Saturday, March 19, 2011
Hello, Spring! Hello, Pollen!
The real title of this post is "Hello, Spring! Screw You, Allergies!!"
Spring is by far my favorite season in Nashville. It's not oppressively hot yet, the bugs are minimal and, unlike the Michigan springs of my childhood, it's blooming and vibrant rather than cold and muddy. The dogwoods, forsythia, redbuds and saucer magnolias are exploding into bloom right now. I love it!
However, there's a huge downside to Spring in Nashville: the allergies. Nashville is legendary for inducing allergies even in people who have not previously suffered from them. I was warned when I moved here 13 years ago- "Just wait a few years and you'll develop allergies!" I didn't believe it, but it happened. First, it was in the autumn (ragweed) and then over the years, I also started suffering in the spring (tree pollen). See that lovely picture above? Well, that's my archenemy, the Bradford Pear tree.
Anyone who has pollen allergies knows that they're no picnic. My variety of symptoms are downright miserable. Yes, there's some sneezing and some itchy nose (no itchy eyes or sinus infections, thank goodness!) but then there's the sore throat and the intense full body fatigue and heavy head that makes me feel like I've been drugged and makes it almost impossible to think clearly. When I first developed them, I went for a few acupuncture treatments and they cleared up for a number of years. Later, I no longer had group health insurance that payed for acupuncture so I turned to natural allergy supplements. I would still recommend acupuncture in a heartbeat, but I know that not everyone has access to or can afford it.
Not wanting to resort to Benedryl, which DOES make me so drugged up I can't think straight (not to mention it blocks the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is essential for memory function, among other things) and not wanting to use over the counter or prescription allergy meds, I've tried many natural remedies over the years.
I tried a variety of herbal, homeopathic and nutrient formulas, such as nettles, eyebright and quercetin (I worked in the supplement dept. of Whole Foods, so I had access to so many things). I didn't try the famed neti pot because I don't have the kind of symptoms a neti pot is used for (although they are supposed to be great and I know multitudes of people who love their neti pots!)
The only thing that worked for my set of symptoms were the Bioallers Formulas, which are homeopathic formulas containing minute amounts of specific allergens. People love to bash homeopathy or chalk it up to a placebo effect. Well, I think that's a load of BS. If that were the case, I doubt Bioallers would have worked better for me than the other formulas I tried (many of which worked great for my coworkers), but they work very well and I have a number of friends who also swear by them. I love that they have no side effects or contraindications.
I use the Tree Pollen formula in Spring and the Pollen Hayfever formula (for weeds and ragweed) in autumn. Thankfully, I don't need any of the other formulas for grass pollen (summer) pet dander or mold. The first day I take it, I dose every hour until I feel better. From there on out, I dose first thing in the morning, before pollen exposure so I'm one step ahead. It's easier to prevent than to reverse a reaction.
I've had people tell me that using these formulas will over time desensitize you to your allergens. There may be some truth to that- mine did seem to get less severe over the years and last autumn, I had none at all! That could be in part because of my diet (although I still had allergies my first year of Primal eating).
I actually think I had no allergies last fall because of some allergy clearing treatments my holistic chiropractor did on me around that time, because, lo and behold, I've had NO ALLERGIES so far this spring (and this is the time of year I really suffer!)
So, what were these magical allergy clearing treatments? I went through a series of NAET treatments. I wasn't doing them for seasonal allergies, per se, but rather as part of my autoimmune treatment protocol, to resolve leaky-gut induced food sensitivities. They seem wacky and out-there, but they work. They have a great track record even for serious (and extensive) food allergies.
Balancing the immune system, in and of itself, addresses allergies, since allergies are an autoimmune inflammatory reaction.
Anyway, I'm really jazzed not to need my allergy formula this time of year. Now I can be fully present and fully enjoying the beautiful Nashville blooms:)