bees-and-flowers
A few weeks ago I posted about my depression/anxiety reactions to seasonal allergies. I figured I could add to that information with some things that I’ve learned that might help other people deal with their allergies more efficiently. Let’s all take a moment to remember that I am not a doctor, and find an appropriately-sized grain of salt to take with the following information, but also let’s celebrate the sharing of experiences so that we all don’t have to make the same allergy mistakes as each other, year after year.

Stuff You Gotta Do:

  • Identify allergens. An allergist can help you find out what pollens & other particles you are reactive to, but the one I went to drew the line at food (not including anaphlaxis from severe food allergies or celiac disease, which are kind of in their own categories – as far as who wants to help you with it at the medical center where I currently go for doctors to make me feel stupid about trying to figure out my health problems)
  • Get medicated. I take an over-the-counter allergy pill as well as a prescription nasal spray. My goal for improving my health is to not have to take these forever, but if I have to, at least I know I won’t be miserable.
  • Avoid making it worse. I’ve found that a lot of things I used to do would make my allergies so much worse. I generally avoid dairy, wheat, and most types of alcohol because I know they have inflammatory effects on my body, which is especially important during allergy season because they amplify the inflammation from allergies. Eat nutritionally awesome food and also get enough sleep. Try to find fun things you can do that won’t make you hate your life.
  • Learn more & be prepared. There’s a lot of good information out there, and yes, there’s even an app for that. I love ZYRTEC’s Allergycast iPhone app, also available on Android and accessible on the web, all for free. Knowing the forecasted pollen levels can help you decide if you need extra medication or to hide indoors all fucking day.
  • Do some hippie shit. There are all sorts of awesome things you can do that your non-alternative doctor won’t tell you about. Get some raw, local honey and eat some every day. I have a really cool chiropractor who does what is called a Nasal Specific, where she inflates a little balloon inside all 10 of my nasal passages, one at a time, to expand them and reduce congestion. You can also get a neti pot and add eucalyptus oil* to the solution, as well as take a daily Allergy Bomb*. My friend Cassidy who is a Young Living consultant (here’s her educational site) hooked me up with a dropper bottle full and some veggie capsules, and I’ve noticed that my eyes feel not itchy after I take it. (*some people may not react well to certain oils, so dip a toe before you jump all the way in.)
  • Take probiotics. There are studies coming out showing that peanut allergies are caused by the absence of certain gut bacteria. Cultivating good gut germs not only helps with processing allergens and foods more efficiently, but also with production & transfer of happy brain chemicals. (Remember to keep your sugar and fake sugar consumption to a minimum, as they both have negative effects on beneficial gut bacteria.)

There are probably tons of other great stuff that you can do to combat seasonal allergies that I don’t have time to list right now, so don’t give up on not feeling shitty. One last thing to remember: After the Spring allergy season dies down, there is another pollen bloom in the Fall (as early onset as August, to as late as October) that will fuck your shit up if you’re not ready for it. Thanks for reading, please add your allergy-fighting tips & tricks to the comment section!

 

         

Seasonal Allergies Can Suck It

Fuck you, pollen!

Another post for Depression Explorations

A few years ago, I started noticing that I was feeling very isolated, panicked at times, sad & upset. The next year I noticed that the feelings returned, and also realized that they usually were happening right after work and I was often wondering “What the fuck is wrong with me?” during my 15-minute drive home from the office. Coincidence? I put together that it was during allergy season, particularly the onset around the first week of March. I immediately decided to blame it all on the over-the-counter medication I was taking for allergies. I switched to another OTC allergy pill and forgot about it again.

The next year, after I powered through allergy season, by summer it was very apparent to me that I was not doing so well in general, and I went to my doctor knowing that I was depressed. Time had given me perspective that this yearly carnival ride was not due (at least not entirely) to allergy medicine, but the allergies themselves. I requested an appointment with an allergy specialist and reacted highly to 18 out of 20 allergens in a scratch test. The doctor was dilly-dallying around for a while after the welts presented themselves and the medical assistant had helped him document the reaction scores, and I wanted to choke him for some calamine lotion to quell the itchy discomfort organized in a grid on my pasty white back.

During this time I was desperately searching for The Reason I was depressed, so I was looking at information that linked allergies to depression and anxiety. Allergies definitely played a part in my depression, and presented itself more as anxiety during the beginning of allergy seasons. Depression is in part a state of high inflammation, and with allergies this inflammation is exacerbated. There is also information that points to inflammatory compounds that enter your brain, and also the reduction of serotonin, both of which can alter your mood, and can keep you in a depressive state long after the inflammatory particles have made their way through your body.

