It’s allergy season again and many people are suffering with sneezing, runny noses, watery eyes, headaches, and various other aches and pains that accompany this annoying and frustrating condition. Until the frost hits in late October or early November, a plethora of allergens will be floating in the air, triggering immune and histamine reactions that afflict millions of people around the world.
Bookstores and the internet are chock full of material claiming to offer cures for allergies. But like asthma (see September 2009 Tom Monte Monthly), allergies are bedeviling conditions that resist all kinds of treatments. Moreover, allergies are often highly labile, here one day, absent the next, back again the day after. As for treatments, what works for one person often doesn’t work for another, and even treatments that are helpful one day may not provide relief the next. I have known many people – my wife, Toby, included — who have made dramatic changes in their diets and lifestyles and still suffer from some degree of seasonal allergy symptoms.
So what works, if anything? The following recommendations are among the approaches that we have tried for Toby’s allergies, and for many of my clients. All of them can work, to varying degrees, and some can keep allergies away for much of the season. But don’t be surprised if, from time to time, you have to shift the program and try some new combination of approaches in order to find relief.
Immune System On Red Alert
Allergies arise when your immune system reacts to otherwise innocuous air-borne particles, known as allergens. These allergens – which usually include pollen, dust, and pet hair – set off alarm bells within the immune system. Immune cells attack the allergens, but in the process, they also produce histamines, which are proteins that cause the inflammatory symptoms that we associate with allergies – swelling tissues, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes. The more histamines produced the more severe and varied the allergic reactions.
Some people have immune systems that are more reactive to non-threatening substances than those of others, which is why some have allergies and others do not.
But are allergies strictly immune-based? My experience has shown me that the answer is no. The real cause is primarily the liver, and secondarily the lungs. Let’s look at the liver’s role first.
Not All Livers Are Created Equally
Among the liver’s many important jobs is to rid the blood of poisonous substances, which it does with a miraculous and warrior-like zeal. But not all livers are created equally. Some people are born with constitutionally stronger livers, which means they are able to neutralize toxins more efficiently. This, of course, takes an enormous burden off the immune system. Stronger livers also manifest as personality characteristics that more easily rid the body of emotional and psychological toxins, as well.
These people tend to be more extroverted, for example. They usually have stronger appetites, more booming voices, and stronger will power. They often have a more controlling influence on their environments. But among the really crucial differences between those with stronger livers, versus those with relatively sensitive livers, is how they deal with anger. People with stronger livers tend to express their anger outwardly. Also, they channel their anger into their work and their will power, bending others to their will, and thus shaping their environments according to their own images.
These people rarely suffer with allergies.
As with all other matters that concern the human condition, the relative strength of people’s livers tend to run along a spectrum. Also, it’s impossible to say that any organ is uniformly weak. But on the spectrum, some livers are more sensitive than others. And not surprisingly, those with sensitive livers tend to have more sensitive immune systems, as well.
Most important, people with sensitive livers tend to turn their anger inward, meaning they tend to get angry at themselves first, even when they are slighted by others. Their anger throws them into conflict. They aren’t sure how they should handle their anger – whether they should tell off the person who offended them, or take the high road and attempt to ignore the problem, which only makes their inner conflict more intense.
Emotional conflicts are stored in the conscious and unconscious aspects of the mind, as well as in the physical body. And among the primary sites within the body for such anger, frustration, and inner conflict is the liver.
The more emotional conflict stored in the liver, the more physical tension the organ holds. This is easily experienced and witnessed in your own life. Just consciously experience your body – especially your shoulders, solar plexus, stomach, and low back – the next time someone criticizes you. The solar plexus, especially the right side, or liver side, is a primary site for holding such tension.
And the more tension held in the liver, the more burdened and difficult it is for the organ to function optimally.
Those with deficient livers tend to suffer more from allergies.
Underactive Livers Means A Greater Burden On The Immune System
When your liver function falls below a certain threshold – a threshold level that is unique to your natural capacities — it is said to be deficient, or under-active. The brain, which is constantly monitoring your entire system, recognizes those periods when your liver function has become sluggish, or chronically deficient, and will call upon other systems to compensate. One of those compensatory systems is your immune response. Your immune system does this because the liver cannot fully rid the body of toxins that have entered the system. In order to protect the system, and indeed your life, the brain will order the immune system to take up the slack in order to protect you from food-, or water-, or air-borne threat.
Under these conditions, it’s easy for the immune system to become a little too vigilant. Indeed, the more deficient the liver becomes, the more likely the immune system will over-compensate by being hyper-vigilant. Thus, a chronically deficient liver very often gives rise to a hyper-active immune system.
These very conditions often appear early in life – such as in children who are regularly suffer from colds, flu, rashes, and other childhood disorders. They also appear in children who do not have an outlet for their anger, frustration, and other pent-up emotions.
