Cascading tree blossoms. Blooming flowers everywhere. Grass growing faster than your mower can keep up. The signs that we survived another winter are a welcome relief for many of us. But for others, these signal that pollen and the allergies that come raging along with springtime are at the doorstep, soon to be lodged in the sinuses and throat, irritating the eyes, and making an itchy mess of what is typically thought of as a time of rebirth and rejuvenation.
Rather than rely on over-the-counter allergy meds and their questionable side effects, we asked local Acupuncturist and Chinese Traditional Medicine Practitioner Christopher Miller, L. Ac., about alternatives to relieve the suffering that arrives with spring allergies.
Q&A With Christopher Miller, Acupuncturist and Chinese Traditional Medicine Practitioner
Go Well PDX: Can acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal remedies help with allergy relief?
Christopher: With the abundance of blossoms and beautiful flowers just now opening up, people are experiencing allergies in full force. Whether it’s itchy, irritable eyes, a runny nose, sneezing or a scratchy throat, it is uncomfortable all around. There is hope and it isn’t something one must suffer through.
• Sleep is an important ally—eight hours, every night.
• I often use neti pots to flush out pollen and other allergens from my nasal sinuses.
• Rosemary steam inhalation and/or baths are incredibly refreshing and relieving.
• Increasing your intake of fermented foods or taking probiotics can greatly reduce the occurrence of symptoms.
• Herbal therapy as well as a dietary assessment recommended by a licensed acupuncturist can be of great help!
Go Well PDX: Along with better weather comes more opportunities to hit the great outdoors for play and exercise. How do we best treat our bodies as we come out of winter hibernation?
Christopher: One of Chinese medicine’s foundational principles is aligning oneself to the seasons. There is a saying: “If you choose to live out of harmony with this season, you will become ill in the next.” In the summertime, it’s hotter. The daylight is longer. Nature is a bit easier to enjoy.
Spring and autumn, naturally, follow the same rules. What is happening in nature right now? Blossoms and new plant shoots are appearing, yet you can still see the skeletons of the trees. The sun is shining more, still there is a bit of briskness in the air. The grocery stores are starting to get all sorts of berries, arugula, asparagus, rhubarb and radishes, yet the root vegetables are still holding court.
Now is the time to transition into summer. It is not appropriate to wear shorts and tank tops, though it may feel oppressive to wear stocking caps and down jackets. Follow the sun in regards to your sleep cycle. Exercise with more vigor, but make sure to cover up from the brisk wind.
Transition times are also a great reminder to check in with one’s life. Touch everything in your closets and drawers and ask yourself: “Keep, donate or recycle?” Look at your calendar and ask yourself when was the last time you had a physical, a dental appointment, an eye doctor visit? Many wellness clinics are offering packages to reboot your diet with a supervised fast or cleanse.
Go Well PDX: Are there foods to avoid in spring? Or are there foods that energize us?
Christopher: Foods are lighter, fruits and vegetables are much more fresh and plentiful. Eating more variety of food, especially seasonal, local produce and meats. The opposite is true in the winter. It’s cooler, daylight is less, and we eat more preserved and heavier foods. It would cause us disease to go against this natural flow. Our bodies know this instinctively. Imagine eating a really crisp, raw, cold salad in winter, or a heavy, piping hot, hearty, thick stew in summer.
Go Well PDX: From an energy point of view, is there a “best” time of day, month or year to exercise, or am I doing more harm than good to exercise when I feel low energy?
Christopher: Let’s talk about low energy and fatigue. Chinese medicine has two different types of fatigue. The first type is based in deficiency. This is where you have little to no gas in the tank. It has the feeling of not being able to even lift an arm. The reserves have been spent and you absolutely need to restore, replenish and rest. The second type is based out of stagnation. Reserves are intact, and in fact you may have plenty of energy but lack the motivation or will to move. Think of this type as having all of your clothes on while running through a pool—there is a lot of drag.
It is common to have a deficiency of reserves and energy after a very active summer. We don’t sleep as much and we certainly push ourselves to enjoy the sunshine. This would call for rest and recuperation. It’s also common to have an accumulation of stagnation after a very dormant winter. Staying indoors, over-indulging in rich foods and watching maybe more than our fair share of Netflix. This would call for moving and pushing through the heavy drag.
Naturally, every individual is different and it takes knowing oneself and awareness of body to know what is right for you. Consulting with a healthcare practitioner—like a licensed acupuncturist—would help sort out what is beneficial for your particular health and what is damaging.
If you have a health concern and are interested in seeking an alternative treatment other than what is offered through conventional allopathic medicine, Christopher Miller offers refreshing counsel and effective treatment for what ails you. As one of those Chris includes in his clientele, I can tell you I have benefited profoundly from his care and recommend him highly. You can reach him at:
Christopher Miller, L. Ac