Ayurveda and the Allergy Season

And so it starts again – an increase in pollens and for so many of you - hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis), with symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes and throat, nasal blockages, difficulty breathing, a heavy head, weakness and fatigue and it is triggered as nature awakens during the spring and kapha dosha increases.

Kapha dosha has qualities such as heavy, sticky, cold, moist, stable, static, dense and oily. Based on the principle of like increasing like and opposite balancing, we can use foods, treatments and regimes that have the opposite qualities to maintain balance of doshas.

Hay fever is triggered by this very concept, kapha accumulates in the body over the winter and starts to liquefy in the warmth of spring (often in form of excess mucous), circulate and localise in weak areas of the body and the symptoms of hay fever manifest in various forms dependent on the dosha involvement, body and digestive strength.

We need to manage seasonal allergies from the early springtime to better manage hay fever over the summer when the allergies worsen. During spring therefore it is best to avoid day sleep, dairy, sour, oily, sweet, heavy and cold foods especially when the weather is changing.

Foods that imbalance kapha would be those that share the same qualities such as: ice-cream, cheese, yoghurt, heavy meats, oats, lots of sweet fruits, excess processed wheat and anything that triggers mucous as well as incompatible food combinations (fruits and dairy mainly).

Fasting is an accessible line of treatment used to liquefy kapha and eliminate by digestion, by taking liquid diet with hot and bitter spices for set days over this season is useful. Spices useful in hay fever and that make great herbal infusions include turmeric, ginger, lemon cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, honey, clove, liquorice, camphor, tulsi (holy basil) taken with rock sugar or honey as a tea infusion. Hot lentil soups can also be beneficial made with appropriate spices and rock salt. Have plenty of black pepper on your food and soup are great as they are warm and easy to digest

Treatments such as nasya (medicated nasal oil administration) and swedana (steam inhalations) cleanse the nasal passages of accumulated mucous. Regular pranayama practice (breathing exercises) such as nadi shodhana and bhastrika are really useful, as is stimulating the body with surya namaskar (sun salutation). I highly recommend daily use of a neti pot to cleanse the nasal passages with a warm saline water, It really gets all the mucosal gunk out. Once you try it you will want to keep in as part of your morning routine. You can also stimulate digestion by giving yourself an abdominal massage. These are all excellent preventative healthcare measures and will give you a head start for the summer months.

Overall the aim is to boost immunity and resistance to allergens by focusing on strengthening the digestion. For longer-term hay fever sufferers, pancha karma treatment can help detoxify and expel imbalanced doshas (mainly kapha) out of the body at the root level.