You'd love to stop and smell the roses, but every time you do, your allergies kick in, reducing you to a sneezing, sniffling, congested mess. And every spring your pile of used tissues grows faster than the daffodils out your window. If this sounds familiar, maybe it's time to tackle your allergies using an Ayurvedic approach.
Ayurvedic theory maintains that although pollen, dust, dander, and other allergens trigger symptoms in susceptible people, they are not the primary cause of allergies. Instead, it's the accumulation of ama (Sanskrit for 'that which harms or weakens') that's the main problem.
Ama is the sticky, toxic residue that comes from a less-than-ideal diet coupled with inadequate digestion. If you've ever put wet wood onto a fire that's not blazing, you know that smoke and charred waste are the result. In the same way, when your digestive fire is low or unsteady, or you eat foods that demand more digestive power than you possess, a kind of half-baked gunk -- ama -- is created, and the trouble begins. Over time, ama moves beyond the digestive tract via the circulatory system, settling in bodily tissues and clogging internal pathways.In an effort to protect the body from this poisonous plight, the immune system kicks into high gear. As the toxic load increases, it becomes hypervigilant and overly defensive, violently attacking even harmless substances like pollen, causing pointless symptoms and potentially weakening its ability to fight a real foe.
From an Ayurvedic point of view, every allergy sufferer is different, and practitioners tailor treatment to address the whole person. Typically, though, Ayurvedic allergy treatment emphasizes four steps: boost the digestive fire, adjust the diet to support a 'clean burn,' detoxify, and restore the strength of the immune system.
Here are several Ayurvedic tips to boost digestive fire and cleanse away ama:
Increase circulation. Try a dry-brush massage before your morning shower and a vigorous round of sun salutations before breakfast.
Drink hot water. Fill a thermos with hot water as your day begins. Carry this with you and sip an ounce or two of hot water every 30 minutes all day, between meals, to loosen and cleanse ama.
Lighten up. Steer clear of heavy foods: dairy, wheat, and rich, cold dishes (yes, that means ice cream). Rely mainly on freshly cooked, prana-filled fruits and vegetables, which are nourishing yet easy to digest.
Eat lunch. Enjoy the most substantial meal of the day at noon, when digestion is strongest; keep dinner light.
Avoid toxins. Reduce your exposure to chemical preservatives, household cleaners, and pesticides to avoid introducing excess toxins into your body.
Take a remedy. Mix 1/4 teaspoon of trikatu (an Ayurvedic formula of three dried peppers) with a teaspoon of honey. In the morning, eat this mixture, followed by sips of hot water.
Clear the nose. Use a neti pot daily to rinse irritants from your nasal passages. Fill the pot with warm water and stir in a pinch of salt until it's completely dissolved. With your left hand, bring the spout into your left nostril, lean over a sink, and tilt your head to the right, tipping the pot up gently to start the flow. Continue for up to 30 seconds, breathing through your mouth. Repeat on the other nostril.
Niika Quistgard-DeVivo is a clinical Ayurvedic specialist practicing in New Jersey. Reprinted from Yoga Journal (March/April 2005). Subscriptions: $15.95/yr. (6 issues) from 475 Sansome St., Suite 850, San Francisco, CA 94111; www.yogajournal.com