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Allergies and Ayurveda


Allergies

Webster’s Dictionary defines an allergy as an abnormal reaction of the body to a previously encountered substance (allergen) that induces an allergic symptom. Common allergens include mold, pet dander, pollen, grasses, and dust, as well as chemicals, medications, detergents, and food additives introduced into the body by inhalation, ingestion, injection, or skin contact.


An allergic reaction produces antibodies, which trigger the release of chemicals, most notably histamine. Histamine is responsible for most allergic symptoms, such as itching, burning eyes, skin reactions, scratchy throat, and sinus congestion. In more serious cases, asthmatic and anaphylactic attacks can also occur.


Allergies are experienced year-round, but as the wet and cold winter moves to the warmer and dryer springtime, you might be experiencing an increase of allergens in our environment. For many, spring can be very challenging. If that is the case for you, it will explore the Ayurvedic approach to health, which offers holistic natural remedies to administer them and would urge via the five senses.


Ayurveda is based on the five elements (ether, air, fire, water, and earth) that are found in the universe. We all have a unique, inherent combination of these elements (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha) in our bodies, which comprise our constitutions (Prakruti). Many factors can cause the body, mind, and spirit to be out of balance, including the change of seasons and weather, our specific locations, what we ingest, and our mental, emotional, and spiritual disharmonies.


Ayurveda classifies allergies according to the doshas, depending on which ones are triggered in each case. For example, during winter (Kapha), the earth is heavier and wetter because rain and nature organically supply us with heavier and denser foods. In general, like attracts like, and during this time, our bodies are also heavier and wetter. This can cause congestion, which is categorized as an allergic reaction. As the spring approaches and the weather gets dryer and warmer, we watch the earth return to life and produce naturally lighter, healthier, and fat-free vegetables, fruits, and berries. Our bodies need these foods to relieve congestion and offset the heaviness we absorb during the winter.


You may wonder why someone can spend an afternoon walking through blossoming fields without symptoms while someone else can’t step out the front door without experiencing severe allergic symptoms. Heredity is a major distinguishing factor, but the root cause is usually based on the strength of the digestive fires or inner resilience (Agni). There are many types of digestive fires in the body that transform what we eat and how we perceive and input mental, emotional, and spiritual stimuli. Ayurveda considers strong digestive functions one of the most important factors in keeping the body, mind, and spirit healthy and balanced.


From an Ayurvedic perspective, when the digestive fires are weak, the body accumulates Ama (toxins, metabolic and emotional wastes, emotional heaviness) from physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual stimuli. It is believed that the primary cause of allergies is improper food choices and combining them with improper digestion and mental, emotional, and spiritual disharmony. When the doshas come into contact with these toxins, the toxins move through the tissues and channels of the body, and the body reacts as the allergens manifest.


When our Agni is strong, we can digest energy and information from our environment, assimilate what is beneficial, and eliminate what we don’t need. The body does not have to mount an aggressive response to allergens but can instead remove and control them by having a strong constitution.


The best way to balance allergies and disharmonies is by doing an Ayuyedic detoxification, known as Panchakarma (meaning five actions). This procedure safely detoxifies the body, strengthens the immune system, removes toxins and allergens, and restores balance and well-being. This practice is a cornerstone of the Ayurvedic lifestyle and is recommended on a seasonal basis, as well as when an individual feels out of balance or is experiencing illness. Panchakarma differs from most cleanses by protecting blood sugar levels using special diets, herbal medicines, oil massage therapies, steam therapy, and purgation to eliminate toxins from the body safely and then rejuvenate and bring the body, mind, and spirit back into balance.


Below is a description of each dosha and its allergic considerations.


Vata – Air (Movement) and Ether (Space) Elements

Kapha is naturally cold, wet, heavy, and stagnant, and its peak season is late winter and spring. After a winter of accumulating cold and heavy qualities and the onslaught of pollen-based allergens, Kapha can experience irritation of the mucous membranes, hay fever, colds, congestion, cough, sinus infections, asthma, and sleep disorders, along with an unbalanced digestive system with excess water retention, heaviness, and sluggishness. Balancing Kapha requires keeping warm and dry, avoiding excess sleep, staying active, and eating a Kapha-pacifying diet incorporating lightness and warmth. Use lighter and warmer spices and herbs such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, basil, and sage. Herbs that support clearing excess congestion from the chest and stomach are recommended and promote proper fluid balance, strengthening the digestive fire. The Neti pot is a useful tool, removing allergens and decreasing congestion. Using Nasya oil can act as a natural decongestant, reducing heaviness.


Pitta – Fire (Transformation) and Water (Cohesiveness) Elements

Pitta experiences hot, wet, light, and mobile symptoms, which include heartburn, acid indigestion, stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, hot flashes, hemorrhoids, hives, rashes, itching, dermatitis, eczema, and irritated eyes. These symptoms are more prevalent during the summer when this dosha peaks in hotter weather. Pitta is located in our blood, skin, liver, small intestine, eyes, and brain, and when elevated, it is imperative to cool the system down, avoid exercise during the midday, eat a Pitta-pacifying diet, stay away from hot, spicy dishes, citrus fruits, sour fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and fermented foods. Cooling and anti-inflammatory spices and herbs are recommended; cilantro juice cools and calms the entire system. Applying the cooling Neem oil to the body also balances Pitta.


Kapha – Cohesiveness (Water) and Structure (Earth)

Kapha is naturally cold, wet, heavy, and stagnant, and its peak season is late winter and spring. After a winter of accumulating cold and heavy qualities and the onslaught of pollen-based allergens, Kapha can experience irritation of the mucus membranes, hay fever, colds, congestion, cough, sinus infections, asthma, and sleep disorders, along with an unbalanced digestive system with excess water retention, heaviness, and sluggishness. Balancing Kapha requires keeping warm and dry, avoiding excess sleep, staying active, and eating a Kapha-pacifying diet incorporating lightness and warmth. Use lighter and warmer spices and herbs such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, basil, and sage. Herbs that support clearing excess congestion from the chest and stomach are recommended and promote proper fluid balance, strengthening the digestive fire. The Neti pot is a useful tool, removing allergens and decreasing congestion. Using Nasya oil can act as a natural decongestant, reducing heaviness.

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