Healing approaches

Spring fever: Tackling hay fever the homeopathic way

By Lisa Glydon, homeopath

As we move into spring, it is time for many of us to start thinking about how to protect ourselves against allergies, such as hay fever. On a year-by-year basis, we are seeing a consistent increase in allergic responses brought about by reactions to airborne irritants and/or certain foods.

Allergens can consist of virtually anything that provokes a hypersensitive reaction. They range from pollens and pollutants, such as exhaust fumes, to foods, mobile phones and even, in certain cases, the sun. Such reactions can be mild to life threatening, and everything in between.

The three most common substances that people react to are pollen, dairy and wheat. Although there is no proven connection, interestingly all three are originally grass products. It may be that some hay fever sufferers become sensitised to proteins that are common to grains, grasses, and possibly milk.

Dairy products encourage mucus production and, in certain situations, should be avoided. Similarly, many modern strains of processed wheat are high in gluten content, which can irritate the digestive tract and likewise stimulate mucus production.

Depending on how severe it is, the reaction to such substances will determine whether you are suffering an allergic response or simply experiencing an intolerance. But when a homeopath treats hay fever, there are two aspects they are trying to achieve:

  1. To treat the acute hay fever symptoms that are presenting immediately: Here the aim is to select a remedy that is most similar to the condition itself as homeopathic medicine produces the same symptoms as those experienced by the sick person and, in doing so, provokes the body into throwing those symptoms off. In other words, like is cured by like.
  2. To provide long-term constitutional treatment in order to remove the body’s tendency to over-react to substances that it should be able to deal with: Hay fever is a more complicated condition than it first appears. As a result, it can take someone two or three seasons to get rid of completely, with each season demonstrating less severe reactions and symptoms than the last.

Here is why: An over-reactive, or allergic, response is often a sign of a weakened and stressed immune and nervous system. To achieve healing in this instance, a homeopath needs to discover why the ‘broken down’ system is reacting in this way. Careful management of lifestyle and diet will support and improve weakened organs, thereby reducing over-reactive responses.

Most people think of the immune system as simply ‘strong’ or ‘weak’. But, in fact, it consists of many sections, and each section must work well with every other one. Organising how these immune responses work together is the job of a group of white blood cells called ‘lymphocytes’. These lymphocytes organise the fine workings of the sections within the immune system.

For people with allergies, one particular type of lymphocyte seems to play an important role – the T cell. These regulatory T cells limit inflammation by turning off unwanted immune responses that are the hallmark of an allergy. So rather than fearing the allergen, which may have been in the environment for many years, it makes more sense to strengthen the immune system to deal with it.

When the body suffers a ‘stress’ of some kind, it is normal to release histamine, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. This ‘stress’ could come from the external environment or take the shape of a stressful thought or worry.

Histamine causes your capillary walls to become more permeable so that more antibodies and nutrients can reach the body to try and heal it. The result is local ‘inflammation’ and the involuntary smooth muscles (which are hollow and work unconsciously, such as the stomach, oesophagus and bronchus) contract to protect the body from invading pathogens or poisons. The result here might be either a cough or a build-up of sputum.

But in the case of an allergic reaction, the response is a lot more dramatic. The immune system goes into overdrive, causing other more severe reactions, such as extreme rhinitis, streaming eyes, sneezing and even asthmatic-type breathing issues, such as wheezing. This situation is essentially histamine gone wild and the usual medical treatment is to give the sufferer an anti-histamine tablet.

The problem is that such drugs tend to be overused, can cause nasty side effects and suppress the body’s ability to express itself. As a result, they are a nuisance to homeopaths as they mask an individual’s true allergic symptoms.

Root causes

Homeopaths are looking not only for the stresses around life circumstances that may have led to the attacks, but also the allergen concerned, and inherited traits. If a child presents with hay fever, there is often a family history of allergies and so the child could have been born with an inherited weakness.

Stress is also frequently behind the onset of many hay fever-based or allergic responses. This ‘stress’ may come in the form of fear, worry over exams or family matters, grief, anger, or even a recent illness, course of antibiotics, coming off the contraceptive pill or having a vaccine.

