My lovely friend
Todd Caldecott, Clinical herbalist, Ayurveda practitioner
sent out his most recent newsletter today. And, it made me clap my hands!
For those of you that suffer from seasonal allergies he does a great run down on his website BUT in this newsletter (you can sign up for his newsletters on his website) he talked about what's going on in our nervous system. And people, if you have talked to me about allergies you will have heard me say the hooey whooey words "invite it in," that if you keep resisting it, it makes it worse! And that that is how I work through allergy season, and it doesn't bother me nearly as much any more. Well, that's what Todd is saying too! Not just him but SCIENCE says it too. It's all about your nervous system! Todd says it more elegantly -"create a sense of safety and acceptance."
I have cut and pasted the parts of the Newsletter that he shared. It's a longish read but worth it, or you can just relax and let go of resistance because, it's FUTILE. And float through allergy season with a smile.
"Whether or not it's actually worse, a lot of people are complaining about spring allergies this year. Where I live on the Sunshine Coast, a week back the pollen count for deciduous trees including alder and birch was really high, and although still high now, it’s the conifers such as cedar, doug fir, and juniper that are pumping. And then in a couple months as the cottonwood trees release their seed fluff, the grass will start to pollinate too. If you’re an allergy sufferer, some part of you is probably dreading this change in weather.
Normally I recommend reading my post on seasonal allergies, and still think that the recommendations are perennial strategies to deal with this issue effectively. So much of the allergy season depends on your health in the previous season, and one of the reasons why people suffer as they do is that they don’t make the effort to have a healthy fall and winter. It’s pretty hard during holiday season, with lots of temptations, but it all comes down to choice, and whether or not temporal pleasures are worth months of discomfort. I suppose this doesn’t sound very compassionate, but as a former allergy sufferer myself, I can’t help state the “elusive obvious”.
But it’s not all about physical health and lifestyle. One under appreciated component in the allergic response is the state of your nervous system, and where your head is at. Allergy sufferers know all too well not just the dread, but the upset, irritation and even desperation that allergy symptoms can cause.
Years ago when I suffered, I remember when I would walk down the street, that if I heard someone in the neighbourhood mowing their lawn, I would take another street to avoid them and inevitable result of itchy eyes and sneezing. But sometimes coming across this was unavoidable, so I needed to come up with another strategy.
So over time I developed a technique where I would begin to prepare myself for exposure, not by dreading and worrying, but by telling myself that I was going to be ok. Thus instead of giving in to the usual cascade of anxiety and fear, I reasoned with myself that my immune system didn’t actually need to freak out, that Life wasn't out to get me, and that I could survive and even thrive simply by keeping my nervous system calm. And in most cases, this actually worked quite well.
I was reminded of this a few weeks back when I came across a paper showing that increased allergic reactions may be tied to the release of corticotropin-releasing stress hormone (CRH). In this study, when researchers added CRH to a nasal polyp organ culture, they saw a dramatic increase in mast cell activity, and likewise, found a commensurate increase in the number of degranulated mast cells in the nasal mucosa of stressed-out lab mice (yes, I felt sorry for the mice!) CRH is normally released by the hypothalamus to induce cells in the pituitary to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which in turn, stimulates the synthesis of cortisol, glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, and DHEA. While CRH is crucial to regulating the inflammatory response, it has some negative side-effects that can easily become chronic issues, such as the suppression of appetite and an increase in anxiety. CRH release also results in both the suppression of certain aspects of the immune responses, and as observed in this study, enhances the allergic response.
The tantalizing message of this study is that if we can control our stress response, we can have a big influence on the expression of allergies. It’s not easy (until of course it is), but when we’ve tried everything else - following a low-inflammatory diet, addressing nutrient deficiencies, taking the right herbs, and supporting digestive and respiratory health - it all comes down to our nervous system, and our underlying thoughts and behaviours.
In Ayurveda, there is a notion that “consciousness precedes form”, that whatever exists in material form has an underlying consciousness that allows it to come into being. Whether or not you want to apply this to inanimate objects is one thing, but there is no denying that this is absolutely true when we consider our individual minds. Through our thoughts we are in the constant moment of creating the future, and what we focus on and tell ourselves about it has a huge impact on what comes next. In this respect, the allergic response is clearly based on the assumption of the past, and a projection of what will come to be.
While I am not suggesting that you can make your allergies simply disappear through sheer will, uprooting the underlying pattern of belief that is inherent to being an “allergic” person will go a long way to bringing an end to your suffering. Don’t buy into the belief that you are an “allergic” person, or refer to the condition as “my” allergies. This is the same approach I suggest to addressing other common issues that we personally invest in, such as “my” anxiety, “my” depression, or “my" insomnia. Changing your thoughts and your internal conversation can play an important role in restoring your health.