Coping with allergies and asthma
Updated: Jan 19
Anyone who suffers from allergies or asthma will be familiar with the symptoms: itchy eyes and a sore throat, sneezing, a blocked or runny nose, headaches, shortness of breath, wheezing and tiredness. This time of year is renowned for being the start of the allergy season, when pollen levels start to increase.
Unfortunately, with many of us taking advantage of the opportunity to do our daily exercise by getting out in the country as much as we can, we may feel that in doing so, we’ve inadvertently also increased our chances of encountering a pollen we may react to. Add to this the fact that if you so much as cough once at the moment or feel the start of a sore throat, it can instantly make you concerned that you may have symptoms of Covid-19 and it’s a recipe for anxiety.
The result is the start of a vicious circle. You’re worried. Your stress levels go up. And that makes it harder to breathe and can leave you feeling tired, headachy and even more anxious. You may then forgo exercise meaning you don’t get that little lift that helps deal with anxiety and that makes you more worried and can restrict your breathing and make your allergies feel even worse.
With this in mind, in this blog, I’m going to outline some alternative and natural ways to help you cope with the symptoms of allergies and asthma. However, please bear in mind, you should not stop taking any prescribed medication without first consulting your doctor. Similarly, if you think you may have symptoms of Covid-19, you must follow government advice in respect of isolation and treatment.
Finally, I would also recommend you read this post in conjunction with my previous blogs which address how to cope with anxiety and how to support and nurture your immune system and lung health.
Chinese Medicine and asthma and allergies
As some of you already know, traditional Chinese Medicine is an ancient system of health and wellness. It works on the basis that everything within us is interconnected and interdependent and therefore everything needs to be in harmony. Chinese medicine assesses the whole person (not just the symptom which is the western approach) and seeks to address the cause, prevention and treatment.
Understanding Chinese Medicine
At its most simple, Chinese Medicine is based on what it calls Qi (life energy which constantly flows through your body) and the idea of Yin and Yang. Ying and Yang is the belief that everything has an opposite. That means if one part of you is out of balance, that imbalance can have a ripple effect through your whole system. Therefore, Chinese Medicine treatments focus on promoting and maintaining the flow of Qi and keeping our opposites in balance.
The effect of the current pandemic on your lung health
Chinese Medicine has long since been used to help those with asthma or allergies. Of course, the lungs play a major role in our overall health and in Chinese Medicine that includes helping with the circulation of Qi as well as maintaining our defensive (Wei) Qi at a healthy level. Lungs are regarded as our first line of defence against any external invasion by pathogens such as allergens, viruses, bacteria, adverse weather conditions, parasites and poisons.
The emotional impact of lockdown
However, Chinese Medicine also believes that the lungs are essential in helping you “let go” of things you don’t need or those which are no longer serving you well. Lungs are also associated with sadness and grief. When you look at this in the context of the current situation, we have nearly all gone through a period of sadness and grief as we said goodbye to our old way of life. Many of us have lost loved ones and friends but even for those that haven’t, we recognise that life is never going to be the same again and will therefore have subconsciously been going through the various stages of grief.
If you find yourself crying a lot or are having difficulty processing the events of the last few months (and frankly who hasn’t), then according to Chinese Medicine that may have resulted in an imbalance in your lungs. Which brings us back to the vicious circle I’ve mentioned at the beginning of this post.
This means that apart from just focussing on the external cause of your symptoms (for example pollens), dealing with the emotional impact of what you’re currently going through is equally important. In my opinion, learning to manage and cope with feelings of loss, anxiety and the raft of other complex emotions that we’ve all been experiencing needs to be top of the agenda. And Chinese Medicine offers a number of different ways we can do this.
Acupuncture and asthma
It is estimated that asthma affects approximately 10% of the population and there have been a number of clinical trials in respect of the effectiveness of using acupuncture to treat asthma. This type of trial is complex and therefore it’s not possible to provide a universal outcome but what is clear, according to the British Acupuncture Council is that, “There is, however, evidence that acupuncture can improve patients' subjective experience of their symptoms, reduce their use of medication and improve immunological parameters. The smaller number of trials of induced asthma is more consistently positive.”
Above all else, patients who have tried acupuncture often describe it as an extremely soothing and calming process and to that end, it can help with both asthma, anxiety and allergies.
As it’s not possible to visit an acupuncturist at the moment, I have started to create a series of videos designed to help you use gentle acupuncture techniques to help you relax and feel calm as well to help open up your chest and strengthen your immune system. You can find them here on my YouTube channel. I’d love to know how you get on with these techniques so please let me know or contact me if you’d like a little more information.
Other Chinese Medicine techniques
As I hope I’ve made clear, Chinese Medicine takes a very holistic approach and that means it uses a number of very different techniques. Meditation, Yoga and Tai chi style exercises (with slow movements and the focus on the breath) are considered effective when approaching wellbeing and from a personal perspective, I can’t recommend them enough. There are lots of free or reasonably priced meditation Apps available or you can contact me, and I can advise you further on how to get started. The bottom line is, if you can allocate just 5 minutes a day to begin with, you’re likely to quickly see some benefits.
Equally, at a time when a number of us are likely to have to stay at home a lot more than usual for many weeks to come, now is a great time to explore and try new forms of exercise like Tai chi. Again, there’s lots of information available about this online, but if you’d like a particular recommendation, why not get in touch.
For my part, while I can’t open the doors of my business, I’ve taken on the work as a carer. This helps me cope with the current situation. Being a carer certainly isn’t for everyone, but finding your own thing, however small and however unique, that helps get you through this ongoing pandemic is important. To that end, try new hobbies, experiment with new ideas like meditation, and be open to new ways of staying well. But above all else, stay safe and keep in touch.