If there is nothing obvious, it can be helpful to explore an individual’s history to find out what has caused their constitution to behave in this way. A variety of forgotten situations could be the root cause, including negative or suppressed childhood ailments or traumas. The patient could also have an underlying infection, such as candida albicans, or a weakened digestive system, which allows pathogens to pass through and results in an inflammatory response. 

No matter how long ago these hidden situations took place, they will need to be addressed sooner or later as the body has a tissue memory. In other words, it finds ways to express these memories, and hay fever is one way of doing this.

This situation means that hay fever can take several years to tackle, with the symptoms becoming less severe each season as the remedies work through the historical causes mentioned. As part of the process, the body will reveal what needs to be treated through its symptom picture, and the homeopath matches these symptoms with the required ‘similum’ remedy.

But it is not always enough just to provide the appropriate remedy for that year’s symptoms, even if it does have the desired effect. The underlying ‘maintaining’ causes based on history and heredity also have a part to play, and it is they that make both seasonal and chronic hay-fever symptoms so complex to treat. This is why nutritional supplements are rarely sufficient on their own and why orthodox treatments simply offer relief at best and suppression at worst.

If you recognise the following symptoms during an acute hay fever episode, try taking the suggested remedy, in up to 10 doses. If they are not effective, change the remedy.

  • Allium 30c: Burning discharge from the nose and bland discharges from the eyes. Symptoms are worse indoors rather than outdoors. Light hurts the eyes, which are hot and itchy. The larynx also feels as if there are hooks sticking in it, which is made worse by warm food or drink.
  • Arsenicum albicans 30c: Your temperature is higher than normal and you feel utterly worn out but better in the warmth. Sniffing warm water up the nose gives relief from sneezing, but light hurts the eyes. There is wheezing and tightness in the lungs, a burning throat, restlessness and you are worrying a lot.
  • Arsenicum iod 30c: Thick, honey-coloured discharge from the nose, following three or four days of sneezing, sore nostrils and a burning sensation inside the nose. Warmth makes the symptoms worse. You also have a burning throat, an irritating cough, dry, scaly skin and feel worried and anxious.
  • Dulcamara 30c: Constant sneezing, stuffy or streaming nose, eyes swollen and watery. These symptoms are made worse by being outdoors or in a damp atmosphere. You may feel chilled after physical exertion.
  • Euphrasia 30c:Thick, burning discharge from the eyes, which are very swollen. There is a bland discharge from the nose, and you cough up phlegm. Symptoms are worse indoors.
  • Gelsemium 30c: Non-stop sneezing. Your eyes feel heavy and/or droopy, puffy and watery. You feel apathetic and listless and have no energy for anything. You may also feel dizzy and shaky.
  • Nux vomica 30c: Your body feels as if it is smarting, and you are very sensitive to light. Your nose is stuffy and tickly, although you sneeze less outside. You also have obstructed breathing and while your nose is blocked at night, it is runny during day. Other symptoms include itchiness inside your ears and eustatian tubes. You feel irritable and angry, want to drink coffee or alcohol, and have a headache that feels like a knife has been driven through you above the eyes.
  • Psorinum 30c: You are very sensitive to the cold and feel like you want to lie down. Your nose is streaming, but the discharge is bland or feels burning. You experience breathlessness, which is relieved by raising your arms away from the body. You also feel restless and hot at night, but in mood terms are generally low and melancholic.
  • Pulsatilla 30c: There is a bland yellow/green discharge from your nose and eyes, which gets better in the open air. You have no thirst, but feel weepy and need lots of support.
  • Sabadilla 30c: Symptoms include violent sneezing, watery eyes, red and swollen eyelids and a headache that feels as if your head is shrinking. Your thinking is slow and dull and you feel generally chilly, but your sore throat is soothed by warm drinks.
  • Silica 30c: Your nose is stuffed up, especially on waking in the morning, and your sinuses feel tender. You also feel generally chilly.

Foods that help

Eat at least nine servings of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables a day, choosing those which are high in folates, vitamin A and fibre. Folates from food are needed for cell repair and growth, immune and brain function. Brightly coloured fresh foods are high in flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune system boosting qualities – parsley and green tea are particularly high in these.

