Temperatures rise, plants and trees grow.  Growth is the tone for the spring.  These very reasons are why in Chinese Medicine (TCM) spring relates to the wood element.  Think about the material wood for a moment to simply understand this philosophy, in a tree wood grows strong and bends flexibly with the changing winds.  When that tree is ill or dies the wood becomes hard and inflexible, unable to bend without breaking.  We can see similar characteristics in people, when they become inflexible to the changes they are faced with.  Also relating to spring is the Liver (I’m talking about your Chinese Liver), we will talk more about that in a bit.

The immune system, even though technically your immune system is working year round, it really starts kicking in around fall (Lung season in TCM).  So how you’ve prepped your immune system in the fall and following months affects how your immune system will be in the spring.  Eating poorly, being stressed out, overworking yourself, being sleep & exercise deprived will all contribute to a weaker immune system.  It is a continuous cycle though right, so also doing those bad things in the spring & summer ends up setting you up for a rough fall, and then an even rougher winter, and you’re screwed in the spring, just in time to start all over in the summer…  Okay, I’m busy, what’s the big deal you ask?  Well if you’re body is taxed, it physically has less fuel to work with, and therefore something has got to go.  Your body, without consulting you first, will decide what areas are more important, and which ones can be neglected.  For some people, that’s the immune system.  Your body says, I just can’t handle it all, you don’t listen (don’t do that, very bad, always listen to your body), then BAM!  Now you’ve had a weakened immune system for a couple months so you are susceptible to catch every single cold and flu that you (or your kid, or your co workers) even come close to.  But it’s not only the virus’s that blow your way that you are likely going to catch, it could be any of the many antigens you come in contact with on a daily basis.  Antigen?  Say what?  Here’s where we consult the mighty Google,

     “An antigen is any substance that causes your immune system to produce antibodies against it. An antigen may be a foreign substance from the environment, such as chemicals, bacteria, viruses, or pollen. An antigen may also be formed inside the body, as with bacterial toxins or tissue cells.”

 

And there you have it, anything is an antigen, depending on the person…depending on the person’s immune system.  So some biggies that typically cause your body to produce antibodies are: foods like eggs, dairy, gluten, food additives, GMO’s, nightshades, citrus, nuts, sugar; and stuff in the air like pollutants (cars, fires, smog), pollen, dust, animal dander, chemicals in building materials (what’s in your carpet?).  So if you breath air, or eat food…..you are most likely going to be exposed to one or some of these antigens.  A person with a strong and healthy immune system might not notice symptoms when they come in contact with these things.  And yet the person with a weaker immune system can be sensitive or down right allergic to one or all of these antigens.  The take home message is, build up your immune system and you build up your tolerance to antigens aka allergies.

Okay, spring is here now, what do I do?  Make an appointment; Acupuncture focuses on treating the root of the problem, and also helps with your symptoms along the way.  Acupuncture is known to clear the foggy head feeling, open up sinuses, decrease phlegm production, soothe an itchy scratchy throat, and cool & clear the eyes. All of these symptoms are signs of inflammation caused by the antigens.  So the root problems being a weak immune system and inflammation, are all treated with acupuncture.  Acupuncture helps by getting rid of the antigens and stimulating the healing process.  While receiving acupuncture you’ll also want to clean!  Yup, spring cleaning, of your house and car, body and lifestyle.  Clean your house to remove as many antigens from your environment as possible.  Do a body cleanse, there are many you can buy over the counter, but we recommend you talk to someone who is experience (Chiropractors, Naturopath, Acupuncturist).  Cleanse products vary in many ways.  Some are specific for specific areas in the body, for example you can get one to clean your digestive track, or as a liver cleanse, or as a heavy metals cleanse, and even some that clean your fat cells. A cleanse can be done just by using a specific diet over a set period of time, usually a month or so.  If you use a product (most of them speed up the cleansing process that happens in your body) those can range from a few days to a couple weeks.  Generally the longer the cleanse duration, the deeper it goes.  Spring is the best time to do a cleanse, because it’s Liver season remember.  Doing a liver cleanse/detox helps your body stay flexible, and to keep things flowing.  The secret to a good cleans is to not continue in old bad habits after you’ve done the cleanse.  If you go eat a greasy pizza and a beer right after you’ve done a cleanse, for one you’re reversing all that hard work, and two you could have an unpleasant reaction to the pizza and beer.  Your body can see clearly now that the antigens are gone.

Now you’re all clean as a whistle, continuing with a anti-inflammatory diet (See Dr Weils Anti-inflammatory diet), get plenty of rest, drink lots and lots of water, exercise, practice relieving stress, and now pump up your immune system.  Take herbs and supplements recommended for strengthening the immune system.  Eat local honey, drink green drinks & bone broth; avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugar.  See a practitioner who either specialized in immunity or someone who knows how to strengthen the immune system (ehm…Boise Acupuncture Co-op, we do that stuff).  These things are going to mend the root of your allergy problem (if it’s a really big allergy problem you might also need additional therapies like Homeopathy).  As far as how long you have to maintain this lifestyle to see results, read our blog about treatment frequency.  In the mean time, use a neti pot, and get acupuncture.
BAC team