Like many of you, I grew up with bad seasonal allergies. From early Spring to late Fall, I dealt with itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, and runny nose. Sometimes it even carried over to the Winter. Also like many of you, I distinctly recall taking one medication that helped with my symptoms, and when that one stopped working, I switched to another. Eventually I settled with Allegra-D as my go-to.
I was an active kid and I played golf almost every day. I remember sitting in the car after my mom picked me up from the course and rubbing my eyes raw. The Allegra-D worked fairly well but without it I was in trouble. The stimulant in the Allegra-D, pseudoephedrine, affected my sleeping patterns and in the long term made me tired and weakened my immune system.
This trend carried on well into my twenties until I was exposed to a different way of thinking. My whole strategy for dealing with my allergies changed when I got to chiropractic school.
Instead of seeing my “symptoms” as a problem, I started thinking about them for what they are. They are my body’s way of dealing with something it is not familiar with. In the Winter, we may not be exposed to proteins like grass, wheat, pollen, etc for 6 months. During that time, our immune systems can “forget” what these things are. In the Spring, when we encounter these again, our bodies recognize these proteins as foreign once again. Because of this, our brain creates the “symptoms” that you commonly recognize. Watery eyes washes the eyes clean of the proteins, runny nose gets them out of your nose. Meanwhile, your immune system is using histamine to develop a strategy to deal with these innocent proteins.
This is where the problem with allergy medication begins. The histamines/leukotrienes/etc that create inflammation help the body to isolate these proteins and let the immune system go to work. All of the allergy medications are designed to stop what your body is doing to deal with the allergens. This is because the “symptoms” are uncomfortable.
My allergies have NEVER been better than when I stopped taking all allergy medication more than two years ago.
What do I do now? Of course I use regular chiropractic care to remove stress from my nervous system. In the Spring, I may have a week or two of “allergy symptoms,” but I know that before long my body will adapt and these will disappear. I also eat a clean, whole food diet to minimize systemic inflammation. My paradigm shift on what allergy symptoms are was a big boost to the mental aspect of the situation as well. How liberating it is to not wake up and be dependent on medication to feel well.
Dr. Joel Ardner