March 21st, 2011
What are the first thoughts that come to mind when imaging the beckoning of springtime in theOhio Rivervalley? I am sure many immediately want to talk college basketball and the madness that is March and the NCAA tournament. Others will drift to the Kentucky Derby and all the related festivities leading up to the most exciting 2 minutes in sports. Some may be eager to simply get outside the house and explore the beautiful scenery that is Kentuckiana (Indiucky from my side of the bridge). The burgeoning spring is many things to different people, regardless of your passions it can inspire and motivate us all to embrace this wonderful time of year.
Growing up in this region, the arrival of springtime has also always suggested the arrival of seasonal allergies that are unmatched in other areas of the country. Hay fever (not necessarily related to hay and seldom associated with a fever) can be incapacitating and the number of individuals affected in the spring is staggering. Allergic rhinitis – inflammation of the nose and/or sinuses – is accompanied by sneezing, nasal mucus discharge, nasal congestion, nasal itching, and watery, itchy eyes, and affects countless individuals. The increased mucus creates an environment that is an ideal place for bacteria to grow and lead to sinus infections and sinus pressure. This process is a hypersensitive reaction to the increased pollen count in our environment as the new grasses, trees, and weeds begin to grow.
It may seem as if we are helpless against this increased pollen count since when we walk outside we are exposed. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to help minimize our overall inflammatory burden which will subsequently decrease the severity of our inflammatory response to the pollens. The at home solutions we will talk about today include monitoring the foods we eat, increasing omega 3 consumption, as well as washing out our sinuses.
The first way to address allergies of all types is to examine what we consume. What we put into our body on a daily basis has a lasting effect on how we feel each and every day. Seasonal allergies are no exception to the rule. In order to address allergies with diet modification, it is vital to explore the individual’s sensitivity to particular foods. Often we consume foods that we are sensitive to without noticing any direct reaction from the offending food. The food sensitivities we are concerned with will not cause our nose to drip or our eyes to itch. It is not the type of allergic food reaction that requires an EpiPen and a quick trip to the emergency room. Instead, it is a low-level sensitivity that cumulatively contributes to our overall inflammatory burden and hence produces a hypersensitive response when we are exposed to something non-threatening like plant pollens. In my experience, food sensitivity is a completely unique response. I have seen it repeatedly in my office that even within families there is a totally independent reaction to particular foods. Eliminating a particular food for one person will not necessarily work for another.
It should be noted that a diet that is high in omega 6 fatty acids and deficient in omega 3 fatty acids increases systemic inflammation. Both essential fatty acids (omega 3 and 6) must be acquired through our diet. The standard American diet (SAD) is extremely high in omega 6 fatty acids and extremely low in the omega 3 fatty acids. Both essential fatty acids are crucial for healthy inflammatory pathways in the body. When the omega 6 pathway is activated, the body experiences a more exaggerated inflammatory response. The omega 3 pathway is activated it produces a less inflammatory response. When the body has a healthy ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids, the resulting inflammatory response is likely to be appropriate to the offending agent. When the body has an excess of omega 6 fatty acids, it is more often the case that there will be an extreme inflammatory response to an offending agent, regardless of the severity of the particular antigen. This is a simplified description of the phenomenon happening at the cellular level in the majority of Americans, children included, on a daily basis. It is important to strive to bring our body back into balance and reestablish a healthy ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids. I generally recommend that patients supplement with 500 to 1000 mg of EPA from a high-quality pharmaceutical grade fish oil. My favorite product is MorEPA by Minami. You can also increase your omega 3 levels by eating grass fed meats and avoiding any grain fed products.
In addition to avoiding food sensitivities and increasing omega 3 consumption, it is also important to consume as many fresh, local vegetables and fruits as possible. This local produce is grown in the same environment where we live. It thrives with exposure to the same air and water pollutants that we must deal with in the spring. The natural defenses and bountiful phyto-nutrients offer us the same protection that they provide for the growing plants. These nutrients and bio-flavenoids have natural anti-inflammatory properties and the volume of benefits from a diet high in variety and colorful vegetable and fruit consumption is too vast to include in this article.
One other simple method for reducing allergic symptoms is to utilize a neti pot saline wash throughout the spring to wash the pollens directly from the nasal passage. A neti pot is a device used for flushing out excess mucus, pollen, bacteria, and foreign agents from the nose and sinuses. This technique is becoming more and more popular, even within the conventional medical system. Neti pots are available for purchase at many drug and retail stores. A neti pot is a safe, simple, and effective tool for supporting healthy sinuses.
The techniques described above are painless and inexpensive, and the benefits can be enormous. By incorporating these suggestions into your healthy daily routine you will be more able to enjoy time planting a garden, watching the horses run, or doing any other activities you enjoy in the springtime.
Posted in Naturopathic Medicine |