It’s that time of year again.  The weather is getting warmer, the flowers are starting to pop out of the ground and all over the valley allergy symptoms are coming out of hibernation.

What are allergies?
In order to understand allergies, we need to understand the immune system.  The immune system is a complex array of cells, chemicals and organs that protect our bodies from invaders such as bacteria, viruses and fungi.  It also protects us from mutated cells and prevents cancers from forming.

The immune system reacts to foreign invaders by a number of different mechanisms.

For one thing, it makes the blood vessels a little leaky so that the soldier cells of the immune system can quickly move out of the blood vessels into the space where they are needed.  This is why when get an infection in a cut the area becomes swollen.  It is also part of the reason for the stuffy and runny nose of upper respiratory infections.  The immune system also creates extra mucous to help protect the body from invaders.

The problem with allergies is that our bodies are reacting to relatively benign substances (such as pollen, dust mites, animals, certain foods, etc…) as if they were horrible invaders.

Our treatment of allergies is two fold:

First, we need to minimize our exposure to the allergen.  We do this by washing sheets and pillowcases weekly in hot water, using HEPA air filters in the bedroom at night and generally keeping our homes and work places clean.  There are other more specific measure that you might take depending on your specific allergy and the severity of your symptoms.

We also want to decrease the inflammatory response that is going on in our body.  In my practice, I use a combination of diet, herbal and nutritional supplements and acupuncture to lower the levels of inflammation in the body.

For example:
Diet: I recommend a diet that is high in anti-inflammatory foods and low in pro-inflammatory foods.  The diet should be high in cold water fish and fruits and vegetables, while being low in refined carbohydrates, dairy, sugars and non-organic meat.  Click here for my basic anti-inflammatory diet.

Supplements:  Fish oil and quercetin powder are often beneficial for decreasing allergy symptoms.  I also provide my patients with a custom herbal formula to address their specific situation.

Acupuncture: Acupuncture can be anti-inflammatory and brings balance back to the system.  I have found it to be an effective part of allergy treatment.

Netti pot: nasal irrigation can help with allergy symptoms.  Irrigate nasal passages daily with a saline solution (if you are mixing up your own solution, be sure to use boiled or distilled water).  You can also add 1/8 tsp of ground goldenseal powder per 16 oz of saline solution.