It’s not in your head...or...actually, it literally is in your head. If you have allergies, you may have noticed that things seem to be getting worse year by year, or that you seem to be getting more sensitive. The part that is literally IN and affecting your head - all the congestion, mucus, itchiness, swelling. The part that’s not in your head - the fact that hay fevers are actually getting worse year by year, due to the effects of global climate change. Longer allergy seasons and increase in pollen are driving more intense allergies across America -
“At the same time, it’s likely to be another brutal year for allergies across the United States. Texas is bracing for its worst allergy season in years. States like Georgia and New York have already seen near-record pollen counts. And in Washington, DC, pollen spiked surprisingly early this year.” - Umar Irfan “It’s Not Your Imagination, Allergy season gets worse every year.” Vox,May 7, 2020.
With symptoms such as sinus congestion, itchy and watery eyes, sneezing and chills, what could be hay fever also could cause alarms to go off in the age of COVID19. The common COVID19 symptoms of fever, shortness of breath, muscle aches and cough, however, are not usually present with allergies. Yet COVID19 can also be asymptomatic for some, and you can have both at the same time.
We are in the midst of the hay fever season which is often at its worst between March and September. From the start of flowers blooming until the leaves begin to fall, pollen and the bustling growth of nature can cause havoc on our upper respiratory tract. Histamines are most well-known for their dysfunction in issues like allergies and hayfever but they are crucial players for modulating immune response, sleep/wake regulation, and PMS.
They are part of the first line defenders against viruses and allergens that invade our system through mucous membranes. Irritants entering the body through the respiratory tract and nasal cavity. Mast cells (MC) attack, and then release inflammatory compounds such as histamines and protease in order to expel whatever is irritating the body, whether it be a virus or an allergen. Histamines have also gotten a fair share of press lately regarding their role in COVID19 and the “cytokine storm” associated with severe cases and lung tissue damage. Researchers are busy looking into modulating histamine receptivity in order to decrease inflammation and oxidative damage, and protect the cells and tissue from an otherwise unchecked and ever- increasing cytokine-mediated inflammatory cascade.
The mighty Liver is the main organ in charge of breaking down histamines that have been released. In TCM philosophy, the Liver is associated with springtime and wind, when the sprouting yang energy of nature begins to spew pollen into the air and let the winds spread new growth far and wide. The Liver is also known as the “General” - a quite authoritative organ in charge of mobilizing and directing energy and Qi movement throughout the entire body, thus making sure everything runs smoothly. Our modern-day Livers undergo a huge amount of stress in general - from poor diets with processed foods, to environmental toxins, alcohol, medications, to everyday stress, frustration, and poor sleep habits, the Liver is taking the brunt. As it gets taxed, exhausted, or tense, allergies can also get worse.
Tired Livers. Pollen spewing everywhere. Unbearable allergies. It’s enough to make allergy sufferers want to crawl in a hole. In Western medicine, the main thing given to relieve these uncomfortable symptoms are corticosteroids, antihistamines, and decongestants. However, they all have a laundry list of side effects, especially after long-term use - including making the Liver suffer even more, bringing on a vicious cycle. An inability for the Liver to effectively break down histamines or an overabundance of histamine production can cause disorders like allergic rhinitis, as well as cytokine storms associated with lower respiratory infections like COVID19. Since the optimal functioning of the Liver is essential to cleaning up histamines and regulating their concentration in the bloodstream, let’s love up on our Livers. Here are a few easy steps:
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