The Ayurvedic Understanding of Allergies
Millions of people cringe when they see flowers start blooming in spring each year, because they know they will soon be fighting spring allergies. According to a recent article in the U.S. News & World Report, allergies are assuming epidemic proportions in the United States, with up to 30% of adults and 40% of children now suffering from hay fever symptoms — nasal congestion and itchy, watering eyes. Allergy now reportedly appears regularly in the top 10 reasons for visits to doctors’ offices.
Researchers and doctors are still unclear on exactly why some people are affected by allergens such as dust, pollen and mold while others are not. Faced with data that the developed nations of the West have a higher incidence of allergies, scientists have put forward the “hygiene hypothesis” — that the “clean” surroundings, immunizations and antibiotics prevalent in these countries may be responsible for many people’s reactions to allergens. Other factors that may be contributing include diet, exposure to chemicals and carpeted housing.
Doctors have traditionally asked sufferers to avoid the allergens causing a reaction, but this is often easier said than done. Allergy shots currently available and antihistamines can create harmful side-effects and reactions, worsening the situation. Scientists and researchers appear to be convinced that the ultimate solution will be to figure out ways of teaching the body to be indifferent to innocuous allergens. The irony is that the human body is born knowing how to do just that: the question is, what can be done to prevent the body from “losing” that knowledge.
What Maharishi Ayurveda Says
Gearing up the body’s own immune systems to effectively combat allergens is exactly what Maharishi Ayurveda suggests as the long-term, effective solution to allergies. “In the spring, impurities inside the body are melting due to the rising temperature in the environment. The liquefied toxins clog the channels of the body. When the channels are blocked, nutrients are not delivered properly to the cells, and the body’s immune systems for resisting allergens become overwhelmed. In the spring, as flowers burst into bloom, they fill the air with pollen. So the allergens in the environment are increasing at the same time that the body’s defenses are being challenged. That’s the reason for the incidence of allergies suddenly shooting up in the spring.
The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians explains that in respiratory allergies, a particular sub-dosha of Kapha, called Shleshaka Kapha, which is responsible for maintaining moisture in the upper respiratory tract, is involved. “As the Ama (digestive impurities) in the body starts melting, it combines with Shleshaka Kapha to form a thick, sticky toxin called shleshma, which starts to fill the respiratory tract and sinus cavities,” says The Council. “The entire respiratory system, as a result, becomes a fertile breeding ground for bacteria and infection. This is the reason many allergies end up as secondary sinus and respiratory infections.”
Strengthening the Body’s Defense Systems
What follows is a general description of how a herbal formulation for allergies works. Please ask your physician about any specific recommendations for herbs or other Ayurvedic tools that may help with for your condition.
So what can one do to help the body combat allergens? “It is not enough just to quell the symptoms. The long-term solution is to delve into the root cause of allergies and build up the body’s immune system to effectively withstand allergens. There are Ayurvedic herbal formulations that help remove toxins from the body and strengthen the body’s immunity. This is important. Additionally these herbs can help block toxic reactions, improve digestion, and decrease sensitivity to allergens by nourishing and purifying the liver and enhance the body’s overall capability to fight allergens.
What about diet? Researchers have found that a diet that includes regular intake of spices with anti-allergy capabilities can reduce vulnerability to plant-induced allergies. These spices contain allergy-fighting chemicals that include flavonoids and phenols — for example, turmeric is rich in curcumin, a compound that is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric can also help improve digestion and balance the flow of bile. Sage, red pepper, cumin and coriander are some other spices that are known to be allergy fighters. Sauteing a combination of ground turmeric, cumin and coriander in ghee and using the mixture to season vegetables is a way of incorporating some of these allergy fighting spices into your diet.
From the Ayurvedic perspective, it is important to follow a Kapha-Pitta pacifying diet. When allergens attack the body, the body’s immune system releases various chemicals. So it is considered essential to pacify Pitta because Pitta regulates chemical functions in the body. Drinking teas or using spices to pacify pitta is a convenient ways of doing this. Ask your physician for a specific recommendation It is also important to pacify Kapha to counteract sluggish digestion and congestion. This is especially true in the Kapha season (spring).
Understanding that it is important to strengthen the body’s defense systems to effectively combat allergies is important. Appeasing symptoms provides only temporary relief.
DISCLAIMER: These results may not be typical. Results with products may vary from individual to individual. Information in this article is presented for the sole purpose of imparting education on Ayurveda and neither the information nor the product is intended to diagnose, treat, mitigate, cure or prevent any disease. If you have a medical condition, or are pregnant or lactating, please consult a health professional. Before making changes to your diet or routine, it is recommended that you speak with your physician.