Weather forecasters are predicting that we will have a particularly intense allergy season this spring.  Our Apothecary phones are already ringing with allergy suffererers, and when I recently asked for blog topic requests on Facebook, a resounding response was “ALLERGIES!” Fogginess, runny nose, sneezing, congestion, headaches…the symptoms are not pleasant! Even some people who have never before experienced allergic responses are noticing that even they, too, are feeling allergic.

What many people don’t know is that being allergic is not a constant, unchanging malady.  We can become more or less allergic in our lives, and how severe an allergy response we have is dependent on many factors, including digestive health, overall inflammation and toxicity in the body and stress.

It would be easy for me to give you some solutions and remedies to help to clear your current allergy symptoms — some Nettles and Quercetin, Bee Pollen and Vitamin C.  It would help with the runny nose and sneezing, and overall allergic response.  In fact, I will give you that solution… my favorite product is Hizta-Eze, by Designs for Health.

For those of you who don’t necessarily want to take pills or supplements, or who want something in addition to those supplements, I developed Cold-Ease Tea, an herbal blend for cold, flu and allergy relief. Cold-Ease will get you through cold, flu and allergy season. We’ve blended important immune-boosting, anti-microbial herbs to help prevent the onset of cold and infections, while also supporting and strengthening the immune system during an existing cold or flu. It reduces inflammation, soothes the throat and clears phlegm, so is perfect for allergy relief as well. Great for kids above age 1.

But, I don’t want to give you a solution that is only going to work for right now.  I want to give you something longer lasting, a solution that will help your body be less toxic and less depleted, so that you’re less likely to respond to allergens.  I don’t want the same people to be calling my Apothecary next year with the same symptoms.  So yes, you can take your Hista-Eze and Bee Pollen or Royal Jelly (as long as you’re not allergic to bees too!) this year and I do think you’ll feel a marked decrease in allergic response.  But I will also share my single most important tip for becoming less allergic:

REDUCE INFLAMMATION!!!

This is basically my number one response to every single ailment I come in contact with, from allergies to infertility to pain to digestive issues to anxiety and depression, etc.  If there’s ONE belief that I try to instill in every single one of my patients and friends, it’s that inflammation leads to illness.  If we can reduce inflammation, our body works better.  If our body works better, we’re less likely to react to everything we come in contact with.  Many of us are also reacting to our own cells, hence the pretty profound increase of autoimmune disease.  We react because we are already in a hyper-reactive state.

Here are my main tips for reducing inflammation, and while I am specifically targeting allergies, you could basically apply these tips to help to ease any of the ailments I listed above, and more.  I have seen patients reverse the progress of an autoimmune disease, get pregnant after years of unsuccessful attempts, lose tons of weight (toxic overload) and so much more. Again, Inflammation leads to Illness, so if you are ill in any way, the likelihood is that you’re inflamed.

1.  Cut out Gluten

I know, I know.  Being Gluten-free is like the new, “hip” thing and even I resisted it for a long time.  But the research is clear: gluten creates an inflammatory response in our body.  And no, this is not just true in those with Celiac disease.  In my professional experience, gluten creates at least some degree of  inflammation in everyone.  Of course, usually people come to me for acupuncture when they’re unwell in some way, so it is possible that I just happen to treat inflamed people, but I will also share a personal story.  Last month, I kept getting a raw, scaly and swollen rash on my eyelids.  It was ugly.  I switched eyeshadows, started treating with coconut and lavender, but nothing I did prevented the rash from presenting.  Then I did a cleanse (Mark Hyman’s 10 Day Sugar Detox — I HIGHLY recommend) and, among other things, the rash cleared.  I sort of forgot about it, until I celebrated my birthday and Easter, and had some non-gluten-free cookies.  I literally woke up in the middle of the night with my eyelids burning, and sure enough, first thing in the morning, the rash was back.

2. Reduce Stress

I could rank this inflammatory factor above gluten, but sometimes it feels easier for some to reduce the gluten in their diet than it feels to reduce the stress in their lives! Stress is inflammatory… it causes us to pump cortisol into our bloodstream at unhealthily high levels, which throws off our other hormone levels, can freak out our thyroid and our blood sugar and basically throws our body into a pretty perpetual state of imbalance.  I know it’s not realistic for me to just say “don’t stress,” but even if you take 2 minutes a day to sit with your eyes closed and inhale and exhale slowly, listening to your breath, you are doing your body good.  Meditation, yoga, acupuncture, massage, a detoxifying bubble bath… these are all ways to de-stress.  But the most important thing is to just live consciously. We are always going to have stressors in life.  Just be conscious of how you meet them.  Are you reacting or responding?  Many of us are ultimately in a constant state of “Fight or Flight,” or in sympathetic nervous system overdrive, so if you can find ways to stimulate your Parasympathetic Nervous System, “Rest and Digest,” you are giving your body the space it needs to heal.

3. Reduce Environmental Allergens

Well, duh.  This is a post about reducing allergies, right?  Of course reducing the allergens would be helpful! But I’m not talking about the allergens we know we’re allergic to — the dander or ragweed or pollen.  I’m talking about those chemicals in the environment that cause our immune response to go haywire.  What are you inhaling into your lungs?  Of course, if you smoke, stop smoking.  Switch over to non-chemical cleaning products. Be aware of air-freshener, both sprays and the plug-in kinds.  What kind of skin care products are you using?  It’s great if you’re feeding your body well, but your skin is your largest organ.  Why not try feeding it organic too?  I love Bloomsbury Square’s soaps and lotions. Wash your clothes in chemical-free laundry detergents.  Even make-up has tons of toxic and carcinogenic ingredients.  You don’t have to switch over all at once, but when you run out of an item, just make a conscious choice when you invest in a replacement.   My new favorite make-up line is Poofy Organics, and my favorite sunscreen is Coola.  There are actually really great quality, all-natural products out there.

When we reduce inflammation, the toxic overload in our body decreases, and we’re less likely to respond to external stressors.  It’s like we have a tipping point of what we can handle, and if we reduce what is already inside our body, then we can tolerate more of what is outside of us.  It’s a perfect time for spring cleaning…just pick one of the suggestions above to start with and go from there.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at your body’s response (or lack of response to allergens!).