Dark green leafy vegetables and legumes, such as lentils and beans, as well as strawberries and grapes are other great sources. The Western diet often results in chronic inflammatory disorders as it typically contains about 1,000mg/day of flavonoids, whereas a traditional Asian diet contains four times that amount, much of it in the shape of herbs and spices.

Lisa Glydon

Lisa Glydon has been a qualified homeopathic practitioner since 2007, but she also uses herbs, supplements and Bach/Bush Essences to boost the body’s systems and help remove emotional blockages. She initially trained as a State Registered Nurse in London, specialising in oncology and palliative care, but now treats clients of all ages and with all kinds of conditions. Lisa also runs workshops and provides talks to school children and adult groups about all aspects of health care.

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Healing approaches

Gut health: Twelve ways to nurture a healthy microbiome

Microbes
Microbes

By Lisa Glydon, homeopath.

It is an exciting time to be a holistic health practitioner as information that the community has known about for a long time now is starting to hit the mainstream. For example, you can read about gut microbes in nearly every health and fitness magazine and they are talked about all over the TV and radio these days too.

But the idea of gut microbes and personal microbiomes is still a new and often confusing one for many people to grasp and so the aim here is to make this important aspect of day-to-day health more understandable.

The truth about bacteria

Orthodox medicine appears to take the view that bacteria, in all its forms, is harmful. As long ago as the mid-1800s, for example, Louis Pasteur, the famous French biologist, microbiologist and chemist, believed in the principles of ‘germ theory’. This theory posits that all disease comes from germs, viruses and/or bacteria. So in order to remain healthy, we must ‘fight’ them by killing them off within our bodies or avoid their influence by maintaining as sterile an environment around us as possible.

Using this concept as the basis, Pasteur developed vaccines to combat them – and this theory of medicine has been popular in the West ever since, leading over time to the formation of a multi-million pharmaceutical industry.

But interestingly, Pasteur admitted on his deathbed that he had been wrong about this theory all along. It was not the bacteria itself that was to be feared as it posed no threat to a healthy individual. It was only if their health was compromised that a bacterium could take hold.

This was, in fact, the view espoused by Pasteur’s bitter rival, the scientist Antoine Bechamp. He believed that it was the “terrain or soil” (an individual’s immune system and tissue quality) that was of the upmost importance. In his view, “the germ was nothing, but the terrain was everything”.

In his research, Bechamp noted that germs were everywhere, even within human beings, and that they were opportunistic in nature. Only when the tissue of the “host” (person) was “damaged or compromised” did they take hold and the symptoms of infection or disease manifested themselves.

To prevent illness, he understood the secret was not to kill off germs but to foster:

  • A good diet;
  • Hygiene;
  • A healthy lifestyle, which included having lots of fresh air, sleep and exercise.

Sadly though, Bechamp’s theory was mostly forgotten until recently in favour of Pasteur’s ideas, which led to the rise of the vaccinations, antibiotics and anti-microbials that are so important in Western medicine. So let’s explore the concept of the ‘microbiome’ a bit further.

Ecology
Ecology

Our body’s natural ecology

The term ‘microbiome’ means a ‘small habitat’. It is a ‘living ecology’ that starts in the first three years of life and is fully formed by a child’s fourth birthday.

Each microbiome is unique and the health of the system is based on culture, parentage and lifestyle. As a result, it makes sense to place more emphasis than is currently the case on pre-conceptual care to help support its healthy growth.

Unfortunately however, children born by Caesarean section are disadvantaged in that they do not have the opportunity to absorb essential microbes while travelling through the birth canal, which is lined with millions of them. Breast milk also contains prebiotics, which line the large intestine in the baby’s gut and provide its microbiome with the food required to develop and grow. If a child does not have access to these sources of goodness, the possible health consequences can be severe.

Hippocrates, the ‘founder of medicine’ and the greatest physician of all time, informed us as many as 2,000 years ago that “the gut is the source of all disease”. But it seems we have been slow to respond.

Instead of protecting it, we have replaced traditional farming methods with industrial approaches based on pesticides, which have depleted our soil reserves. We ingest heavy metals and too much sugar and use a range of techniques to extend the shelf life of food, all of which are toxic to our delicate digestive membrane and lead to gut putrification.

These practices have knocked our microbiome out of balance, which has resulted in many of the modern-day diseases we experience today. Just as we see our environment suffering, so our microbiomes are suffering too.