I was reminded that I should be writing more about this for my blog today since I woke up in a fairly good mood this morning, which quickly turned sour when I got to work (check it out – walking through the outside air, even for a few minutes, during mid-late morning through the evening during allergy season, can get enough pollen into your body to make you feel like an asshole or also a real sad-sack, or both). I tried eating lunch at a quiet table and a very talkative person joined us, and I quickly made it clear that I didn’t feel like talking by stating my grumpiness level and staring at my phone as if I’m not on the internet all day for work. It feels less hopeless than years past that I can point to allergies as the reason for my semi-permanent Jerkface Mode, but for some people there are more serious ramifications for having seasonal allergies. I’ve included some links for further reading below, and would love to read more if you have come across other good resources:

 

Edit: I’ve written a followup post to this one:

springblossoms

Last Friday I was sitting at my desk at work and finishing up my work for the week. Around 6 PM, I my mood changed like the flip of a switch. I’d been feeling good all week, and then all of a sudden I was feeling anxious, isolated and very alone. And I kinda freaked out a little. I spent the next hour and a half trying not to cry, slogging through my work and trying to figure out what happened to feeling good that day.

Somewhere in there, it dawned on me that I have felt the exact same way before. Last year at the beginning of allergy season I felt that way, and the year before that, I spent most spring evening drives home from work desperately wondering what in the fuck was wrong with me after having an otherwise normal day, and before I knew it sometime in the fall or winter I realized it had been a while since that had happened. Last year when I began feeling it again around the middle of March, I assumed it was my over the counter allergy medicine causing terrible side effects, and I got pissed. I set up an appointment with an allergist and had the pleasure of getting a scratch test on my back skin, which resulted in finding out that I am allergic to every (or almost every, can’t remember) pollen they tested me for, including local trees, grasses and weeds. I started using a new OTC allergy medicine and a prescription nasal spray, which worked pretty well for my allergies.

I started getting seasonal allergies about 5 years ago. I had already lived in town for a few years so I was a little disappointed because Juniper is such an unfriendly tree to me as well as most other seasonal allergy sufferers in the area, and there were a bunch in my neighborhood and I think even in my backyard where I lived at the time. I was also disappointed because drinking beer made it worse, and the medicine I started out with said not to use with alcohol, so I had to miss out on the fun or pay for it way too dearly. Boo hoo. I once made the mistake of letting someone convince me that “a little wine” from the art walk wouldn’t be too bad to mix with Benadryl. I was home and in bed at 8 PM that night. So I found out that alcohol, especially certain kinds like microbrews which I had come to enjoy, were not treating me well during allergy season. I also found out that not taking allergy medicine was not an option. Overly sleepy/tired and internally inflamed is not a great way to spend my time.

So back to last Friday, the distinction that I had been feeling good all week is important not only for the contrast to how I started feeling about 6 PM, but also because last summer things were still going poorly despite figuring out a better approach to my allergies and long story short I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder which is also known as clinical depression. The last month and a half have been the best I have felt for about a year, and after struggling for so long through finding the right antidepressant, it’s incredibly frustrating to have something else once again take away the happiness and good feelings that I’d been missing from my life for so long.

I’m very thankful for the perspective that I have from the last two allergy seasons, and the contrast in feeling fine and then very overwhelmed and isolated. It allowed me to connect some dots and realize that something I had kind of theorized for a while was not just a theory – allergies are responsible for that abrupt shift to feeling so negative and upset. I went home and googled something like “allergies depression” and “allergies anxiety” and maybe a few more combinations of those things and thankfully found this site about depression anxiety, which conveniently linked allergies directly to depression anxiety, backed by a published clinical study, and made me feel a whole lot better about my situation. To paraphrase the site, allergens enter your body/bloodstream, trigger an inflammatory immune histamine response, and release substances called cytokines into the brain which causes brain inflammation and subsequently leads to depression anxiety. It also explains that stress as well as gut sensitivities to foods can have similar results and there is a two-way connection between your gut and brain (the “gut brain connection”), and that symptoms can long outlast the toxins, inflammatory substances and gut damage that caused them. It’s actually a really radical site, which insists that depression anxiety is not a mental illness, and is caused by underlying physical problems. I’m not sure what that means in regards to my diagnosis, but I feel it is an avenue worth exploring and also have felt that allergies just had to be connected to my depression, even if only in a minor way. I want to start changing my diet and seeing if there are positive results with an anti-inflammatory diet and other suggestions from this train of thought. I don’t think it could hurt.

If you’re still with me, awesome. It’s important to me to share my experiences with others in the interest of assuring other people they’re not the only ones going through depression, or allergy-caused depression anxiety (which I have not heard much about). If you yourself aren’t afflicted by depression, it’s likely that you know several people who are depressed, whether you’re aware of their affliction or not. Whether it’s a mental illness or caused by underlying physical issues, it’s also important to learn about it, so it’s not so scary, and so we can share information on the topic and find better ways to deal with it and support our friends and family who have to deal with it.

Honestly I’m a little nervous to publish this because:

  • I don’t like being vulnerable and this stuff is a big thing to share
  • I don’t want people to treat me differently after they read this
  • I don’t want people to stop being my friend because my problems are too much for them (I already had a friend kind of disappear on me after he asked me a bunch of questions about my depression. It disappointed me but I guess I don’t need friends who would evaporate over that kind of information)

But, I’m hoping any negative consequences are outweighed by positive ones, like sharing experiences and information with people, increasing understanding about depression and making it less scary. I definitely have more I could share but that’s all I feel like sharing for now.

If you need a pick-me-up after all that, go back to Spring Can Suck It – Pt. 1
Also slightly related is A New Product That Works Wonders