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According to Ayurveda, if we don’t make seasonal transitions in a graceful and balanced manner, we’ll carry the properties of one season into the next. This is a primary cause of the accumulation, aggravation, and imbalance of the doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha).
For example, as winter winds down and we enter into spring, the dryness of vata can aggravate the body’s mucus membranes. This causes excess immune-compromising mucus production in the sinuses, respiratory system, and digestive tracts. This can increase seasonal sensitivity to foods, pollutants, and pollens as the seasons change.
As summer changes into fall and winter, this transition is just as important. If pitta is not balanced during the summer months with proper cooling fruits and vegetables, it can overheat, aggravate and dry out the body. Just like in the spring, end-of-summer pollen, pollutants, and accumulated heat can trigger dry sinuses, dry throats, and an amplified immune response to ragweed as fall approaches.
Spring Sinus Sensitivity
Ayurveda refers to spring as the kapha season. Kapha literally means “to stick together.” For many, kapha season is also allergy season. The snow begins to melt and rain becomes more frequent, resulting in the earth holding on to more water. This is nature’s response to a long and dry winter.
The body will also hold on to more water this time of year. This can congest the delicate mucous membranes that line the respiratory and digestive tracts. After several months of winter dryness, these mucous membranes are ripe to produce reactive and excessive mucus. Spring’s harvest is rich in dry bitter roots, leafy greens, berries, and cherries, which are the perfect antidote to these congestive spring tendencies.
In Autumn: a heavy, warm, high-protein, and high-fat harvest helps combat the cold/dry vata extremes while lubricating the mucous lining of the intestines, lungs, and sinuses. With higher consumption of soluble fiber from winter grains, roots, barks and seeds (like slippery elm, chia and flaxseeds) the intestinal environment slowly becomes coated with a nutrient-rich layer of slimy soluble fiber. This prepares the intestinal lining to welcome a brand-new stable of beneficial spring microbes.
In Spring: there is a massive surge in the populations of soil microbes, letting us know that this is truly nature’s New Year. These new soil microbes attach themselves to the roots of many of the spring-harvested plant rhizomes (such as dandelion, burdock, goldenseal, turmeric, and ginger). Traditionally, these roots were spring staples, mainly because not much else was ready to harvest yet.
Sadly, modern humans rarely prepare the gut with nearly enough winter foods to support this transition. Therefore, the extent to which the sinuses got dried out in the winter is akin to the extent they will produce reactive mucus in the spring. Eating out-of-season foods can lead to allergies, digestive issues, and a compromised immune response to the pollen and nectar surges of spring.
See also Spring Stuffiness? Try Aller-Rest!
8 Ayurvedic Tips for Seasonal Stuffiness
1. Change Your Diet Seasonally
As the seasons change so should your diet. The microbes in the soil change and the gut microbes in our hunter-gatherer ancestors changed seasonally because they ate foods from a seasonal harvest. In the spring, foods that are primarily bitter, astringent, and pungent should be eaten to support a healthy respiratory response to the spring pollens. Common bitter foods consist of leafy greens and bitter roots like dandelion, and burdock root. Beans, pickles (fermented foods), and yogurt are astringent foods and hot and spicy foods are considered pungent.
If you have been eating pasta and pizza this winter, notice the spring harvest would be pretty pasta-free if you were living off the land. Grains are not back on the seasonal menu in any large quantity till fall. In the spring, try to avoid all refined and processed foods. Reduce salty and sweet foods, as well as dairy, wheat, heavy grains, cheese, nuts, and seeds. Beans are great during the spring, as they are astringent and soak up water, reducing kapha. Download the Spring Grocery List and during the months of spring eat more of these spring-harvested, kapha-balancing foods.
Sign up for our free 3-Season Diet Challenge to receive monthly seasonal eating guides, including recipes, seasonal superfoods, grocery lists, and special discounts on seasonal herbs.
2. Stay Hydrated to Combat Lymph Congestion
According to Ayurveda, one of the most common imbalances linked to environmental sensitivity is lymphatic congestion. There are lymphatic drainage vessels that line the intestines, respiratory tract, sinuses, and tissue just beneath your skin. The lymph carries the immune system as well as toxins in line to be detoxified. Congestion of the lymph can cause the body’s mucus membranes to build up toxins and impurities, causing excess mucus production.
