Step Away From the Allergy Meds

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Zyrtec. Allegra. Claritin. Take away my suffering.

Is it just me, or does it seem like EVERYONE is on allergy medications these days? Zyrtec, Allegra, and Claritin have become household names – the holy trinity of seasonal allergy survival.   If you are a consumer, you may already know that these medications offer nothing more than symptom relief, and no cure for the allergy plague which returns again every season forcing us to buy more pills.  I’ll spare you more of why we shouldn’t support the manufacturers of these medications.  You’re all smart. You made it to an Ayurveda blog, after all.  Then I started thinking what would happen if we HAD a cure – no more allergy medications? Wait – then what would happen to all the allergy medication?  We could disrupt a market. That’d be pretty radical.

If you’ve lived in or visited the northeastern US during the “high allergy season,” which happens every spring and fall, then you know that the complaints are coming in as I write.  You might be reaching for a tissue now.  Eyes are itching, noses are running and it’s about time we explore an Ayurvedic perspective of what exactly is going on here.  I’m about to get all pathophysiological here, so I don’t mind if you skip to the treatments at the end…

First, we have to consider three very important Ayurvedic principles that apply to the immune system, which becomes confused in an allergic response ::

In sanskrit English translation (approximately)
Tejas Cellular transformation (cellular metabolism – mitochondrial ATP production)
Smruti Cellular memory (antigen recognition, or immune response)
Prana Cellular communication (present in DNA synthesis and  immune response)

We already know the importance of nutrition in maintaining tissue health. But how do the cells of our immune system get their nutrition? I’m so glad you asked! It just so happens that the cells of our immune system congregate within the lymph tissues or nodes.  Lymph nodes live in the groin, axillae, small intestine, and neck – but are actually found in nearly every inch of the body.  The nodes are nourished by the lymph vessels.  

Think of the lymph vessels as superhighways delivering nutrition to immune system cells hanging out in the lymph nodes. Now think of a big traffic jam on the interstate. 

When the tissues: like the stomach, small intestine, liver, are putting out high levels of toxicity (from poor diet and lifestyle practices), our vessels become blocked.  This traffic along the lymphatic vessel network prevents nutrition from getting in and toxins from getting out of the immune system. The lymph vessels are not able to properly carry out their OTHER crucial function: to carry non blood fluid waste from the tissues and eventually dump it into the venous system for further

This image shows how closely the lymph system – shown in blue – works with major organs – like our stomach.

purification at the level of the heart where it forms our most vital essential fluid: ojas (another lecture on that later, I promise).  It’s a downstream effect.

The immune system is our greatest expression of self.

Specialized immune system cells distinguish self versus non-self – and it stages its attacks accordingly.  Malnourished cells of the immune system lose their smruti (memory) of what is self vs non-self and start attacking inappropriately. Tejas (cellular metabolism) is usually in a heightened, overactive state, enhancing normal responses.  Prana, communication, is no longer free.  Imagine rogue cells of the immune system acting in a state of emergency chemical warfare releasing all those chemicals that cause runny nose, itchy eyes, swollen lymph, fatigue, excess mucous production…

 Restoring order:

You guessed it…the deeper the tissue level, the more we have to work to restore order.  Although we know each individual may have a unique pathophysiological process, I’ve put together a list of generally tri-doshic (for all metabolic types) dinacharya (self care) items to not only ease symptoms, but also to address the root cause.  Remember, I always say there’s an ideal, then there’s reality.  You’ll find your balance somewhere in the middle by incorporating what works for you.  Enjoy these tips and tricks.  Be patient, natural remedies take longer to be effective because they last longer.

