You'd love to stop and smell the roses, but every time you do, your allergies kick in, reducing you to a sneezing, sniffling, congested mess. And every spring, your pile of used tissues grows faster than the daffodils out your window. If this sounds familiar, maybe it's time to tackle your allergies using an Ayurvedic approach.
Ayurvedic theory maintains that although allergens such as pollen, dust, and dander trigger symptoms in susceptible people, they are not the primary cause of allergies. Instead, it's the accumulation of ama (Sanskrit for "that which harms or weakens") that's the main problem.
Ama is the sticky, toxic residue that comes from a less-than-ideal diet coupled with inadequate digestion. If you've ever fed wet wood into a fire that's not blazing, you know that smoke and charred waste are the result. In the same way, when your digestive fire is low or unsteady, or you eat foods that demand more digestive power than you possess, a kind of half-baked gunk is created—ama—and the trouble begins.When people continue their poor dietary practices, ama moves beyond the digestive tract via the circulatory system, settling in various bodily tissues and clogging internal pathways.
In an effort to protect the body from this poisonous plight, the immune system kicks into high gear. As the toxic load increases, it becomes hyper-vigilant and overly defensive, violently attacking even harmless substances like pollen, causing pointless symptoms and potentially weakening its ability to fight a real foe.
Spring, in particular, is the season of high kapha dosha. (It's easy to see kapha's elements—earth and water—in your surroundings, as snow melts, streams swell, and soil becomes heavy with moisture.) Kapha's heavy, cold, and viscous qualities naturally tend to dampen, rather than kindle, the digestive fire, inviting the ama/ allergy process to develop.
From an Ayurvedic point of view, every allergy sufferer is different, and qualified practitioners tailor treatment to address the whole person. Typically, though, Ayurvedic allergy treatment will emphasize four steps: boost the digestive fire, adjust the diet to support a "clean burn," detoxify, and restore the strength of the immune system. (To learn more about how Ayurveda can help you transition from winter to spring, see "Spring It On".)