Seasonal Allergies

Allergic reactions in spring are very common, and it’s no wonder. Since we spend less time outdoors, our immune systems are less accustomed to foreign substances, even natural ones. Other factors like long–distance traveling and invasive species continually expose us to new particles our bodies are unfamiliar with. When spring comes and the air fills with pollen, our immune systems overreact and we develop rashes, itchy, watery eyes, other forms of inflammation, sneezing, mucus, fatigue, etc. Fortunately, there is a natural, healthy way to deal with this problem: all you need to do is get your body used to the pollen by vaccinating yourself against it. The perfect vaccine is found in raw honey made by local bees. Processed honey won’t work, because all the pollen particles (along with digestive enzymes and other good stuff) has been removed in the processing. Raw honey has a somewhat stiff texture, like peanut butter, and some brands leave a layer of pollen and honeycomb on top of the honey that’s extra effective for reducing allergic reactions.

A few years ago I started eating “Really Raw Honey,” the brand that’s produced nearest to me, in Baltimore, Maryland. Each spring I ate about a pound of the honey, as soon as my allergies started, sometimes more if necessary, until they went away. Each year I’ve needed to eat less, and this year I haven’t needed it at all—I’ve had no symptoms. This is a really inexpensive, tasty, and permanent way to cure your allergies, so give it a try. The honey has many other health benefits as well. Look in your local health food store to see what brand is produced nearest you, and give it a try!

Allergies: Entering the Land of Milk and Honey

At this time of year, many people are afflicted with seasonal pollen allergies. I first wrote on this topic a couple of years ago, and I think it’s worthy to revisit it for all those who have signed on since then. This time we’ll talk about not just pollen allergies, but allergies as a whole. Allergies are simply hypersensitive reactions of the immune system to specific kinds of food or environmental substances (collectively known as allergens). Allergies are becoming more prevalent in our society, with the most common allergens being foods such as milk, wheat, corn, soy and peanuts, and substances such as pollen, dust, dog and cat hair, mold, etc.

I believe that there are two sides to what causes allergies. One lies with our own immune systems; the other with the allergens. To begin with the latter, we do live in a more toxic environment than ever before, and synthetic, chemical substances are mixed up with the organic matter in our environment in such a way that there’s much more out there for our immune systems to find threatening, if they happen to be sensitive systems. As for food allergies, it’s no accident that the most common allergens are the most prevalent, and processed, foods in our diets. Pasteurized milk, white flour, corn syrup, soy protein isolate, and heavily sprayed peanuts are all difficult to digest and can set off warning signals for the body as a result. Too much of these foods will provoke an immune system reaction.

Speaking of the immune system, it gets a lot less work these days than it ever used to. Just as we’re more exposed to toxins, we’re less exposed to natural substances like bacteria, pollen, dirt, viruses and other things that would have provided training ground for our immune systems. As we get less exposure to these natural threats, we have more sensitive immune systems that will overreact to more benign substances. It’s been found that people in Europe who were raised on farms (with all that dirt) are 1/10th as likely to have asthma and allergies as their urban and suburban counterparts.

So what can you do if you have allergies? Playing in the dirt is a good idea (for you and your kids), especially if it’s organic dirt. But more practically, the best thing is to get your immune system acquainted with the allergens in a way that lets it know they’re not dangerous. For pollen allergies, eat raw honey by the spoonful. This is honey in its natural, unprocessed state, with little bits of pollen still included. Simply eat a few spoonfuls a day until the allergies diminish. It’s vitally important to get raw honey that has been harvested close by, otherwise you won’t get the local pollen. For those living in the Washington, D.C. area, Really Raw Honey is a good company to get your honey from. Raw honey also treats stomach ulcers, skin burns and rashes, cold sores, and sore throats—a highly medicinal food indeed!

Another way to build up immune system strength is to drink raw, unpasteurized milk. This is what those farm kids are drinking. Unpasteurized milk still has all the beneficial bacteria and immunoglobulins that make your immune system strong. It even has some pollen—since the cows we get raw milk from are fed on grass. If you have milk allergies (like I do), you will probably have no problem with raw milk nevertheless, since raw milk is so easy to digest. Raw milk can heal by providing sustenance and nourishment to anyone who feels weak, sickly, diminished and underfed. If you need assistance in finding a source of safe, healthy raw milk, let me know and I will give you a hand.

Whole milk and raw honey (by the spoonful)—two foods that have signified abundance and health since biblical times. Who knew that eating right could be so much fun?

Spring Cleaning, Part 2: Spring Diet and Detox Diets

Spring Cleaning, Part 2: Spring Diet and Detox Diets

As I mentioned in the Introduction, during the month of spring the body naturally kick starts its own cleansing and detoxing process. The food that we eat, and the lifestyle that we live, can either aid or hamper this process. More cleansing and nutritious foods will make it easier for you to detoxify, while on the other hand eating cold, damp and heavy, fatty foods will make detoxifying more difficult and will induce colds and sinus trouble. Some people like to undergo a fast during spring as a way of making the cleansing process more total. This can be great idea, but is not a substitute for eating healthy during the rest of the year. In other words, if you decide to fast, don’t “retoxify” when you’re finished; eat a balanced diet instead. If you take care of yourself for most of the year, you don’t end up in a position where you need to seriously detoxify in the spring.

