Does this lovely image of budding Springtime give you twinkles of excitement as we finally leave Winter behind? Or, does it make you want to run and hide out with your HEPA air filter?
Though many of you are feeling the pleasure of springing our clocks forward into more sunlight hours with each passing day, some of you….not so much. For people prone to allergies, the birth of Spring can be a time of discomfort and even downright misery. Itchy eyes, throat and nose. Spasms of sneezing and sinus congestion - or constant running nose. All the wild thrills of hay fever.
Even if you don’t have allergies, the initial onset of the new season can cause some wackiness for your skin. It’s not uncommon to get a bit of acne, or eczema-like patches of rough, bumpy, flaking skin can surface.
The good news is, there are steps you can take to get ahead of this if you are one of these people that Spring likes to “initiate.” And now indeed is the time to take these steps to prep your body. It’s always easier to deal with these symptoms later if you get ahead of it now. In Chinese medicine the best time to treat allergies is a month or so before they begin.
But, even if you miss that boat we’ve got tools that can help, don’t worry. Right now, since we’re at the tippy top of Spring, consider getting great at these simple practices that will help your body be Spring-ready - internally as well as topically.
HYDRATE - IT KEEPS YOUR SYSTEMS WORKING PROPERLY
Literally everyone I see in my practice shows up dehydrated, but don’t necessarily realize it. Sometimes they are baffled as they insist, “but I drink so much water!” Well, 8 glasses a day is not the way - as the authors of Quench teach in their book that explains how to hydrate smarter not harder.
If your hydration game isn’t so strong - step it up. Invest in this book - which is the most important work on health I’ve seen in a while. One that is not a fad, just good solid hydration science because we need to better understand how to hydrate properly according to our body’s design.
Get started with their 5 day hydration plan - and turn that 5 day plan into a lifestyle practice. Improving your hydration will help all of your body’s systems function better - including your immune, skin and elimination systems.
Your body doesn’t run on Dunkins, it runs on water - the elixir of Life.
START HYDRATING YOUR SKIN PROPERLY
While proper hydration for your skin starts within (as we just talked about), giving yourself a topical assist will help your skin function more optimally. And when skin functions well, it tends not to have problems like acne, eczema, dermatitis, etc. Please refer to our last blog post - The Gospel of Good Hydration for Saving Your Skin - for details on how to get your hydration A-game going.
PRACTICE GOOD SLEEP
In this modern age I have observed that, if my patient population is any indication, people just don’t get sufficient sleep anymore. Either this is because people keep themselves too busy to go to bed before 11 PM or midnight, and sleep through a full 8 to 9 hours. Or, people have trouble staying asleep and getting a healthy and restful night of restoration.
In the lead up to hay fever season, it is very important to begin practicing good sleep. And I believe this is indeed a practice that takes discipline to put yourself to bed at a decent hour. I consider this to be ideally 10 PM, well before the midnight hour. If that feels impossible, do your best to get to bed before midnight.
It can be hard if you are a night owl to suddenly get to bed that early. If this is your case, a helpful way to begin a healthy sleep practice is to go to bed earlier by an increment of 15 minutes only every few days until you hit your target. That way, you set yourself up for success.
If your problem is not getting yourself to bed in a timely way, but that you have trouble staying asleep, are a light sleeper, or have fitful sleep - then I suggest professional support to investigate what might be causing this. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can be very helpful, and we have many strategies to treat poor sleep.
ACUPUNCTURE, GUA SHA, CUPPING
I can’t overstate how helpful it can be to have some work done on your body to help get your circulation moving and your system functioning better. If you are prone to Spring allergies, now is the time to knock knock knock on the heavenly door of your favorite local Chinese medicine practitioner (acupuncturist and/or herbalist).
An open, tension free neck and upper back is essential for keeping your head free of congestion and other troublesome symptoms in your sinuses, eyes, and throat. These are common areas affected by allergies to pollen. In Chinese medicine, the state of your neck and upper back impact your immune system, so treating this area to release the tension and get the circulatory flow moving is important for getting you strong and ready for the coming pollen explosions.
In Chinese medicine world, we most commonly use acupuncture, cupping, body Gua Sha - or any combination of these tools at the change of seasons to reset your tissues, and stimulate your system to function better. This leaves you feeling like new, or perhaps more accurately like yourself at your best:)
HERBAL MEDICINE FOR SPRINGTIME BLUES (GREENS?)
For those with more intense allergies, I always work with herbal medicine. Now, you’re probably wondering what herbs should I take for my allergies, Sandra? Well, the answer is with your favorite local Chinese medicine practitioner who will see you and evaluate you directly for the best herbal formula that fits you. There is no such thing as one herbal formula that can help all allergies.
Successful treatment with Chinese medicine requires us to evaluate you as a unique individual who happens to have allergy symptoms. If we lined up five people with allergies, each individual would most likely be given a different herbal formula.
I tend to prescribe herbal medicine in its strongest form, which is called a decoction. This is when we prescribe prepared herbs that are cooked into a strong brew that you drink. Let’s just say, it does not taste delicious. But decoctions can be very helpful for stubborn allergies, often dramatically calming the hyper-reactive allergenic response to pollen - or at the very least taking the edge off hay fever misery.
Herbs are also helpful if your skin is more affected by pollen than your sinuses and eyes. It is not uncommon to see seasonal eczema or dermatitis that causes skin to become rough textured, red, bumpy, or itchy on the face, neck, arms - areas where skin is most exposed.
These are some simple strategies I have been recommending to my patients who suffer from springtime allergies and hay fever as a preparation for the season. Later, in a few weeks, we will need to talk more about strategies for dealing with symptoms once they've set in and you're needing Costco level supplies of tissue.
Til then, take good care....