  • Use nasya (nasal) oil every 2-3 hours during a flare up. I personally love Usha Lad’s recipe for nasya. Keeping the nasal passageways lubricated adds an extra layer of protection – stopping allergens before they enter your body.  For some allergy sufferers, nasya oil has been a real game changer. DIY best alternative to medicated nasya is to use melted ghee or sesame oil.  Click here for a tutorial on how to use this remedy. 
  • Sip hot water.  It doesn’t get much simpler than this. All day. At least 1.5 liters.  Avoid iced beverages.
  • Do a few sun salutations (or at least cat cow) every morning.  Lymph vessels and nodes are only
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    Use nasya oil once a day throughout the year, and every 2-3 hours during times of allergy flare ups.

    stimulated and flushed by muscular contraction.  My teacher recommends doing as many as your age. I say…divide your age by three. 

  • Avoid self criticism and practice self forgiveness.  One theory popular amongst the naturopaths is that deep seated self hate causes self to attack self (aka, the immune response).  Be conscious of all the times throughout a day when you find yourself in a pattern of negative self talk. Noticing is the first step of changing.  Incorporate this intention in your daily meditation and reflection.  
  • Sleep during the dark hours.  Many restorative metabolic functions ONLY happen at night – including drainage of the glymphatic system which is the newly discovered drainage network in the brain, aka command central for vital unconscious bodily functions (including immune reactions).  A new discovery for the allopaths, yes, but ancient science of Ayurveda tells us the importance of maintaining proper flow of prana through the brain.    
  • Take pippali pepper longum . Some herbal preparations are unfortunately only available in India.  I’ve found this Banyan Bronchial Support to be the closest thing to medicinal herbal wine, which is the best way to take pippali.  Pippali works by soothing inflammation.  
  • Do self oil massage at least once a week.  There is honestly nothing better for allergies than this practice, which works by massaging the lymph vessels and nodes, and thereby flushing our immune system.  Just try it.  Here’s my blog post with instructions
  • For itchy eyes, carry a spray bottle of rose water with you.  It’s all natural, won’t irritate contact lenses, and the rose has cooling, soothing properties.  Use it as needed.  Be sure to get a 100% pure formula with no additives!  My go to is the Heritage brand
  • Take seasonally appropriate foods and avoid eating heavy foods before sleep.  Consult any reputable Ayurvedic cookbook or your local Ayurvedic practitioner for this one.
  • Use ghee.  In all that you cook. Liberal amounts.  This supreme nectar of mother cow has anti-inflammatory properties that help to sooth allergy symptoms.  It withstands high heat and can be used in any recipe as a substitute for any oil.
  • Keep loving, nurturing company.  Just because.

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-01 at 12.52.30 PMAbout the author: Katelynn Ingersoll, BSN, RN is a practitioner of Ayurveda, yoga studio owner, and non-profit founder.  You can find her at her spot in center city Philadelphia where she teaches workshops, sees clients, and practices yoga.  For questions, or to schedule a consultation contact her at 610.462.1352 or email halfmoonayurveda@gmail.com.

 

References

Benveniste, H., Lee, H., Volkow, N. (2017). The glymphatic pathway: waste removal from the CNS via cerebrospinal fluid transport.  The Neuroscientist 1-12.  DOI 10.1177/1073858417691030.

Ivker, Rob. Interviewed by John Dulliard. The Life Spa Podcast Library Episode 37. 14 November, 2016.  https://lifespa.com/episode-37-sinus-survival-dr-rav-ivker/

Lad, Vasant (2012).  Textbook of Ayurveda Volume Three:  General Principles of Management and Treatment. Albuquerque, NM: The Ayurvedic Press.

 

 

Whatever you do, do not seasonal cleanse

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Cleansing is NOT about starvation or deprivation, which can cause anxiety and distress.

