Healthy Perspective by Maureen Shortt


Every year, as soon as the ragweed blossomed, Fred's eyes would water; his nose would get itchy and run, and he knew he would be miserable until the first good frost. This is the same story for millions, but it doesn't have to be.

Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of health and longevity, is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago.  According to Ayurveda principles, allergies are caused by the buildup of impurities due to digestive weaknesses or lifestyle stresses, including what foods you eat, as well as the circumstances within which you eat.

When these impurities have built up through the cold and dry of winter, and then the heat and moisture of summer, they can block the micro-channels of detoxification in your body, which overwhelms your cells with waste and this backs up and compromises your immunity. This then creates reactivity to the fall irritants, and you have allergies.

One highly effective means for combating allergies is to cleanse your body of toxins when the seasons change.  This helps clear out the toxins of the previous season before the buildup of the new season can begin. This is especially important for allergy sufferers, as it is the accumulated toxins from last winter and summer just past that cause fall allergies.  The time to do this is at the juncture of two seasons. For the fall this means October (between summer and fall).  When the weather is fluctuating between seasons, the digestive fire, or Agni, also tends to fluctuate, leading to more incidence of sickness, allergies or compromised immunity.

This is the time to eat lighter, a nourishing diet of cooked, lightly spiced organic fruits and vegetables and light proteins such as chicken and fish and beans.  Stay away from cheese, ice cream and hard-to-digest foods such as leftovers and packaged foods. Use spices such as turmeric, coriander and cumin, as they are effective allergy-busting spices, improving digestion and immunity.

Another step to controlling and preventing allergy symptoms is to be mindful of how many aggravating allergens are in your environment, and making choices to eliminate them as much as possible.  While it is sometimes difficult to completely avoid allergens, you can minimize the effects direct contact with them by using a few more Ayurvedic practices.  One is using a neti pot to do a gentle daily saline rinse.  A neti pot is a small container with a spout that is placed in your nostril as you tip your head sideways, allowing warm salt water to flow in one nostril and out the other. It flushes out allergens that have come into your body through the nasal passages.  After using the neti pot, it is very helpful to follow up with an Ayurvedic technique known as nasya, which consists of rubbing a bit of oil, such as sesame oil, in each nasal passage with your little finger. The oil protects your nasal tissues from allergens attaching to them.

Working with your health through natural means is a slower process than taking medications, but it is more permanent. Rather than masking symptoms, these practices, over time, will clear the cause of your allergies. Making these changes may not clear up your allergies completely THIS fall, but it will lessen the effects.  And, if you keep doing them, you will find that when next fall comes, you may be symptom free.

Maureen Shortt, M.A. Nutritionist and Yoga Director

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