by Jeff Migdow, M.D., Holistic Physician and Reiki Master at Healing Rhythms
The summer season has finally arrived after the long cold winter. We all are glad to see and feel the sun again and the warmer weather. However, even though this is a wonderful time of year, to open the window, clear out the winter clutter, restart our gardens and enjoy outside activities, there are new challenges to be aware of in terms of our health and well-being.
Allergies are the first challenge that comes to many of your minds. Over reactions to the pollens and grasses which are bursting forth with more intensity this year than most years as the flowers and trees and grass all spring up at a similar time. The innocuous pollens which are spread to create new plants can be a nuisance if your immune system over reacts to them. For some of you, the pollen and grasses set off an immune response as if you were being attacked by a virus or bacteria. The body attacks the pollen as if it were a live invader, trying to kill it with powerful chemicals such as histamine and lysozymes which destroy microbes’ cell walls. Unfortunately, pollen is not as active invader at all, just an irritant, so the histamines and lysozymes attack your own cells causing cell damage, death and the resulting inflammatory reaction. This reaction causes excess mucous production as the body tries to protect itself from the inflammation and irritation, leading to runny nose, sneezing, runny, itchy and burning eyes, nasal and sinus irritation and even breathing difficulties. That is, as the pollen enters your nose as you breathe and goes into the throat, sinuses and lungs and into your eyes, the inflammatory over reactions occur, leading to anywhere from annoying to debilitating symptoms. If you have allergies to pollen and grasses, you know how frustrating it is to be in the warmth and freshness of spring and at the same time, feel so uncomfortable with all the mucous pouring out and painful inflammation.
Fortunately, there are natural remedies to help your body be less reactive and to diminish or eradicate the symptoms caused by the allergens of spring. Homeopathically, there are remedies which help retrain your immune system to relax and not attack pollen and grass as they move into your system, so rather than going through the discomfort of allergies you can simply sneeze a few times a day to clear out the excess mucous and pollen. These remedies are made from natural substances, such as flowers and minerals. When you find the right remedy or remedy combination for you these results can occur within a few days to a week. There are also homeopathic nasal sprays such as ReBoost and Bioallers allergy spray which spray the remedies right into the sinuses and nasal passages for quick relief and homeopathic eye drops made by Similisan which help clear out the irritation and mucous reaction in the eyes, sometimes within a few minutes.
Diet is also beneficial in diminishing allergic reactions. Many people create excess mucous when eating certain food, as your body is irritated by an aspect of the food. For example, many people have sensitivities to cow dairy products due to a reaction to the milk protein or the lactose in the dairy product. This reaction is similar to pollen allergy reaction, causes excess, irritation, inflammation and mucous in the nasal passages and sinuses. By decreasing your dairy intake you can decrease the mucous production. Other foods which can cause excess mucous production are white sugar, refined flour products, too much fatty red meat and pork, chocolate ( due to sugar and diary), bread and glutinous grains. You can see which of these foods causes you more mucous production in the non- allergy seasons and then make sure you cut down or avoid them during the spring.
Exercise is beneficial as it helps clear the mucous out through deeper breathing and stimulates the lymphatic system which helps clear the mucous. Other ways to clear the excess mucous are using a neti (salt water) pot to clean out the sinuses and making ginger tea and breathing in the steam. This is a great way to clear out the excess mucous and diminish the irritation in the sinuses, nasal passages and lungs. Chop up 3 tablespoons of fresh ginger root and simmer it for 20 minutes. Then let cool a bit and breathe in the steam for 5 minutes. You can do this 3 times a day by simply reheating. A batch of ginger tea can be reused for 2-3 days if you refrigerate it in between.
Another spring and summer health problem are colds that come from overexposure to cold night air or cold swimming water. When we get chilled at these rimes the immune system weakens and bacteria or viruses can invade more deeply leading to colds and flus. You can prevent this by dressing warmly enough at night and making sure if you go swimming to dry off quickly so you don’t get chilled. If you do become ill you can treat the illness with herbs such as Echinacea and Golden Seal or Osha, homeopathic remedies, ginger tea and steam and gargle and Ricola cough drops for persistent spring/ summer colds.
Finally, when you increase your activity in the warmer months, whether it’s due to working in your garden, spring cleaning your home, or increased exercise such as bicycling or jogging, you are more prone to injury as your body has become stiffer during the winter due to less activity and muscle tension bracing against the cold. It’s important then to start any activity slowly and build up over 2-3 weeks’ time. Practicing yoga, dance and exercise classes can help stretch you out and make it easier to transition into more activity. Getting a weekly massage for 2-3 weeks can also help loosen up the tissues as can Epsom salt baths.
If you injure yourself, there are homeopathic remedies such as Arnica that can help speed the healing process 2-3 times by reducing swelling and helping the tissues heal more quickly. Arnica or other salves can be rubbed on the injured areas for healing and pain relief. A visit to a holistic physical therapist or experienced massage therapist can help your soft tissues relax and heal more effectively as can the Epsom salt baths. Going to a MELT class can help reduce pain and inflammation through techniques you can learn and practice at home. Various ointments such as Calendula can be used for injuries to the skin.
The springtime and early summer is a wonderful time of the year for getting outside, rejuvenating our bodies, reconnecting to our gardens and increasing our physical activity. Through the use of natural homeopathic and herbal remedies, sprays and salves, dietary modifications, and slowly reintroducing activity through yoga, dance and exercise class you can reduce your allergic reactions, spring colds and chances for injuries , thus allowing yourself to enjoy the transition to the warmer , sunnier weather more fully.
Jeff Migdow, M.D. is an Holistic physician who has been practicing homeopathic and herbal medicine, stress management, and dietary and lifestyle counseling for the past 35 years. He is a Reiki master, offering Reiki sessions and trainings and is the director of Prana Yoga Teacher Training, a 200 hour Yoga Alliance registered training. For information on his medical practice, workshops and trainings contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-637-1513