With so much hype out there about seasonal cleansing and detoxification, the concept behind all the gimmicks can get lost.  The notion of seasonal cleansing fits in well with our “enjoy now, be healthy on Monday” culture.  Sometimes Monday never comes, and sometimes our body lets us know loud and clear that Monday has arrived and it is time to start new healthy habits.  Generally, the latter will happen as we enter the change of seasons. Let us find out why and take a moment to explore seasonal cleansing on a deep level.  First and foremost, we MUST understand that we are NOT separate from our environmental climate.  This not only includes the climate outside, but also the climate of our interpersonal relationships, our work, and our home life.  During the change of season, we experience a drastic change in our physical environment.  In Ayurveda we have a special name for the juncture of one season to the next and that is rtu sandhi.  Rtu sandhi is a joint where two seasons come together. In one season, we experience excessive heat, humidity, and sun, and in the next we experience excessive dry and cold.   It is after one season’s extremes and before the next season’s extremes when we experience low immunity and our physical habitual tendencies will “flare up,” like rashes, urticaria, allergies, congestion.  Usually, our bodies are never given the seasonal cleaning they need in order to recover from one season, and strengthen and prepare for the next.  It’s easy to see why we want to do seasonal cleansing during this time so we can adapt to the changing climate.

Ayurveda  recomends that we pause and reflect during
Rtu-Sandhi, the juncture of two seasons

What about the climate of our work, social life, and interpersonal relationships? How do the ever changing life circumstances affect the physical body?  Remember….we are NOT separate from our environment on any level.  We are constantly bombarded

Consider your personal relationships and what effect they have on your well being.

Consider your personal relationships and what effect they have on your well being.

with excessive demands, emotions (good and bad), time constraints, commitments, and decisions and often times we move through our days, weeks, months, and years as if we are unaffected by these things. We never give our energetic (mental, emotional, and spiritual) bodies the necessary nurturing to recover from life’s experiences and strengthen and prepare for the next one. Are you with me?

What we are trying to share here is that every day we experience seasonal changes! Maybe at home with our loved ones, it’s as if we are having a picnic on a spring day but once we interact with our temperamental boss at work, it’s as if now we are in the extreme heat of the summer.  Think of all the physical, emotional and mental stress and experiences we have in one single day and how they might affect us energetically.  Then imagine waking up and doing the same thing over and over again without taking time to rest and mentally cleanse.  Imagine your mind as the mirror over your bathroom sink. Each splash of water is a life experience.  Eventually, you need to clean the mirror or else you will no longer be able to see yourself.  Now imagine you keep your mirror clean daily.

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Thanks to Ayurveda and yoga, every day can bring cleansing and new experiences.

The more you work to clean your mirror, the stronger you are and the more easily you move through all the experiences that life hands you. Sure you are still going to have splashes of water daily which will appear temporarily, but you will clean it again in the morning so you can see yourself clearly everyday.  Your new clarity of self perception can allow you to explore your vast possibilities and accept your limitations.

The good news is that we have a toolbelt full of powerful tools thanks to Ayurveda and yoga.  If we access our tools daily, then we should be able to handle all the seasonal changes and stresses life throws our way.  Things like our daily yoga practice and our daily Ayurvedic routines like oil pulling, abyhanga, and eating fresh prepared, vegetarian, simple foods will strengthen our immune systems and build up our tolerance to stress.  With repetition over time, these daily practices make us bulletproof.  We can then see that there might not be a need for a formal cleansing.

STILL…a good tuneup is good every now and then, and our tried and true seasonal cleanse program promises to be personalized with as much or as little “austerity” as you prefer, gentle, and effective.  We’ve been leading group and solo cleanses every season for over five years.  If you ARE interested in seasonal Ayurvedic cleansing, please email me at katelynn@bikramphilly.com.

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For Women Only: Stop Shaming Away Your Period

You know the drill.  It’s getting to be that time of the month again, but you probably don’t know it because you’re too busy or your cycle is too unpredictable to keep up with.  Your sleep is restless, your lower back and thighs ache, emotions seem out of control and are sprinkled with self loathing and deprecating thoughts.  You take it out on the ones closest to you.  It happens to the best of us but no one really talks about it because, frankly, its not our best side.  menses_2

Then, finally….like a long awaited exhale, your period comes staining any cotton in sight.  Your reaction? Plug it up and take your choice of pain killers until it’s gone. Your mantra during this week might be something like, “I got places to go and things to do and this Red River is not going to get in my way.”

