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The ayurvedic approach to managing allergic rhinitis
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The ayurvedic approach to managing allergic rhinitis

An extensive guide to manage allergic rhinitis using ayurvedic principles, such as adjusting diet, promoting gut health, finding the right herb, and practising pranayama
Representational image| Shutterstock

Arun Kumar’s struggle with allergies began in his teens and worsened over time. “In the past, I have struggled with continuous sneezing and a runny nose, making it almost impossible for me to get a good night’s sleep,” says the 29-year-old.

Despite his efforts to fall asleep, he would wake up after just a few hours, feeling tired and groggy. It was like having a cold and cough every day, recalls Arun.

He initially tried finding relief by drinking warm fluids and herbal tea, taking hot baths, or applying warm compresses to his face. But despite these efforts, his symptoms persisted. He then consulted a physician and was diagnosed with allergic rhinitis at 18.

Understanding allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is characterised by inflammation of the nasal passages in response to allergens such as pollen, dust, pet dander, and mould.

“The inside lining of the nose swells in response to inhaling allergens. The symptoms range from mild to severe, such as a runny nose, continuous sneezing (especially when you wake up), an itchy nose or throat, and red, watery eyes,” says Dr Aishwarya P, associate professor, Pankajakasthuri Ayurveda Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. People can have allergies at different times of the year or when exposed to various allergens.

Tackle the trigger

“To manage the symptoms, I was asked to identify the source of the allergy and to avoid the allergens. Later, I found out that dust was the primary cause of the symptoms, as even small amounts of it were causing discomfort,” Arun told Happiest Health.

“Identifying the type of allergy one suffers from is the first step towards managing the condition,” says Dr Aishwarya. As obvious as it may seem, avoiding exposure to a particular allergen can give one’s body an important rest from the over-active immune response at the root of the allergy.

“If you have allergic rhinitis, it’s advised to use a mask to avoid the allergens,” warns Dr Aishwarya. Also, during pollen seasons (spring and autumn), try to stay indoors as much as possible.

Illustration by Syalima M Das

A more natural solution

“I have been taking non-drowsy antihistamines, as prescribed by my doctor, for the past ten years. Along with this, I also use eye drops and have found that this combination helps to control my symptoms of allergic rhinitis. However, lately, I have been experiencing nausea from taking these medications and wanted to seek something more natural,” says Arun.

He consulted an ayurvedic expert for the allergic condition, who prescribed herbal formulations, and advised dietary changes (avoiding curd, chocolate, and red meat). Arun was also asked to improve his gut health.

He was given nasya and herbal smoking therapy for 14 days and asked to continue with herbal medicines such as vyoshadi vatakam, dashamoola katutrayam decoction, haridra khanda and others for 21 days. With these therapies and dietary modifications, Arun now faces far few allergic reactions and has been able to manage his condition well.

Ayurvedic emphasis on gut health

An allergy results from a particular substance (the allergen) aggravating a specific dosha: vata, pitta, or kapha. Allergic rhinitis is described in ayurvedic texts as vataja pratishyaya roga, mainly an imbalance in kapha and vata (water and air elements). “The low digestive fire is one of the contributing factors for allergic rhinitis,” says Dr Sumesh Mani, consultant physician at Chakrapani Ayurveda Clinic, Jaipur, Rajasthan. He adds that allergies can create heaviness in the stomach and lead to sluggish digestion.

Ayurvedic management of this condition involves using herbal remedies, dietary modifications, and balancing gut health and lifestyle changes to manage symptoms and prevent a recurrence. According to Dr Mani, seasonal cleansing can enhance the immune system and reduce the risk of allergies by eliminating toxins, regulating the doshas, and improving digestive function.

Read more: Seasonal detox.

Digestive fire matters

According to ayurvedic experts, the strength of the digestive system is closely related to the immune system, which means that enhancing the digestive fire can significantly reduce allergy symptoms. This concept is substantiated by a study on the management of allergic rhinitis, which suggests that oral probiotics restore intestinal microbiota disturbance.

Reducing your intake of oily and processed foods and refined sugars helps in improving one’s digestive function (agni), adds Dr Mani. Mindful eating, sticking to a regular meal schedule, and including agni-enhancing herbs and spices (mentioned below) can also aid in digestion.

Keep an eye on food combinations

Ayurvedic experts list several foods that have a positive effect on health when taken individually. However, when combined, they can cause digestive difficulties and may aggravate allergic rhinitis. Food combinations such as meat and dairy, yoghurt and beans, and fruits and milk should be avoided.

Read more- Food combinations.

Therapies and herbs to the rescue

According to ayurveda practitioners, several herbs are known to help alleviate allergy symptoms. These include turmeric, amla, ashwagandha, guduchi or giloy, clove, fennel, ginger, cinnamon and long pepper. For allergic rhinitis, it is advised to consume trikatu (a blend of black pepper, dried ginger, and long pepper) with honey. “Drinking turmeric milk early in the morning is also recommended for managing allergic symptoms,” says Dr Aishwarya.

Additionally, nutmeg powder mixed with honey is also considered an effective home remedy for rhinitis. Ayurvedic experts also recommend panchakarma therapy, a purifying therapy that includes nasya and dhoomapana, especially for chronic conditions.

Controlled breathing

Pranayama, the practice of controlled breathing, offers more specific support to the respiratory passages that are often affected by allergies. The techniques also unwind the cycle of chronic stress that may trigger allergies.

According to a review study on the role of pranayama in allergic rhinitis, regular practise of pranayama provides relaxation and sound sleep. It works as a therapy for allergic rhinitis. Additionally, specific pranayama techniques such as Nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) and kapalbhati (skull shining breath) have been found to improve sinus functions that relieve nasal congestion.

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