Allergies are an abnormal (over-reactive) immune system response to things (allergens) that are normally harmless to most people. When an individual is allergic to something, the immune system mistakenly believes that this substance is causing harm to the body.
Allergies occurs when person is exposed to an allergen - such as some foods, dust, plant pollen, or medicines. The first time, they do not usually experience a reaction, but over time the immune system to builds up a sensitivity to the substance, and learns to recognise and remember the allergen. As such, it makes antibodies to attack the substance when exposure occurs, which is referred to as sensitisation. In addition, ongoing allergy symptoms tend to cause congestion, allowing viruses or bacteria to get stuck in the upper respiratory tract, leading to respirator and sinus infections.
Common allergy triggers include:
- Airborne allergens (e.g. pollen, animal dander, dust mites and mould)
- Certain foods (e.g. peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, eggs and milk)
- Insect stings (e.g. a bee or wasp)
- Medications (e.g., penicillin or penicillin-based antibiotics)
- Latex or other substances, leading to allergic skin reactions
Allergy symptoms, will differ on the person and the allergen involved, can affect the airways, sinuses and nasal passages, skin, and digestive system. Allergic reactions range from mild to severe, and in some cases can trigger a life-threatening (anaphylaxis).
Hay fever (allergic rhinitis), can lead to:
- Itching within the nose, eyes or roof of the mouth
- A runny and/or stuffy nose
- Watery, red or swollen eyes (conjunctivitis)
A food allergy can lead to:
- Tingling in the mouth
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, face or throat
An insect bite/sting allergy can lead to:
- Edema/swelling at the sting site
- Itching or hives over the body
- Cough, chest tightness, wheezing and/or shortness of breath
A drug allergy can lead to:
- Itchy skin
- Facial swelling
Atopic dermatitis (eczema), an allergic skin condition, can lead to:
- Itchiness of skin
- Redness of skin
- Flaking or peeling of skin
Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Loss of consciousness
- A drop in blood pressure
- Severe shortness of breath
- Skin rash
- A rapid, weak pulse
- Nausea and vomiting
Risk factors for the condition include: a family history of the condition, are a child, and/or have asthma or another allergic condition. If one suffers from allergies, they are more likely to get asthma, sinusitis infections and ear and lung infections.
Treatments include avoidance of allergens, medications to help reduce the immune system reactions and ease symptoms, immunotherapy and emergency epinephrine. Preventative measure include: keeping a diary to help identify triggers and wearing a medical alert bracelet.
Ayurvedic Approach to Allergies (Astamya):
According to classical Ayurvedic texts, allergies are a result of weak or imbalanced Agni (digestive fire), along with:
- Weak Agni (digestive fire)
- Ama accumulation (toxins)
- Imbalances in an individuals basic body consitution
- Imbalanced Dosha in the body (Vata, Pitta or Kapha)
- Imbalances of the Dhatu (tissue) Agni (digestive fire)
- Weak immune system
- Amount of allergens present in the body.
Causes of the above include: poor dietary practices, poor food combining, eating before previous meal is digested, strenuous exercise after eating, physical and mental strain and stress, environmental changes, strong emotions (such as anger, fear, anxiety) and chronic diseases.
Ayurveda also recognises that allergies manifest as a Dosha dominant condition:
Vata dominant allergy symptoms:
- Symptoms can be seen more in the Vata dominant areas of the body: e.g. respiratory system, bones and colon.
- Bloating of stomach, flatulence, burping, abdominal pain and discomfort, with accompanying symptoms involving nerve pain, tingling sensations in limbs, loss of sleep, twitching of muscles, bone aches/pains, pains in joints, intestinal colic.
- Wheezing and Vata related asthma, dizziness, giddiness, tinnitus, earaches and pains, headaches. Such individuals are also more prone to constipation, fear, anxiety, and restlessness.
Pitta dominant allergy symptoms:
- Symptoms can be seen more in the Pitta dominant areas of the body: e.g. skin, eyes, parts of the digestive system, liver and spleen.
- Red rashes, urticaria, and allergic dermatitis, and eczema, redness of the skin with itching and pustule formation, heartburn, nausea, acidity, diarrhoea, burning and redness of the eyes.
Kapha dominant allergy symptoms:
- Symptoms can be seen more in the Kapha dominant areas of the body: e.g. sinuses, nasal passages, parts of the respiratory system.
- Runny nose, mucus accumulation, hay fever, congestive disorders, colds, coughs, sinusitis, Kapha related asthma, water retention, heaviness in abdomen, sleeping disorders.
