(NaturalNews) It's allergy season. People are sneezing, wheezing and rubbing their itchy eyes. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, an estimated 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. That is one out of every five Americans. Allergies account for more than 17 million outpatient office visits each year. Food allergies alone account for 30,000 annual visits to the emergency room. The annual cost of allergies is estimated to be nearly $7 billion, with $5.7 billion in medications and $300 million in office visits.
Allergies have a myriad of causes from genetic to environmental. An allergy is basically a hypersensitivity of the immune system. Allergic reactions occur when a person's immune system reacts to normally harmless substances. Allergic reactions occur due to excessive activation of certain white blood cells called mast cells and basophils by an antibody called Immunoglobulin E (IgE).
Standard allopathic treatments for allergies rely heavily upon antihistamines. Integrative methods utilize herbs, acupuncture, saline nasal sprays, avoidance strategies and/or hypnotherapy. None of these methods, however, pay sufficient attention to the role of the adrenals in allergies and their treatment.
Most allergies involve an inflammatory process. As adrenal function decreases from the cycle of repeated inflammation, allergies worsen. Generally, if the adrenal glands were functioning properly, the body would not respond to the allergen. An overly sensitive immune system, one of the culprits for allergies, can be the result of weakened adrenal glands.
The adrenals are no bigger than a walnut and weigh less than a grape. They sit like a pyramid on top of each kidney, in the back, near the bottom of the ribs on each side of the spine.
Adrenal fatigue is any decrease in the ability of the adrenal glands to carry out their normal functions. This happens when your body is overwhelmed, when stress overextends the capacity of your body to compensate and recover. Consequently, the adrenals become fatigued and are unable to continue responding adequately to further stress.
Most individuals suffer from allergies because they are not producing adequate amounts of adrenal gland hormones. Often the problem is chronic and worsens when the person is fatigued, or under stress. As the adrenal glands heal, allergies are markedly reduced.
In Chinese medicine, adrenal function is viewed as Qi. There are two basic categories of Qi.
The first type of Qi is called prenatal Qi. This is a gift that each of us receives from our biological parents. We receive a finite amount of this Qi at birth. Prenatal Qi is our congenital vital force and is responsible for establishing our constitution. It is like an energetic savings account, but one to which you can not make a deposit. What we come into life with is all that we have.
The second type of Qi is called postnatal Qi. This is acquired after we are born and can be cultivated throughout the remainder of our lives. We are constantly either acquiring or depleting postnatal Qi without even realizing it: from the food we eat, the liquids we drink, and from the air we breathe.
When there is not enough postnatal Qi available, the body borrows from the prenatal Qi and converts it for use. The more postnatal Qi we produce, the less the body needs to rely on diminishing the prenatal Qi.
Obviously, when there is insufficient postnatal Qi and the reserves of prenatal Qi are heavily drawn upon, a person's health deteriorates. In Western terms, we would say that they suffer from adrenal exhaustion. Chinese medicine would say that they have depleted vital Qi.
When a person is suffering from adrenal exhaustion -- or depleted vital Qi -- they are prone to allergies. Thus, one of the components of treating allergies is to heal the adrenals and consequently replenish postnatal Qi.
This is not easy, as it requires lifestyle changes. People are generally much more willing to take a "magic bullet" than they are to modify existing, habituated lifestyle patterns. However, in the case of adrenal exhaustion and concomitant allergies, lifestyle modification is absolutely necessary.
Here are some lifestyle changes that can be very beneficial in the restoration of vital Qi and subsequent reduction of allergies:
· Remove the principal stressors in one's life. This is the most important step. Emotional stressors such as relationship and financial concerns needs to be dealt with and stabilized.
· Rest and sleep are extremely important. One will need a minimum of nine hours of sleep a night in order to revitalize Qi.
· Since vigorous exercise depletes the adrenals, engage in easy, gentle movement such as walking, yoga, and tai chi. The goal of exercise should be to relax rather than to body sculpt.
· Get involved in a daily meditation practice. Train the mind to be quiet and serene instead of distracted, hyper and/or frenetic.
· Far-infrared sauna can be quite useful for replenishing vital Qi. Try sitting in a far-infrared sauna several times a week for no more than 30 minutes.
A key to recovery is improving values and attitudes. Negative thinking is a bad habit that eventually tears down the Qi. Worry, fear and anger place added stress on the adrenals and deplete vital Qi.
Searching for love outside of oneself also depletes the body's Qi. Find love inside yourself first, and you will attract the right activities and companions.
There are many different ways to relax and tune in to the wisdom of the self. Slowing down is often necessary if you live a busy life. It can take great courage to realize that by doing less you can accomplish more. By staying home more, you can relate better with others. By resting more, you can be more creative and productive.
As the adrenals are restored -- and more optimal postnatal Qi levels are maintained -- allergies naturally subside. In this sense, one can view allergies as warning signs that they need rest. Every sneeze, cough and wheeze is the body's request for the person to take a step back and relax -- to rest the adrenals; to revitalize the postnatal Qi.
About the author: Sherry L. Ackerman, Ph.D., is a socially engaged philosopher and cultural sustainability advocate. Her new book, The Good Life: How to Create a Sustainable and Fulfilling Lifestyle explores critical issues from this perspective. At the end of each chapter is a list of things that you can do to create a more sustainable, healthier lifestyle. For more information: http://www.sherryackerman.com