Ayurvedic Allergies Treatment
What is Allergy ?
Allergy is a condition present in certain individuals that can be described as a chemical “idiosyncrasy.” Its manifestations such as swelling, itching and bodily discomfort are often brought about by a particular article of food, the most common being fish, eggs, milk and wheat.
For example, if after a meal all the partakers fall ill something is probably wrong with the food; but if only one person becomes ill then that individual is probably allergic.
Why an Allergic Reaction?
An allergy can be described as an adverse reaction to any substance that your body perceives as harmful, including certain foods, pollens, dust, mold, and pet dander, as well as chemicals, detergents, artificial food additives, pharmaceutical medicines, and much more. From a modern medical perspective, the body attempts to protect itself from the substance by producing antibodies, which in turn trigger certain cells to release chemicals, most notably histamine, into the bloodstream. The release of histamine is responsible for the common allergy symptoms like itchy, burning eyes, skin reactions, scratchy throat, sinus congestion, and so on, but in severe allergic reactions asthmatic and anaphylactic attacks can also occur. If these uncomfortable symptoms are the body’s attempt to deal with an allergen, then avoiding the allergen, when possible, may be necessary. Yet this can be difficult —if not impossible— for people who are allergic to a wide variety of substances.
The Ayurvedic approach to Allergies
From an Ayurvedic perspective, the primary cause of allergies is due to the accumulation of ama (toxins, or metabolic waste products) caused by an imbalance of the digestive fire. Here, toxins can be viewed as an antigen triggering an immune response, which in turn leads to low immunity. Of course, many factors can affect this situation, including inappropriate diet and lifestyle, stress, overwork, seasonal changes, chronic diseases, and strong feelings of anger, worry, and grief. This is why in order to address allergies more effectively, a holistic approach is required.
How allergies manifest in the body is often influenced by the individual constitution, and current state ofdoshas. In other words, how the allergy manifests can be viewed as a doshic response to a particular allergen. So symptoms will have characteristics relating to the three doshas vata, pitta or kapha. When the excess dosha associates with the spreading toxins (ama), it moves into the tissues and channels of the body, dictating how the allergy manifests.
The predominant dosha in the constitution is often responsible for how the body reacts to certain allergens. However, factors such as diet, lifestyle, environment, and exposure to modern synthetic chemicals, can cause other non-characteristic allergic reactions that trigger the secondary or least predominant doshas. Of course, if more than one dosha is aggravated the allergic symptoms will be mixed, making the condition more confusing and difficult to treat.
When certain doshic qualities are already in excess and more of these qualities are forced upon the organism, the immune system keeps producing antibodies to contend with the invading toxins. As a result, even the slightest exposure to the specific allergen will unleash an allergic response. It is the system trying to get rid of excess ama (toxins) and excess dosha.
The allergic tendency develops early in life, and is highly influenced by prakriti. Vaata and Pitta types are much more commonly affected by allergy than kapha types.
Moreover, after pregnancy when the child is growing in the womb, the mother gives some of her immune protection to her foetus across the placenta in the form of antibodies.
If she is too much toxic, she may send too many antibodies or transmit antigens of her blood to her foetus. Immune reactions may be established in the baby’s body even before birth. After birth, the mother’s breast milk is supposed to provide passive immunity to the child. If it also carries antigenic material to the body, or if the child is not breast-fed long enough, its immunity will suffer.
The nature of the allergens, to which you are exposed, is also important. For example, allergy to alcohol, which probably influences the development of both hangovers and alcoholism, may actually begin as allergy to the substance used in the fermentation process.
Likewise, milk allergy may develop from lactose intolerance, or it may begin as allergy to the penicillin, which is given to the cows or buffaloes against some disease and then progress to allergy to the milk itself. In the same way mass-produced chickens are fed with different drugs, all of which might irritate the body against the chickens.