Let’s flip the script and consider the ideal way to honor your cycle instead of the usual fear and loathing.  Now, somewhere between your usual reaction and what I’m about to suggest will lie your reality.  I always tell my clients about the spectrum of possibilities with the ideal perfection on one end and the worst possible scenario on the other end.  Somewhere in the middle, you will find your reality and your personal balance which will bring you better health.  Take what works for you. Leave what doesn’t.

First of all, let’s start at the floodgates.  menstruation-quotes-2

Choose pads instead of tampons.  Especially during those first few hours or days of heavy bleeding.  Let it flow baby.  It wants to be liberated – so let it.  Sure pads are messier and bulkier than a tampon.  Deal with it. Harbor no toxic feelings or thoughts of disgust toward your inner fluids.  Allow the natural cleansing to happen.  Choose a nice fluffy cotton pad and get comfy. I haven’t tried the Party In My Pants product yet, but I’ve always wanted to.  It’s a washable underpant that has a built in pad.


Harbor no toxic feelings or thoughts of disgust toward your inner fluids


 

So you’ve started to bleed, now what?

Rest. Read. Relax.  As much as you can for at least the first couple of days.  Maybe for you that means taking a cab to work instead of biking.  Skip any rigorous workouts.  This is probably the most important piece of advice I can offer.  The metabolic focus here should be on the shedding of the lining of your uterus, NOT jogging, jumping, running, and yes….headstanding. ESPECIALLY HEADSTANDING. Don’t even think about inverting yourself in any yoga poses.  We want gravity to assist in the natural down and outward flow.

Got cramps? 

Use caster oil packs.  They work, and are a great way to stop and nourish yourself with stillness.  Also, fresh ginger tea during this week can help alleviate cramps.  With repetition of the simple tips in this article, the severity of pain during your cycle will diminish.

Other advice:

  • Stop taking herbs and supplements during your period.  Of course any doctor recommended prescriptions should be taken as usual.
  • Eat what you want. This is not a time for dieting.  If you listen to your inner fire, it will tell you what it wants to eat.
  • Take aloe juice. One week before bleeding, take 1-3 ounces of aloe juice twice a day after your biggest meals. Use the bitter kind in the supplement section at your local health food store.
  • Do gentle, restorative yoga.  Youtube is a great resource for finding menstruation friendly restorative yoga practices.
  • Sex should be avoided. Sorry sister.

So the bleeding is over….

Now is the time for those rigorous workouts you love so much.  Your lunar cycle happens to be wmenses_3axing or growing as the body is re-building those lost cells and replenishing lost reproductive tissue.  Herbs to take are ashwagandha for vata types, and shatavari for kapha or pitta types.  Vata and pitta can prepare 1/2 teaspoon of the herb mixture in one cup of warm milk.  Kapha types should use hot water.  Daily warm oil massage should be done with a focus on breast and lymphatic tissue. Two weeks after bleeding, shift into a more nourishing practice and lifestyle.  Chill out on the rigorous workouts. After ovulation, you are in a waning, or cleansing/depleting phase.  Honor and support it by being gentle and easy with yourself.  Tune your closest loved ones in to your cycle and ask for their support. In the long run, you will be a happier, more relaxed you.  Not just before and during your period, but all month long.  Remember that natural remedies are longer lasting, but they take a little more endurance and effort to get started.  Have faith, determination, and patience with yourself.

Buy One Give One Valentine’s Day Special

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We are pleased to offer you a very special Valentine’s Day deal for you and your loved one.  Buy any treatment for 90 dollars, and get one free to give as a gift. Purchase online here or in the studio before February 14th. Treatments must be redeemed by March 14th and can be scheduled by directly contacting the practitioner of your choice below. Please take this opportunity to see and share the wide variety of healing treatments that Half Moon Ayurveda has to offer. The gift of health is the best one you can give to those you love- and yourself.

Questions? Contact katelynn@bikramphilly.com

With Love,
Half Moon Ayurveda

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