Margaret Thatcher was on to something…

Over the last couple of days I have noticed quite a lot of yellow pollen on my car. This has also coincided with a few extra visits in the clinic from those suffering from hay fever related symptoms. I have treated quite a few people who have a tendency to hay fever They have told me that their symptoms have been considerably less this year. This is good to hear because it is the worst I have seen the pollen since living here for 5 years.

If you are one of the unlucky few suffering there are a few things you can try. I would like to explain a bit about the physiology and principles behind my advice, as it will help you understand how you can really help yourself.

In oriental medicine we view the lungs -skin and intestines as a single unit. It’s rather like the image of a worm -which has a single gastrointestinal tract that passes all away from the top (mouth) of the body to the end (anus) while being inside a fleshy tube.

What’s interesting about these organs in humans is that they are inside the body yet are in contact with the external environment. In other words -the lungs receive air and the stomach and intestines receive food. We can’t really change our quality of air in our immediate environment- but we can certainly change the quality of our food.

Oriental medicine considers the energetic quality of food rather than the actual food itself. So, for example, people who live in hot climates tend to have a diet that is more energetically spicy and vegetable based where as those who live in colder climates tend to have a blander diet, which is typically more dairy and meat based. Up until 140 years ago the Japanese diet was entirely vegetarian. It was only when the emperor consumed a large steak that the rest of the population followed. True vegetarian food in Japan today is only really eaten in Buddhist temples. On the streets it’s actually quite hard to eat vegetarian food, even vegetable soups generally contain meat stocks.

Anyway, an interesting thing about the Japanese is that they physiologically have a much longer gastrointestinal tract than us Europeans. The reason behind this is because the Japanese eat a lot of root vegetables, which contain a lot of fiber. Having a longer intestine allows maximum absorption of nutrients and since cooked vegetables don’t contain many toxins once consumed, they are relatively safe inside the body. The body certainly knows whats good for it. Europeans on the other hand have much shorter tracts because meat actually decays once inside the body, which releases toxins so, during digestion, you don’t want it sitting around in the intestines. It needs to be eliminated quickly.

I have side tracked a bit on what is potentially a bigger topic- so, when we consume food we should consider more the energetic quality particularly when we are sick or suffering from a cold. The spicy flavor is quite significant for those with poor circulation and who are prone to hay fever. Its good because the spicy flavor is connected to the Lungs, and we say it helps radiation. If you have enough of it you sweat and thus, by sweating, you’re actually cooling your body as well as eliminating toxins. Try drinking warmer drinks through the day, and definitely  avoid too much dairy products, which slow down the digestion and inhibit our defensive radiation function. Avoid salads as a single dish on its own, but eat after your main dish and add a bit of salt and plenty of black pepper. Sip warmer drinks through the day and don’t drink anything cold directly from the fridge ( please see suggestion below for a good tea you can make at home )

As I mentioned above, although we are more suited as Europeans to a meat protein and dairy based diet, its good to avoid things that stick around in the digestive tract for a while AND -by adding the spicy flavor to say milk or cheese, it actually counteracts the “cold” quality dairy produce has. We say its cold! This is interesting topic. It’s not actually cold in the normal sense (of course its cold in that its at room temperature or strait from the fridge), but we can think of it as being energetically more suitable in a cold environment. So it’s more warming for the body energetically as its difficult to digest. One of the useful things about eating so called energetically cold foods is that they allow the energy of the body to be more inside (on account of the fact that it takes longer to digest and requires a bit more energy to do so). This is important in cold climates, as our vital organs need to be warmer at the expense of periphery circulation. Personally I enjoy eating cheese in the winter and can certainly handle a rare steak but, when we approach summer, my diet switches to a spicier, vegetable and fruit based one for the reasons above.

Another thing I should mention is that the opening and closing function of the skin is affected a bit during spring. This is a period when the pores tend to open a bit more. If for example you have been sitting around in the winter with the central heating on and are now suffering from hay fever, then my friend, you only have yourself to blame! Central heating tends to keep the pores open more and upset that closing function. In the winter, it’s more natural that the pores are closed. Its much easier for a pathogen (such as pollen) to enter the body AND, we have somewhat hampered our natural ability to rally our natural defensive mechanisms to counter this. Another thing, I tend to see people with more skin rashes this time of year. If the heat is a bit stuck, then its not coming out which means the opening function of the pores isn’t good -or the heat cant come out fast enough. This tends to occur in people who have eaten a more summer-based diet in the winter. If you’re a vegetarian, you may suffer a bit this time of year. The one and only thing that I agree with what Margret Thatcher said is that you shouldn’t eat strawberries in the winter!

Spicy Tea- ( one cup )

About a thumb size piece of ginger

About an inch of cinnamon

A few flack pepper corns ( if you have )

Strong English tea bag

About half a spoon of honey

Boil the above ingredients  in 2 cups of water ( don’t add the tea bag yet ) for about 5 minutes

Then add the tea bag / honey and simmer for a few minutes.

Drink it warm.

 

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Illustration by Etsuko Nagahama // Photos by Harumi Urano
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