BENEFICIAL AYURVEDIC HERBS FOR ALLERGIES:
Vata Pitta Balancing: Guduchi, turmeric, triphala, amalaki, gokshura, tulsi, brahmi
Vata Kapha Balancing: Guduchi, turmeric, triphala, amalaki, gokshura, tulsi, ashwaganda, trikatu, devadaru, rasna, cardamom, nirgundi, trikatu, brahmi
Pitta Vata Balancing: Guduchi, turmeric, triphala, amalaki, gokshura, tulsi, shatavari, brahmi
Pitta Kapha Balancing: Guduchi, turmeric, triphala, amalaki, gokshura, tulsi, neem, manjista, sandalwood, brahmi, manjista, khadira
Kapha Vata Balancing: Guduchi, turmeric, triphala, amalaki, gokshura, tulsi, ashwaganda, trikatu, devadaru, rasna, cardmom, trikatu, shatavari, brahmi
Kapha Pitta Balancing: Guduchi, turmeric, triphala, amalaki, gokshura, tulsi, manjista, sandalwood, nirgundi, brahmi, manjista, khadira
Traditional Ayurvedic Treatment(s) for Allergies:
Ayurvedic treatment approach(es) are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual, the current imbalances, their age, strength, severity of the condition, and if other conditions are also present. Treatment approaches can include:
- Panchakarma detox treatments (when deemed appropriate)
- Avoid causative factors
- Balance Jataragni (digestive fire) and digestion
- Remove Ama (toxins within the digestive tract/body)
- Balance doshic imbalances through diet/lifestyle/herbs
- Intake of clean wholefoods, with organic food as much as possible
- Build immunity
- Oil bastis if required to balance Vata
- Nasya therapy as required
General Ayurvedic Nutritional Guidelines for Allergies:
Ayurvedic nutritional approach(es) are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual. One should eat compatible foods, and in accordance to one's imbalances. Some additional general guidelines include:
- One should eat the foods that one does not react to.
- One should eat according to the digestive capacity. As a guide, eat to fill the stomach 1/3 with solid food, 1/3 with liquid and leaving 1/3 empty to allow room for digestive secretions in the stomach.
- One should eat at regular times/intervals.
- One should eat wholegrains and non-processed foods.
- Foods to avoid: Cold foods, raw foods, leftover foods (24 hours), frozen foods, cold water, processed and packaged foods, soft drinks, high fat foods, greasy foods. Minimise the intake of sour and hot chilli type foods.
- Avoid excessive consumption of bread, pasta, pizza, cheese, milk and other foods that aggravate excess phlegm and congestion.
- One should avoid overeating. Allow 6 hours between meals and snack 3 hours after a meal, and eat only if hungry.
- Breakfast should be easy to digest, lunch the main meal, and dinner should be lighter than lunch.
- A small amount of buttermilk consumed after meals is advisable.
- Eat 2-3 fruits per day.
- Eat home cooked meals, preferably made on the same day as being prepared.
- Within the scope of specific food allergens that one do not react to, eat as much Ojas/immune building/increasing foods as possible.
- Use all of the five senses at mealtimes. Savour the food that you are eating.
- Eat in a pleasant environment. Eat seated and try to avoid TV and electronic devices whilst eating.
- Eat slowly, eat with respect/reverence for what you are eating, chew thoroughly.
General Ayurvedic Lifestyle Guidelines for Allergies:
Ayurvedic lifestyle approach(es) are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual. Some general guidelines include:
- Allow for sufficient rest and sleep. Go to bed at a regular time each day, and best before 10pm. Avoid also sleeping during the day
- Keep to a routine as much as possible during the day.
- Get sufficient daily activity and exercise, without overdoing exercise. Balanced activity/exercise is healthy, but avoid over-exertion.
- Avoid stress, anxiety, fear and tension. Look at counselling for self-care and working through any stress, anxiety, anger or any other mental health and/or emotional issues.
- Deep breathing for 10 minutes a day is very beneficial. Meditation, yoga and pranayama can also be highly beneficial.
- Avoid contact with all allergens and be sure to wear protective clothing as needed.
- Avoid large and sudden changes in weather and temperature.
- Make sure to be well rugged up in winter, especially when going outside.
If you have any concerns about your health please be sure to consult an Ayurvedic Practitioner or your local health physician. See our Ayurvedic Practitioner Services and Consultation Page for more information.