For healthy lymphatic function it is suggested to drink 6-8 glasses of water each day (or one-half your ideal body weight in ounces of water each day). This amount of water can change based on your Ayurvedic body type. For vata body types, use a 6-to-8-ounce glass to get your 6-8 glasses in each day. For pitta and kapha types use a larger 8-to-12-ounce glass.
For Lymphatic Herbal Support: The spring and fall harvested red root called Manjistha (Rubia cordifolia) is Ayurveda’s primary herb for the lymphatic system. Starting in early spring, take 1-2 caps twice a day to support the respiratory-associated lymphatic tissues. This herb can be continued through fall, as it is both kapha and pitta pacifying.
3. Sip Hot Water Each Kapha (Spring) Season
One of the best ways to hydrate and support a healthy lymphatic immune response during a seasonal change every spring and fall is to sip hot water.
Sipping hot water every 15-20 minutes throughout the day for 2 weeks is a classic Ayurvedic spring cleanse for removing excess kapha from the respiratory and intestinal tracts.
4. Eat Plenty of Vitamin C-Rich Foods
Vitamin C blocks the release of histamine from inflammatory cells. This is why Vitamin C is a main ingredient of LifeSpa’s formula for allergy relief: Aller-Rest. You can also find lots of vitamin C in the following foods:
- Citrus fruits (grapefruits are in season)
- Amalaki – Called the Ayurvedic Wonderberry
- Brussels sprouts
- Bell peppers
5. Bitter Roots
Every spring, the dandelions grace our lawns, fields, and gardens. The deer make a habit of digging up these precious spring roots as they are one of nature’s natural antidotes to the mucus-making season. Dandelion is a spring-harvested bitter rhizome that offers antioxidant support for healthy liver function and natural detoxification support to the liver. Dandelion root tea was a staple in early America until it was replaced with sweet drinks. Dandelion, like many spring-harvested roots, is a natural diuretic that helps reduce kapha (earth and water) in the spring. In Ayurveda, there are many bitter and pungent roots that balance kapha each spring. Turmeric and ginger are two favorites.
6. Detox When the Seasons Change
At the end of each season, the qualities of that season build-up. Ayurveda suggests that if these seasonal changes are not properly managed, it is during the change of season we are most vulnerable to succumbing to a health concern. This seasonal change is called ritusandhi or the junction between the seasons. Ayurveda has long suggested cleansing and rebooting the digestive strength to successfully navigate a seasonal change.
At LifeSpa, we have two popular Ayurvedic cleanses to choose from. Our 4-day Short Home Cleanse which is a gentle cleanse to reset fat-burning and digestion. We also have our 2-week Colorado Ayurvedic Cleanse which is a much more comprehensive digestive reset, liver & gallbladder flush, intestinal skin restoration, lymph cleanse, fat-burning reset, as well as a detox for toxic material like pesticides and heavy metals stored in fat cells.
7. Eat a Medium Breakfast, a Big Lunch, and a Light Supper
The science is in! Our biological clocks for digestion are turned on at breakfast and lunch. By supper time, the ability to digest is much less. Studies show that when folks eat the same number of calories at breakfast and lunch compared to lunch and dinner, there is significantly more weight loss and health benefits when the food is consumed earlier in the day.
See also The Benefits of a Large Lunch
8. Ayurvedic Intermittent Fasting
The spring is an austere time of year for food. The harvest in late winter and early spring is minimal—some roots, micro greens, and whatever was able to be stored from the past fall harvest. Most cultures celebrate spring with a fast where food is skipped, reduced, or modified during this period in early spring.
According to Ayurveda, this is a time to eat light and consume less food. If possible, consider having lunch. By lighter supper to start. Then if this is successful, skip supper and drink water or herbal tea in the evening to combat the hunger pangs. Do this for two weeks every spring or fall or whenever the seasonal pollens become a bother.
See also Ayurvedic Intermittent Fasting
For more tips, listen in on the Ayurveda Meets Modern Science Podcast, Episode 72: Prevent Seasonal Allergies