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Complementary Corner


Renee Lehman

(4/2015) Have you started sneezing? In the past, have you had itchy, red, watery eyes; itchy nose; runny or stuffy nose; and sneezing during the spring? Then it sounds like you have spring seasonal allergies.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) viewpoint, spring seasonal allergies are a result of the bodyís reaction to natureís energy change from winter into spring. We are meant to move smoothly with natureís energetic change, and when we do not (because of a lack of energy within us), we experience allergy symptoms.

What do I mean by energy and natureís energetic change? Remember that TCM deals with balancing the flow of the natural vital energy, or Qi, which flows through all living things. Each organ of the body has Qi, and this Qi flows through the body on specific pathways called Meridians and is essential for health. When the Qi is balanced, moving smoothly, and in sufficient quality and quantity, health and wellness are promoted. When the Qi is unbalanced or blocked in any way, disease or diseases, will occur. This disease may show up as symptoms on a physical, mental/emotional, or spiritual level.

As stated above, TCM considers spring seasonal allergies to be a result of insufficient or imbalanced Qi, which does not allow for a smooth transition from the energetic nature of winter into the energetic nature of spring. TCM understands that seasonal allergies are rooted in a Qi imbalance in one or more organs. The location of oneís allergy symptoms provides the clues as to which organ has an imbalance of Qi.

If one has symptoms related to the eyes, this mainly relates to an imbalance with a personís Liver Qi, and Stomach Qi. Nasal symptoms are usually related to an imbalance in a personís Lung Qi. Underneath all of these symptoms is the root issue, the bottom line underneath why seasonal allergies occur: a deficiency in a personís Kidney Qi, and the fact that the person has a "cold energetic essence" inside of the body.

In TCM, the Liver is considered to be the "architect of your life" or the "commander of the armed forces in defense of life." Just as an architect creates a blueprint for a home, and a commander creates a plan of attack based on observing what s/he is up against, the Liver is responsible for assessing the circumstances within and around us, and creating a plan on how to flourish in life given these circumstances. We do this in part by having clarity and "vision." In TCM, the eyes as a whole are considered to be closely linked to the liver: "Liver qi communicates with the eyes," states the Neijing (ancient TCM text) "...If the liver receives blood, we can see." Therefore, a person's eyesight, and any eye symptoms may serve as an indicator for Liver Qi functioning.

In TCM, the Stomach is considered to be the "Official of Rotting and Ripening." It is considered to be a granary or storehouse that receives liquids and solids from the food that we eat. It breaks them down (transforms them) into a "soupy mix" from which nutrients are absorbed into our blood stream. The Stomach can only work with what we put into our mouth, so quality food and water will allow the Stomach to work most efficiently. When the Stomach Qi is out of balance one may experience increased sinus congestion. This is from the excessive "dampness" that your body was challenged to disperse.

In TCM, the Lungs, on a physical level, literally receive the pure Heavenly Qi (also known as, air). The Lungs then release the waste product of carbon dioxide to the outside environment (so that more oxygen will then be taken in). When the Lungs are in balance, you will have a strong voice, breathe easily, and have no problems with phlegm/mucus.

In TCM, the Kidney is considered to be the foundation for the entire bodyís Qi! The Kidneys are at the root of all of our physical functioning. They are the source of our potential (they are considered to be our "battery pack"). The energy from our "battery pack" activates our metabolism and motivates us to live (think about surviving through the winter). The Kidney is the organ associated with the season of winter. During winter, nature is resting and conserving energy. We are also to be resting and conserving our energy (Qi) in the winter. When we donít rest enough and exhaust our Qi during the winter, then our body wonít have enough Qi available to transition into the energetic season of spring. Thus, our body will not be able to handle the exposure to allergens.

Finally, what is meant by "cold energetic essence" in the body? Think about when you step outside and it is colder than you expected. You "contract" and tighten up. Cold food slows the metabolism and causes Qi to stagnate. What would be considered "energetically cold foods?" Obviously, cold beverages and foods come to mind (ice water, iced tea, ice cream), and also, raw vegetables. After years of consuming foods that have a cold energetic essence, the cold begins to affect the Liver, Stomach, and Lung Qi. Sneezing occurs. The eyes water, become red, and itch (Liver Qi). Clear mucus is produced by a weakened Stomach Qi, and this becomes post-nasal drip (Lung Qi).

Treatment of Spring Seasonal Allergies

So, the best way to treat seasonal allergies is to PREVENT them. Support your Liver, Stomach, and Lung Qi. Conserve your Kidney Qi in the winter! How can you do this? Make some lifestyle changes, practice Qigong, and make dietary changes.

Lifestyle Changes: Balance the amount of activity and rest (work, rest, & play). This is a great example of using your resources wisely. Go to sleep earlier. Exercise wisely (do energy building exercises like yoga, Qigong, and tai chi), versus performing exercises that use up a lot of your energy and run your "batteries" down. To watch a video on simple Qigong exercises, go to: Take time to meditate or have time for quiet contemplation. This will help keep you from depleting your resources.

To Support your Liver Qi: Eat foods like dark green lettuce and vegetables (eggplant, broccoli), sprouts, and sprouted foods (like bread). Eat sour foods like lemons, dandelion greens, etc. because they will stimulate tissues to contract & release toxins. Avoid saturated fats, over-salted and over-processed foods (they will congest your Liver). Learn how to handle your stress better.

To Support your Stomach Qi: Eat foods that are sweet tasting like carrots, squash, red beets, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, fruit, and grains like rice. Eat well-cooked foods and roasted nuts. Eat until you are 70% full. Avoid sugars and use artificial sweeteners sparingly. Sugar will suppress your immune system.

To Support your Lung Qi: Eat foods that are pungent flavored foods/spices like onions, ginger, horseradish, and cayenne pepper. Decrease rich, fatty foods and processed foods because they create phlegm in your respiratory system. On a physical level, BREATHE! Consciously bring your awareness to your breath. Practice diaphragmatic breathing.

To Support your Kidney Qi: Eat foods that come from saltwater (fish, seaweeds); seeds; salty-flavored foods (if you donít have blood pressure problems); and dark colored foods (red/black beans). Drink appropriate amounts of water. This keeps you hydrated and allows for you to move smoothly. On a physical level, implement the lifestyle changes above!

To Warm the Body: Heated foods expand and promote the flow of Qi. Vegetables should be cooked, steamed, or roasted, to add warmth to the body. Beverages should be room temperature or warm. Add warming spices like ginger and cinnamon to your diet whenever possible.

Hereís to an allergy free spring!

Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist, physical therapist, and Reiki Master with over 20 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA.  She can be reached at 717-752-5728.

Read other article on well being by Renee Lehman