Every spring the clocks jump ahead, and our desires to shed the oppressive layers of winter takes hold. We breathe in the fresh spring air and it overtakes us, literally. It happens as soon as we fling open our windows.
We are seized by uncontrollable sneezing, itchy eyes, and an uncomfortable tickle gripping the back of our throats. These physical reactions let us know loud and clear that another season of the year has arrived -- allergy season.
The same blooming flowers and trees we dreamed of enjoying over the last four months now make us teary-eyed, running straight for the tissue box. This is the unfortunate irony of spring - beautiful but miserable.
According to a recent article in the U.S. News & World Report, allergies are plaguing up to 30 percent of all adults and 40 percent of all children in the United States. In other terms, 26.1 million Americans experience hay fever symptoms each year. That's a lot of nose blowing, and the numbers only seems be increasing.
Contrary to some conventional medical beliefs, which claim the best way to control your allergies is to avoid the very things that are causing them, many alternative sciences such as Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine believe the true keys to allergy prevention are treating underlying causes while building up the body's immune system.
"The long term solution to getting rid of allergies is to not just quell the symptoms but to delve into the root cause of them", claims Danny Arguetty, an alternative health counselor and nutritionist at the Kripalu Health Center in Lenox, Mass. "To do this", he adds, "you must strengthen your immune system, which is often sluggish and taxed from over indulging during the winter months. However, it is important to do this before allergy season kicks in, and then maintain a healthy life- style in order to effectively withstand allergens."
Spring Cleaning for Your Body
Naturally flushing your body of the toxins responsible for dampening your immune system - making you less adaptable to seasonal and climate changes - should be viewed similarly to cleaning your house or taking your car for a tune-up. Bodies will function optimally when they are cleaned and cared for.
"You don't have to do an extreme fast or detox to rekindle your immune system", says Arguetty. "There are many easy life-style and diet alternatives that you can implement that will help your body better adapt to the change of seasons and ultimately keep you allergy free."
Danny's top five things to avoid before and during allergy season:
1) Heavy, cold, hard to digest foods such as: ice cream, ice-cold food and drinks, heavy desserts, oily or fried foods, red meat and hard cheeses
2) Pre-packaged, canned, frozen or processed foods of any kind
3) Consuming caffeine and alcohol
4) Extreme temperature contrasts, for example, going from a very warm or hot environment to a very cold environment
5) Going to bed late and sleeping in late
Alternative Therapies to Treat Allergies
1) Eat a light nourishing diet of cooked, lightly spiced organic fresh vegetables, sweet ripe fruits, whole grains and legumes/beans for protein
2) Season your food with immunity enhancing and anti-allergic spices such as, turmeric, fennel, coriander, black pepper, and fresh ginger root. Danny recommends cooking these spices in a little bit of olive oil or ghee (clarified butter) to help release the spice's flavors and medicinal properties
3) Sip plain hot water and detoxifying teas such as, echinacea, ginseng, dandelion and ginger, throughout the day
4) Keep your house and office on the cooler side, so your body will transition easier to the outside temperature without sending your body into shock
5) Install an air purifier and a water purifier in your house or office. Alternatively, keep air-purifying plants, such as spider plants or holy basil
6) Get plenty of rest at the right times of day -- it is best to go to bed before 10pm and get up before 7am.
Arguetty concludes, "Going into allergy season with a strong immunity will decrease your likelihood of being vulnerable to all the beauty that nature has to offer us this time of year, which no one should have to avoid."
So why not make your life more active rather than reactive this allergy season? Use this time of year as an opportunity to cook delicious fresh seasonal foods and spice them up with "medicine" that tastes great as well. Cleaning out all the dusty corners of your body will allow you totruly enjoy spring - all while building long-term health.
FoxNews.com health writer Kyle Ellen Nuse contributed to this report.
For more great information on living healthy through every decade of life, click here to check out Dr. Manny's book The Check List (Harper Collins, 2007).
Dr. Manny Alvarez is the managing editor of health news at FOXNews.com, and is a regular medical contributor on the FOX News Channel. He is chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Additionally, Alvarez is Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.