In Chinese medicine, the liver is said to hold our reserve of unexpressed anger, frustration, and tears. The more these emotions build up within the liver, the more deficient – sluggish and less effective at blood cleansing – it becomes.
Over time, the liver function will reach a new baseline, falling well below its optimal levels. At that point, the immune system will start to take over and become hyper-reactive.
Trauma, The Season, And The Lungs
The liver is not the only repository for emotions. Every organ, the Chinese maintained, conveys its own unique array of psychological, emotional, and spiritual strengths. Each organ also holds its own package of emotional pain. The lungs, it is said, holds sadness and grief. When children are overwhelmed by these emotional states – such as when they lose a loved one, or experience some other kind of trauma – they can bury their pain, and the energetic distress that comes with it, in the lungs.
Toby and I have found that the fall is particularly difficult for people who, as children, suffered some form of trauma in the autumn. The cycle of the seasons brings back the same conditions associated with that early trauma. Cellular memory is triggered and the old emotional pain rises again. Unfortunately, all too often, we react in the same way that we did originally as children – with the same kind of repressive response to our emotional pain. Which means, the lungs – and all that emotional and energetic distress experienced in childhood – gets triggered once again in adulthood.
The lungs have a governing effect on the liver, the Chinese physicians discovered. They can either stimulate the liver to function at a higher level, or they can restrict the liver, hold it back, and cause it to become more sluggish and deficient. And this is exactly what happens when the lungs become over-stimulated by emotional distress, and are forced to repress that pain, rather than express and release it.
Allowing Anger, Grief, And Tears To Flow
Over the years, Toby and I have found that the more aware we are of the tension in the body, and the more we allow that tension to be expressed in words and emotional states, the more every type of symptom is abated – and very often eliminated entirely. This has been the case for a wide range of symptom states – everything from really scary and acute conditions to allergies.
Everything we do not bring awareness to, and process consciously, is held in the unconscious mind as information and memory, and in the body as physical tension and cellular memory. Every symptom has a story to tell. This is true for both children and adults.
In order to relieve the body and mind of the energetic and emotional burden of the past, we must finally express, discharge, and relieve our lives by speaking about whatever is buried within the body and the unconscious. Or, to borrow the immortal words of Olivia Newton-John, “Let me hear your body talk.”
Allergies are the physical manifestation of emotional and psychological pain that has never been processed and eliminated from the mind and body. The first step in reducing allergic symptoms is to experience the anger, frustration, and emotional distress that are held in the liver, and release it in awareness and words. The same must be done for the lungs. We must allow the emotional and physical distress that is held within the lungs to rise to consciousness and then, as best we can, express it in words, images, and sound.
Let Words, Writing, And Art Be Your Healer
Such healing work can be done with the spoken word, in writing, in drawing, painting, emotional dance, or some other art form with which you have a strong personal connection.
Those of you who have taken my Living From the Soul Programs have experienced firsthand the power of your own art to express feelings, memories, and psychological patterns that have lain dormant for years and even decades.
Talk to your partner or a healer. Write, draw, paint, dance, meditate, and pray with all your heart – do whatever it takes to bring awareness to your pain, and then express it with all your passion, rage, grief, tenderness, and sorrow.
The reason, all of this will improve circulation within your liver, lungs, and heart, causing all three to rise to higher levels of function. And then all your allergic symptoms will be gone.
Unfortunately, there is such a repository of pain living in your tissues that you will have to do this again and again, especially
during the season of your trauma.
Blind Expression Works When You Cannot Articulate Your Pain
Very often, we cannot recall the reasons for our distress. Or we simply cannot get down deep enough into the body in order to experience and really know what might be there. No problem. If you cannot articulate what you feel in one or another art form, than do the following four steps:
1. Take a tennis racket (preferably an old one, but still durable), or a baseball bat (preferably one made of light plastic, such as a waffle ball bat), or a good walking stick (one that will not shatter upon impact), and beat the living daylights out of your bed, or set of pillows. This will stimulate your liver and heart to release whatever emotional and energetic distress they may be holding.
2. Second, take a thick pillow and scream as loud as you can into the pillow, for as long as you can. No one will hear you, but you will be able to release a lot of pent up emotion. Do this until you feel you have released as much emotion as you can. Once the intense anger has been released, allow yourself to feel whatever emptiness and sadness might still be there within you. This will allow your lungs to start to open and begin releasing their emotional and energetic distress.
3. Recognize that at every turn in your life, you did the best you could, given the consciousness and the options you faced at that particular moment. You were trapped. You could not have done any better. This is the story of your life. And there is good reason to be sad for the losses you have experienced. Allow yourself to experience that sadness as fully as you can. If possible, allow yourself to cry.