Whether you’re fasting or not, the best spring diet is going to be more low–fat than diets corresponding to the other seasons. That means cutting down on fatty foods like dairy products, nuts (peanut butter), processed foods with hydrogenated oils or vegetable oils in general, and meat that has a high fat content. This is not to say there is something intrinsically wrong with fat, but at this time of year a lot of fat interferes with the natural cleansing going on in your body, which doesn’t expect a lot of fat to still be around after a cold winter. So this is the one time of year when a low–fat diet makes sense. Note: this does not mean low–fat versions of normally high–fat foods. Just eat smaller amounts of high–fat foods at their normal fat content. Fat cravings are not as common in the spring, although if you feel like you need some fat, then go ahead and eat it. Now, what about the foods that are good for the spring? A discussion of the spring diet follows below, and at the end of this article is a section on fasting.

The Spring Diet . The best foods for spring are dried foods left over from the winter and the fresh young greens and sprouts that are just beginning to grow. These greens have a high amount of chlorophyll, which is healing and cleansing for the blood. The greens usually have a bitter or pungent flavor, which is just what you need to break up accumulations of fat in the body. The dried foods, on the other hand, help balance the spring body’s high water content. Below is a list of nutritious spring foods, divided by food group, partially adapted from John Douillard’s The Three–Season Diet.

 

Type Food Healing Property
Fruit Dried Fruit Drying (of course)
Lemons Sour (liver cleansers)
Limes
Grapefruit
Sour apples
Strawberries High in antioxidants
Raspberries
Vegetables Asparagus Stereotypical spring food
Brussels Sprouts Very alkaline, nutrient rich
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Celery
Spinach
Sprouts
Swiss Chard
Carrots Balances bitter vegetables
Chili Peppers Hot, breaks up mucus
Cilantro Spicy/bitter, very cleansing
Mustard Greens
Parsley
Watercress
Collards Bitter, detoxifying
Kale
Dandelion Greens Very bitter, detoxifying
Corn Slightly sweet, goes well with greens
Endive High in fiber, also cleansing
Lettuce
Garlic Pungent, burns up fat
Ginger
Onions
Radishes
Turnips Slightly pungent
Grains Cooked Amaranth, Barley, Corn, Millet, Quinoa and Brown Rice are all good, but reduce wheat. Granola is a good dry cereal.
Beans All dried beans and bean sprouts are good, especially kidneys, lentils, split peas and mung beans.
Nuts/Seeds Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are best, lowest in fat.
Dairy Dairy is usually too cold and thick, but some butter and yogurt is okay.
Meat/Fish Low–fat protein like chicken and fish is best; dried meats like naturally preserved beef jerky are okay too.
Oils Olive oil is best, but reduce consumption of oil to below winter levels.
Sweeteners Raw, local honey is perfect! If you have cravings for sugar and fat in the spring, combine honey with yogurt and berries.
Beverages Water, Green Tea or Black Tea are good. So are pungent teas such as peppermint, dandelion and ginger.
Spices Use lots of pungent spices when making rice and beans—especially black pepper, cayenne pepper, ginger and garlic.

In general, as you can see from above, what’s recommended is a mostly vegan diet, with a lot of whole grains, cooked beans and bean sprouts, fresh vegetables, dried fruit, and bitter, pungent and sour flavors. This is the diet that will help you feel the best in the spring and enhance the cleansing process. In regard to fruits and vegetables, some of the above don’t become available until later in the spring. Look for what is freshest and was grown locally. The foods that naturally grow at this time of year have the most healing properties for spring. Also, remember that low–fat doesn’t mean low–protein. Don’t just eat salads, but have plenty of rice and beans and enough chicken and fish to keep from getting too cold. It’s not summer yet!

The Detox Diet. Eating only the foods listed above is already going to be highly detoxifying. However, some people like to take a few days, a week or even two weeks in the spring to seriously cleanse their bodies. Fasting is a very old tradition, and is an important part of many different religions. Sometimes fasting can be an emotionally or spiritually cleansing experience on top of being a physically cleansing one. I think it’s worth trying out just to see what the experience is like. If ever you don’t feel well, you can always just go back to your normal pattern of eating.

There are obviously different levels of intensity in fasting. Just eating cooked whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits—the foods listed in the table above—would be the most relaxed fast. Presented below are some different options for fasting:

1. Whole Grain fast. You could also call this the “Bread and Water” diet. Essentially, it involves eating cooked whole grains such as millet and brown rice, chewed very thoroughly, with water as your sole beverage. The whole grains can also be combined with mung beans that have been cooked with kombu. This diet purges toxins from the body while still providing a lot of energy in the form of carbohydrates. Better for people on the thin side who can’t afford to lose a lot of weight.