Tribal cultures have tended to benefit from healthier microbiomes – until they are introduced to modern ways of living and eating, that is, when obesity, addiction and chronic disease often develop rapidly.

Stress

Stress is a common cause of many diseases. The Vagus, or Gastric, nerve (as it used to be called) in our gut is crucial to its health. Meaning ‘the wanderer’, it is linked to a series of neuro-gastric nerves. Starting in the gut and moving upwards towards the brain, the Vagus nerve is stimulated by cortisol, a hormone produced by stress or worry.

Stress has a huge impact on our gut and brain microbiomes. The gut, which was often referred to in the old days as the ‘second brain’, manufactures 90% of our serotonin and dopamine, the hormones that makes us feel happy, as well as gaba, which makes us feel calm. The old phrase ‘gut reaction’ speaks to this connection between gut and brain. So, by nurturing our gut microbiome, we are also effectively nurturing our mental health, something that is becoming increasingly important in today’s frantic world.

Another expression, ‘our parents are the soil to the gut’, means that we inherit our microbiomes from our parents, but it is our choice of lifestyle that then takes over. As the Vagus nerve controls our heart rate, our microbiome can be damaged from an early age simply by the way we breathe.

Put another way, as the microbiome lives in symbiosis with the human body, gut health is key to maintaining positive health and a strong immune system as well as increasing our individual contentment levels.

As a homeopath, restoring and boosting the gut microbiome is crucial to treating anyone with a dis-ease. Even a simple infection or condition ending in an ‘itis’ signals lower than optimum gut bacteria as the body tries to deal with a localised inflammation. But by using homeopathic remedies, herbs and tonics and introducing dietary and lifestyle changes, the body can heal itself and regain its balance once more, leading to good health, energy and vitality.

Woman Standing By Waterfall With Her Hands Raised
Health and wellbeing

Top tips for creating a healthier microbiome

  1. Slow down in a general sense but particularly in relation to your breathing. Most of us breathe too quickly these days at roughly 12 beats per minute compared to 8-10 in the past. So use relaxing practices to calm and slow it down such as yoga, mindfulness, meditation and walks in the fresh air;
  2. ‘Rest and digest’ by eating in a more relaxed environment – your digestion slows when you are in a stressed state, which means you do not absorb nutrition as well;
  3. Chew your food rather than gulp it down;
  4. Ensure you get plenty of good quality sleep;
  5. Eat a diverse diet with lots of fruit and vegetables as they have fibre that feeds and encourages microbes. This is particularly true of prebiotic foods such as chicory, leeks, onions, raw garlic, Jerusalem artichokes and unripe bananas, which feed your microbiome;
  6. Treat yourself to fermented foods such as raw sauerkraut, kimchi or pure miso paste. Unpasteurised kefir also provides trillions of bacteria for the gut – although go easy to begin with, starting with one a day;
  7. Add organic cider vinegar, which has been linked to supporting gut bacteria, to salads, dressings or a small glass of warm water and lemon (or even honey or maple syrup);
  8. Remember that an apple a day really does keep the doctor away. Lightly stewed apple provides a readily available source of fibre in the form of pectin, which helps to feed the gut’s microbes;
  9. Increase your microbe numbers by taking a good probiotic supplement. But ask your health practitioner for advice as not all products on the market are necessarily recommended;
  10. Discuss with your health practitioner how to boost your digestive enzymes. They can help you break down foods if you have ‘gut issues’. Low levels, on the other hand, can contribute towards bloating, gas, constipation and the like;
  11. Use healthy oils such as avocado and coconut, organic butter or ghee as they all support the gut. Use cold-pressed oils for drizzling but not cooking as they do not perform well under high temperatures;
  12. Indulge in oily fish, which are a good source of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats – although most of us do not eat enough of them.

Lisa Glydon

Lisa Glydon has been a qualified homeopathic practitioner since 2007, but she also uses herbs, supplements and Bach/Bush Essences to boost the body’s systems and help remove emotional blockages. She initially trained as a State Registered Nurse in London, specialising in oncology and palliative care, but now treats clients of all ages and with all kinds of conditions. Lisa also runs workshops and provides talks to school children and adult groups about all aspects of health care.

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