Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dandelions, Pollen, and Dust - oh my!

I've been a bit of a cranky pants lately. It is true. I can admit it. I'm lethargic and sneezy. Headachy and prone to ignore completely the fact that people are talking to me. Slightly disgusting to be around, with a bright red nose, eyes that look like I haven't stopped crying for months, and a tissue almost always at hand. And why???? Not because I am depressed, or stressed out, or sick. No!!! It is the allergies! The hay fever! Those horrid things that make frolicking in the garden a dangerous pastime! And I do so want to be frolicking in a garden.

I don't know why, but this year they are worse than they have been for ages. Other people say so too, so it is not just me.

Now, I am a sufferer of seasonal allergic rhinitis (that would be the pollen and seasonal moulds), and also perennial rhinitis (that would be dust and indoor molds). So this time of year is always the worst.

This year though, I stupidly subjected myself to the perennial allergens in high doses, right at the height of the seasonal allergens - the very days that many of those beautifully jolly yellow dandelions were turning white and blowing away, and the maples and flowering trees were sending out their reproductive dust to create new trees. And what did I do? I spent an entire day in the world's dustiest library flinging elderly dust and mould filled books into the (appropriately titled) weeding bins. And then. A meezly two days later! Off to the ancient cottage to sweep up decades worth of dust in the mildewy, undisturbed for months, building. Smart.

So I have only myself to blame. And to all of you forced to deal with me lately, I apologize. Sincerely. I do not mean to be a red nosed ogre. You have my leave to tell where to go.

I've been on a real kick lately to eat more natural foods, and to avoid those modified products that are, as Michael Pollan says in his book In Defense of Food, more "edible foodlike substances" than actual food. Going hand in hand with this, I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of pumping my body full of allergy medicine for months at a time. So I have been doing a little research into more natural ways to ease the problem.

Something easy to do when you are home is to wash the allergens away. Pollen and dust and mould spores are all airborne. This means they can land on you, they get on your face, nose, clothes, etc. So it is important to wash your face and hands when you get home. I've also been changing out of my outdoor clothes. Also, because we are breathing them in, we need to get rid of them from the throat and nasal passages. The solution? Rinse with salt water.

Green tea appears to be everyone's new favourite heal-all. It shows up in the allergy literature too! Green tea is renowned for its high concentrations of antioxidants. Japanese researchers have discovered that one of them, methylated epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), halts the production of symptom-triggering histamine and IgE in lab tests. The researchers aren't sure how much you'd have to drink to see the effects. Well, I've been drinking about two cups a day. I'm not sure that I'm seeing any results. If anyone drinks more than that and swears by it let me know!

On the subject of tea - seasonal allergy sufferers should always steer clear of chamomile tea. Chamomile is a member of the same family as ragweed. You are likely allergic to it!

I am now considering purchasing an indoor air filtration system with a HEPA filter. I live in quite an old building, and no matter how often I vacuum and dust there always appears to be filth everywhere. These are relatively expensive though, so I'll be putting more research into it before purchasing.

For a natural anti-histamine I've discovered that you can use stinging nettle. Either in capsule form, or in tea form. I didn't want to go off my usual claritin during a busy work week. But this weekend I am trying the nettle. I will report back.

The reason I started writing today's post had nothing to do with alternative allergy therapy. What I wanted to say was that, despite the sneezings and wheezings I'm suffering, I am thoroughly delighted that new laws about the use of cosmetic pesticides mean that in the spring in Canada, we get to look at fields like this one, and not a boring manicured green. The dandelion is a beautiful flower. And a healthful one. Dandelion greens are really good for you! And they taste good too. I wouldn't recommend picking the dandelions in your yard to eat necessarily. At least not until the local pesticides are more completely done away with. But you can sometimes get them at the market. I recommend steaming them gently and then adding a little lemon juice for flavour and to keep them green. They make a great side dish or alternative to salad! And they are so happy. I kept meaning to take a picture, and now it is too late. The entire strip of lawn between our library and the street was covered in dandelions this month. It was lovely. Springlike, colourful. Almost everyone had a smile on their face while looking at them. So I am very glad they are back. And I am looking forward to the other wildflowers that will make a comeback as nature begins to take over once again. I wonder how many years of no spraying it will take for nature to really come back into its own?

If anyone has any other allergen avoidance tips, let me know! I am all ears (when they occasionally become unplugged enough that I can hear you). Yep. I'm a charmer...

1 comment:

ru said...

my dad swears by grapeseed extract for his seasonal allergy problems. the height of my allergies don't kick in until late summer/early fall - i am a ragweed sufferer, so i am still able to enjoy the spring with (mostly) impunity! good luck on nature's path! report back!