2. Steamed Vegetable fast. This diet is good for people who would like to lose weight but can experience symptoms of coldness from time to time. Eat two or three different cooked vegetables combined at a time for your meals, and no other foods. Drink water or herbal tea if thirsty.

3. Raw fruit and vegetable/fruit and vegetable juice fast. This diet is good for those with symptoms of heat who want to lose weight and detoxify. Combining fruits and vegetables at the same meal is not always best, so alternate eating fruits and vegetables. As always, chew your food very thoroughly—even chew the vegetable and fruit juices to mix them with alkaline saliva. Beware of fruit and vegetable juices that have added sugar, which will cancel out the cleansing effects.

4. The Master Cleanser. This diet consists solely of water and a drink called the “Master Cleanser”—no food. One glass of the Master Cleanser consists of 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, a pinch of cayenne pepper and a cup of water. Mix together and drink 8-12 glasses a day. Always drink a glass of water with the master cleanser to rinse out your mouth afterwards. Drink as much water as you like. Lemon juice helps detoxify the liver, while the hot pepper breaks up fat and mucus in the body. This diet can be followed for a day, a few days, or a week—continue for as long as you would like, but listen to your body and eat if you feel like you have to.

Some people can get too obsessed with fasting and fast against their body’s wishes. Remember that it is not an alternative to a healthy everyday diet, but it can be very helpful if you feel you need to cleanse yourself of toxins accumulated over a long period of time. Finally, if you choose to fast, remember that your body may not be able to sustain a high level of activity. Don’t work out too hard, and get plenty of sleep.

Spring Cleaning

It’s been almost a year since I started writing this newsletter, and this is my first chance to talk about spring. In this issue, I’ll writing about the lifestyle changes that go hand–in–hand with the coming of spring, and next month I’ll write about spring diets: detoxes and fasts. An important part of spring is the time–honored tradition of “spring cleaning.” The change in the weather enables changes in many other ways: we can change our wardrobe, change our activities, and generally reorganize ourselves for the period to come. One thing I’ve noticed when working with clients is how they find it much easier to accomplish their goals when their surroundings encourage it. Having a healthy and supportive home environment is very important for spurring you to take on new challenges, or even just to keep doing what you’re doing in a peaceful setting. A good general rule to follow when spring cleaning is Thoreau’s message from Walden: “Simplify.” In other words, I recommend that you pack a bag and depart for a small cabin in the woods with a pond nearby. But if, by chance, that’s not feasible for you at the moment, I have some less rigorous recommendations.

Clean out your kitchen. It is so much easier to eat healthy if you have counter space and healthy food in your refrigerator. Put away almost every kitchen tool and box of food that you don’t use every day until you have a good amount of clear counter space where you can prepare food. Even if you don’t prepare food, having clear space is important because it gives you more possibilities and peace of mind. Unless you are a Zen Buddhist, leave a few often–used tools out. Too much clear space can also signify an under–used kitchen. I also recommend looking through your refrigerator and cupboards for processed foods that contain high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, or any ingredients that you have trouble pronouncing, and tossing those in the wastebasket. These foods can cause health problems like weight gain and arterial blockage, and many others. The same with any food you know you’re not going to eat. Throw it away! Don’t eat it to use it up, if you know it’s not good for you. That’s treating your body like a wastebasket.

Include more fresh air and green things. We are all healthier with more oxygen. As the air starts to warm up, open the windows more often and let some fresh air in. You may feel surprisingly more clear–headed and positive than usual. Plants also provide oxygen through photosynthesis, and they look nice.

Cancel some projects. Spring is a good time to grow and thrive, not to become overburdened with responsibilities. As a way of simplifying, let go of some things that you don’t enjoy any more or that you feel like are just obligations. You want to focus your energy on a few things that are really important to you, and enjoy them to the fullest.

Plan out what you want to do. Some people find it helpful to have a written record of what their goals are, especially those of us who tend to think too much. As I said before, spring is a time for growth and cleansing. Plants are always trying to grow towards the sunlight (which accounts for the odd shapes of some trees). Figure out what direction you want to grow in; whether you want to improve your career situation, increase your family, improve your health and eating habits, start exercising, learn something new, or grow spiritually. Once you’ve figured it out, do a few things towards this goal every day and enjoy yourself the rest of the time.

Follow the principle of fasting. Spring is a time when many people follow detoxifying diets, or fasts, of just vegetables, fruit and vegetable juice, or just water. As I said, I’ll write about these diets next time—right now, in my part of the country, it’s too soon to start doing a fast. However, you can fast in more ways than just “food fasting.” If you can, take some time, at least a few days, to abstain or withdraw from all the demands of life, and clear your head. Detoxify yourself of thoughts and emotions that may be leading you in an unproductive direction. Just as important as releasing stored toxins from unhealthy foods is to release stored stress and emotional tension.

One final note about spring cleaning: make sure you wait until spring is really here to follow a detoxifying diet. Sometimes we can be too eager and eat a very light diet while it is still winter time. Keep eating filling and satisfying meals up until you’re really sure it’s spring; that way, when you do fast, your fast will probably be much healthier and last longer.