As a human being, you are a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual ecosystem. It is important to understand that good physical health does not exist independently of the lifestyle decisions we make. We each exist in a personal and collective ecosystem within which our physical bodies interrelate with our internal processes and our external surroundings. No system of health care, herbal or otherwise, can cure a physical condition existing in an ecosystem that is out of balance.
Personal choice is the most important element in maintaining the health of the ecosystem. Who we are is the sum of the choices we make every day. We constantly choose what to eat and drink, whom to be with, what to talk about, which movies to watch, and so forth. All of these choices may seem insignificant when we make them one by one. But when we add them together, they have a tremendous impact on our bodies. For example, eating at a fast-food place occasionally does not have major health consequences. But when fast foods become our main food supply, our bodies become overloaded with fats, sodium and free radicals and starved for fiber, vitamins and minerals. Over a period of time, this type of diet leads to degenerative diseases. It may take years, but it will happen. Each choice that we make either adds up to “health enhancing,” in the positive column, or “health depleting,” in the negative column.
Maintaining our ecosystem is a dynamic process. It is a little bit like being on a seesaw. As we move away from our center, our energy is sapped, so that we are more subject to extreme
highs and lows. Conversely, the sooner we take measures to stay close to our pivot point of balance, the less energy we need to expend to stay healthy. This surplus energy can then be used for doing things in our lives that give us joy, happiness and contentment. Health is incredibly simple to attain and maintain. It is why most people miss the point; the obvious is often easy to miss. We have been taught to rely on experts to maintain and get our health back. A few pills, a little surgery. “Don’t do a thing,” say the doctors. “We’ll fix you.” There are some definite cases where surgery or medication will be the answer. But, by far, most of us get sick because we neglect the basics. Worse, doctors are neither trained nor alert to the neglect of the basics. Maybe that is because the 10 elements of health are so simple. It doesn’t require detailed scientific or medical knowledge. All that is required is that we make health-enhancing decisions on a daily basis in as many of the 10 elements as possible. Balancing and enhancing these 10 elements on a daily basis leads to good health and helps maintain good health.
How does a person maintain optimal health when seasonal and dietary allergies are all around us? Let’s explore the role of inflammation and allergies as well as natural ways to calm, stabilize, and strengthen the tissues affected by them.
Under normal circumstances, inflammation is a desirable and healthy response. It is triggered when body tissues are injured by physical trauma (i.e., a blow), intense heat or cold, irritating chemicals, or infections. Healthy inflammation prevents the spread of damaging agents to nearby tissues, stimulates the disposal of unwanted pathogens and damaged cell debris, and sets the stage for repair of the injured tissues. Allergies, on the other hand, are not of the healthy variety.
Allergists define allergies as the clinical expression of atopic diseases, including asthma, rhinitis, eczema, and food allergy. In other words, an individual’s body reacts to foreign substances like pollen as a threatening substance and responds to the perceived danger in an excessive way. Allergies can manifest as stuffy nose, itchy eyes, inflamed throat, asthma, sinus and lung congestion, irritated digestive tract, hives, and urinary tract inflammation. Unhealthy inflammation quickly escalates and, in some cases, can become life threatening. Allergic triggers include pollen, food, prescription and over-the-counter medication, smoke, pet dander, mold and fungus, dust mites, cockroach droppings, insect stings, latex, and fragrances. Mast cells are the primary cells responsible for initiating the misguided immune response to these triggers.
Mast cells and their function
Mast cells are immune cells located throughout the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, sinuses, mouth, throat, and the lungs. They are also found in the digestive, lower urinary, and reproductive tissues as well as in the skin. They play an essential immune protective role by being intimately involved in the defense against foreign microorganisms and in wound healing. Mast cells contain large amounts of a type of fatty acids called arachidonic acid that are converted into histamine and other pro-inflammatory molecules when they are irritated or when they perceive allergic triggers as threats. Negative lifestyle factors
Negative lifestyle factors such as high stress; lack of exercise; poor sleep; high fat, low fiber diet; and alcohol, drugs or tobacco use trigger the production and release of pro-inflammatory compounds. In the presence of these compounds, mast cells develop a hair trigger reaction.
Mast cells and inflammation
As negative lifestyle factors increase, our immune system’s resistance decreases. The mast cells become increasingly hyper vigilant and hyperactive. Over time, these negative lifestyle factors stimulate the surge of mast cells present in mucosal tissues by a factor of ten. Eventually, all it takes is a grain of pollen entering the nose and, instead of being washed away by mucus, the mast cells respond to this minor irritation by releasing massive quantities of histamine and other pro-inflammatory substances in the surrounding tissues. Histamine and other inflammatory molecules create immediate, powerful tissue reactions. In short order, local edema (swelling), warmth, redness, pain, and itching occurs and the person experiences symptoms such as sneezing, red and itchy eyes, drippy nose, post nasal drip, stuffy sinuses, itchy skin, gastrointestinal distress and irritated bladder. Additionally, the person may feel tired, nauseated and foggy brained. Continue reading