Feel compassion for yourself. Despite all the pain and loss, you are still a seeker of truth, a lover of the Source, and a positive force in the universe. Against so many long odds, you have done well with your life. Hold yourself in that compassion and love.
It is not enough to express anger – the expression of anger alone will not heal you. You must come into your sadness and compassion. These are healing forces. We seek to clear the anger so that we can tumble into the sadness and compassion that lie below the anger.
Meanwhile Do The Following
Releasing emotion and energetic distress is essential, but there must be diet and lifestyle support for the changes to truly have a lasting effect. The following recommendations will also do a lot toward changing the biochemistry that supports allergies.
1.Stop all dairy products. Cow’s milk and cow’s milk products weaken the spleen, lungs, kidneys, and heart. They also trigger an immune reaction. The combination is terrible for everyone, but especially for anyone suffering from allergies.
2.Stop all sugar and chocolate, and minimize all processed foods. Sugar weakens the liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys, and immune defenses. Chocolate weakens the spleen, lungs, and kidneys. It also causes headaches in many people, especially those who suffer from allergies. Processed food, especially all white flour products, raises insulin levels and affects the body just like sugar.
3.Heal the liver, lungs, and large intestine. The foods that support the liver are green and leafy vegetables, especially the crucifers, such as broccoli, bok choy, collards, kale. Sour foods, especially sauerkraut (eat five times a week), brown rice vinegar, and small amounts of lemon (two times a week) all help to cleanse and heal the liver.
The sweet vegetable support both spleen and liver. These include carrots, parsnips, squash, and onions.
As for the lungs, green and leafy and the white vegetables (cauliflower, onion, turnip, and daikon) are especially healing. Small amounts of fresh grated ginger (two to three times a week, especially in soup) supports the lungs and large intestine. All the roots help to heal the large intestine, along with miso, tamari, and other fermented products. Probiotics and probiotic-rich foods (pickles, sauerkraut, miso, tamari, shoyu, natto) all heal the small and large intestine, along with overall digestion.
4.Eat alkalizing foods daily. Vegetables alkalize the blood and take the stress off the liver and lungs, and support the immune system. Alkaline blood is more resistant to allergies.
5.Investigate homeopathy. Toby has been using a homeopathic formula given to her by a local homeopath. Last year it worked wonders. This year it’s not as powerful, but still having a very positive effect.
6.Use acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Acupuncture can relieve the symptoms almost immediately. And a gChinese herbalist (many acupuncturists are herbalists) can create a formula that can provide lood asting relief from all acute symptoms.
Toby has been using Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and Chinese herbs, for about 20 years for a variety of health issues and we can vouch firsthand for their effectiveness. As Toby has said many times, “Chinese medicine saved me. Even after 15 years of macrobiotics, I didn’t feel really healthy until I started doing acupuncture and Chinese herbs.”
7. Quercetin with bromelain. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that is found in onions, apples, tea, berries, cabbage, and cauliflower. It is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects. It is especially potent against the inflammation that takes place in the sinuses. Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapple and other fruit. It is anti-inflammatory and especially powerful at reducing and preventing inflammation in the sinuses. There are supplement formulas that provide both quercetin and bromelain together.
8. Peppermint tea clears the lungs quickly and can be used whenever lungs and sinuses are congested.
9. Nettle Many people swear by nettle for its effects at reducing the symptoms of allergies, especially runny nose and watery eyes. It’s best taken as a tea.
1o. Exercise vigorously. Exercise is highly anti-inflammatory. It is also immune boosting, alkalizing to the blood, and healing to the lungs, large intestine, and liver. It is a great way to purge anger (any competitive sport, martial art, or aerobic dance will release lots of tension, frustration, and anger from your liver). Do some form of vigorous exercise at least four times a week, especially during allergy season.
11. Get help dealing with anger, sadness, loss and trauma. All forms of loss, such as the death of a loved one, especially a beloved parent; and all experiences of repeated or intense abuse cause terrible tension within the body and mind, and result in deep seeded anger, sadness, and grief. For many people, these conditions are buried so deeply that such feelings are now inaccessible to their conscious minds. Talented healers can help you get to these emotional and energetic states that live within you. Seek help from a variety of healers, especially people who do various forms of emotional body work (such as Reiki, Rosen Method, Bioenergetics, and the Barbara Brennan method); standard forms of bodywork (such as shiatsu, acupressure, and therapeutic massage), and various forms of talk therapy.
In the end, think of allergies as a reaction from your body and mind. Both are attempting to protect you from some form of threat or memory of loss. Thus, allergies are simultaneously a physical and emotional state that must be treated from both aspects of your being. Do all you can to help your body with the methods described above. At the same time, release all the emotions that may be building up within your emotional, psychological, and physical being. Express yourself, especially any anger and sadness that may be yearn to be released.
And watch your allergic symptoms disappear.