Just as ama created from improper digestion of food can disturb the alertness and agitate the emotions, disturbed emotions can undermine the digestion and create ama, which then incites the immune system to react against it. The continuous presence of ama in the system creates a condition of permanent immune alert called allergy.
Seeta pitta is the Ayurvedic term for allergic hives. It is known that anything, antagonistic to one’s nature, may cause allergy.
In Ayurveda, the term Saatmya denotes anti-allergy and Asaatmya denotes allergy. Ayurvedic approach to allergy is to convert Asaatmya nature to saatmya nature. This includes both purification and pacification therapies.
Management of Allergies According to Dosha
Vata type of allergies are more common in the fall, especially at the changing of seasons, when vata is most vulnerable. Aggravating factors include dust, mold, wind, cold, and dryness. Typical vata symptoms such as gas and bloating, abdominal discomfort, intestinal colic, ringing in the ears, and insomnia may be present along with wheezing, sneezing, dry cough, and runny nose. In cases where breathing is affected there is usually less mucus and more constriction of the bronchial tree. Vata is prone to digestive irregularity, which may lead to food intolerances, especially toward vata provoking foods, such as gas forming foods, including larger legumes like black, pinto, garbanzo, or kidney beans, as well as vegetables in the Brassica family like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, especially when eaten raw.
For vata types of allergies, you should avoid eating vata provoking foods. If cooked and well spiced, then you can have some in moderation, providing they do not disturb your digestion. Nightshade vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant can also aggravate vata allergies when consumed regularly, so eat those in moderation and avoid them during attacks. Cold foods and drinks and dried or dehydrated foods will also provoke the cold, dry, and rough qualities of vata. It is essential to rest and not skip meals and become deficient or under weight, as this will affect your immunity.
Pitta type of allergies manifest more on the skin and are worse during the hot seasons, especially toward late summer. If exposed to allergens such as chemicals (especially those with a strong odor), ragweed, house dust, or even synthetic fabrics, this may cause pitta dosha to move to the surface due to its spreading, hot, and sharp qualities, causing hives, rash, urticaria, red and burning eyes, yellowish mucus, fever, headaches, allergic types of dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis, all of which are fiery in nature.
For pitta type of allergies it is important to avoid eating sour, acidic and fermented foods, hot spicy foods, aged cheeses, excess salt, heavy and fatty meats, deep fried foods, vinegars, hard alcohol, and red wine. Sour fruits such as citrus or even strawberries are common triggers to pitta related food allergies. To keep pitta in balance, it is important to keep cool. Exercise only during the coolest times of day, take cool showers, especially during the warm seasons. Eating well balanced meals and getting snacks when needed will help you keep your strong appetite both satisfied and balanced.
Kapha type of allergies are triggered by mold and in the springtime, when all the plants and trees are pollinating and the dense, wet, cold kapha starts to thaw and flow in the body. They are characterized by general dullness and heaviness, as well as irritated mucous membranes, cough, colds, and profuse white or clear congestion, repeated sinus infections, and asthma.
To manage such conditions it is crucial to remove excess sweet, sour and salty tastes, cold drinks, rich foods, and desserts from your diet. Staying active during the day, eating light, easy to digest meals, and getting vigorous daily exercise is necessary to keep kapha within a healthy range. It is also important to avoid cold drinks and to sip on hot water throughout the day to support metabolic energy and prevent the accumulation of toxins. Using warming culinary spices such as black pepper, fenugreek, ginger, turmeric, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, and mustard seeds can help you digest starches and proteins, and prevent the accumulation of toxins that can contribute to the cause of allergies. Drinking ginger tea either before, during, or after meals stimulates agni, improves digestion, and burns toxins.
1. Lightening therapies (Langhana chikitsas) to counteract aama.
2. Usage of therapeutic oils, both externally and internally (Snehana).
3. Subjecting to fomentation (Svedana).
4. Five eliminative therapies (Panchakarmas) and
5. Pacification therapies (Samana chikitsas).