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March 15, 2011

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Allergy sufferers sneeze and wheeze when spring comes

NOT everyone is pleased to see an improvement in the weather. For those who suffer from an allergy, this time of year marks the start of months of irritation. We look at what causes allergies and the best ways to prepare for the seasonal change.

Flowers and trees are blooming, and color has been restored. Spring is a delightful time to enjoy the beautiful natural scenery, but for some it also means the arrival of a season full of rashes, sneezing, sore throats and other annoying conditions.

An old Chinese saying goes that "spring is the time for hundreds of grasses to sprout, and it is also the season for hundreds of ailments to occur." Allergic problems such as urticaria (hives), pityriasis simplex (dandruff), allergic rhinitis and asthma are top of the list.

The sudden temperature change, an increase in ultraviolet rays, reviving germs and a higher pollen count in the air can all trigger allergies in people who fail to adjust themselves to the new season.

A deficit of "natural endowment" is the main internal cause of the problem in traditional Chinese medicine, according to Dr Li Yongmei, chief physician of the Dermatology Department of Longhua Hospital attached to Shanghai University of TCM, just as Western medicine attributes it to an allergic constitution.

Pathogenic "wind" - germs, ultraviolet rays, pollen or any other allergen carried by the wind - is a trigger (external cause).

An over-sensitive protective immune system in the sufferer is what contributes to the allergic constitution. The system may take trifle things such as pollen, dirt or proteins as pathogenic invaders and start a fight, which inevitably causes damage to some ordinary cells, tissues or organs, which then leads to an allergic reaction.

"It is more likely for the pathogenic energy (allergens) to invade and cause an allergic problem when the healthy energy is weak," says Dr Li. That may be caused by another illness, lack of nutrition or simply fatigue.

It is also the case for allergic problems in the respiratory system, according to Dr Zhang Huiyong, director of the Respiratory Department of Longhua Hospital.

"More than 70 percent of asthma cases are allergic in cause, triggered by specific irritants; but weak energy in the lungs, spleen and kidneys all play an important role in allergic asthma," says Dr Zhang.

Keeping away from the allergens is of course essential to prevent such attacks. Cleaning a room, especially the places where allergens may accumulate, can help reduce the chances of triggering an allergy. That includes quilts, carpets, pillows, air-conditioner filters and damp places such as the kitchen and bathroom.

For people allergic to flower pollen, it is wise to stay indoors when the pollen count is reported to be high on windy days, suggests Dr Zheng Jie of the Dermatology Department of Ruijin Hospital. Wearing glasses and long-sleeved clothing outdoors also helps.

Washing the hands and face when returning home can help get rid of pollen that may have landed on you outside.

Adapting a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise will improve the immune system and prevent allergic reactions. Foods with low fat, high protein and rich vitamins are more appropriate during this season.

Fresh vegetables rich in vitamins A, C and E are especially recommended. Tomato, green pepper and various fruits with rich vitamin C can help improve the immunity to prevent pathogenic energy invasion, and it can also work for relieving certain inflammation; carrots contain vitamin A which helps protect the respiratory system; while cabbages and sesame are rich in vitamin E that helps guard the body against allergens.

Lung-nourishing foods such as pears, lotus seeds, honey and lily roots can help relieve and prevent allergic problems in the respiratory system.

Allergy sufferers should be cautious about certain "fa wu" (foods that often trigger an allergy) such as seafood, spicy foods, garlic and fried foods.

Trying to adjust yourself properly against psychological pressure is also important. Long-term stress usually causes damages to the immune system and thus increases the chances of contracting an allergy.

Mulberry and chrysanthemum tea

Ingredients: Mulberry leaves (6g), chrysanthemum (6g), sugar (20g)Preparation: Pour the ingredients into 250ml boiling water and leave for at least five minutes before drinking. Benefits: Helps dispel pathogenic wind and heat, relieves acute urticaria.

Almond, pear and loquat juice

Ingredients: Almonds (10g), loquat leaf (10g), one pearPreparation: 1. Chop the pear into pieces.2. Cook the pear, almond and loquat leaf with water.3. Filter.4. Drink one cup a day.Benefits: Dispels excessive heat in the lungs, dissolves phlegm, relieves asthma. The hidden pests the new season brings

Doris Rathgeber

The beauty of the spring cannot be appreciated when you are constantly distracted by a runny nose, sneezing and coughing.

Spring is the time when the pollen starts to fly again. Allergies occur when the body's immune system misinterprets these harmless pollen particles and feels endangered by them. The body creates an inflammatory reaction to eject the particles and that is what we recognize as the symptoms of an allergy.

However, in springtime it is not only the pollen that causes these reactions but also dust, mold, animal dander and food to which we are more exposed during that season.

TCM explains allergies as a disharmony in the body. In many cases it is diagnosed as a "wind" influence together with another pathogenic factor such as dampness, cold or heat that disturbs the balance of your system. In addition, people who suffer from allergies often have an underlying weakness of the lung or spleen system.

TCM tackles allergies with a combination of herbs, diet and acupuncture. A doctor prescribes specific herbs that help to eliminate the wind from the patient's body, clear the nasal passages and sinuses and also soothe itchy eyes.

Mucus production is related to the digestive system. When the digestion is healthy, less mucus is created in the body. Sweets, dairy and cold foods increase the creation of mucus and should be avoided when having an allergic reaction. Acupuncture also supports the healing process, from giving temporary relief to complete remission. Eat for a healthy start

Doris Rathgeber

The Chinese believe in living in harmony with nature. The change of the seasons, from winter to spring, requires some changes in daily life. Especially concerning their eating habits, the Chinese try to alternate their food in spring as an active measure to prevent diseases (such as flu, pneumonia and chronic diseases) and to maintain good health.

In TCM, natural and balanced food helps harmonize the inner qi (energy flow) and the functional activities of the organs. In spring it is said that the qi movement needs to be assisted in the upward and outward movement.

First, TCM dietetics would recommend eating more sweet food in spring which not only nourishes your body's yang (hot) energy but also helps your stomach and spleen function to stay healthy. Sweet fruits, honey, yams, sweet vegetables (carrots, potatoes), corn, rice and nuts are good examples.

In addition, eat a proper amount of pungent food. Food of this category includes onion, garlic, ginger, radish, leek and chives. This kind of food especially promotes the outward movement of your qi.

If possible, reduce the consumption of sour and cold food as these lead to liver stagnation with symptoms such as pain, disease, digestion and menstruation problems.

Seasonal fruits and vegetables and some fresh air will support you to fight your spring drowsiness so that you have a good and healthy start into the new season.


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