Stop spring sneezing

By Michael Côté

Spring can be a wonderful time of the year, but it is often when seasonal allergies are at their worst.

For people who suffer from hay fever or allergic rhinitis, it can feel like a constant cold with:

  • a runny nose
  • itchy eyes
  • sneezing
  • sinus congestion and pressure.

Hay fever is caused by an allergic response to allergens such as pollen, dust, and pet dander.

From a Chinese medicine viewpoint, seasonal allergies can be a malfunction of various types of Qi. As mentioned in my last article, Qi in the body refers to gasotransmitters.

The most common types of Qì involved with seasonal allergies are Wèi-Qì ( 卫气 ) and Yíng-Qì ( 营气 ). Wèi means to guard or defend and Yíng means to manage or build.

Wèi-Qì is like your defence mechanism or immune system and Yíng-Qì is similar to nourishment.

Therefore, having seasonal allergies is like having improperly trained or inadequately equipped guards. Rather than suppressing these guards, we want them to do their job well. So we give them the tools and training they need.

Acupuncture is the direction and herbs are the materials needed to accomplish the job.

Regardless of the ailment, the goal of Chinese medicine is to restore homeostasis. The ancient Chinese called it harmonizing yin and yang. Having yin and yang in harmony is essential to our health because if this equilibrium is disrupted we develop maladies.

In order to uncover these disruptions, a practitioner of Chinese medicine will ask a number of questions, take your pulse and look at your tongue. Once we determine the cause of the problem, we can then determine which treatment is most suitable.

In the case of seasonal allergies, rather than just treating symptoms, we want to discover the underlying cause to restore homeostasis. Acupuncture, herbs, or something else might be better depending what is specifically going on.

Chad, for example, came to me complaining of hay fever. He couldn’t remember which plants he was allergic to, but he experienced itchy, watery eyes and a runny nose. He had yellow phlegm that was worse in the spring and also had a history of asthma.

His complexion was red and he had a dry, red tongue with a weak and rapid pulse. I diagnosed him with Lung Yin deficiency causing a blockage of Wèi-Qì.

I prescribed Bai He Gu Jin Tang, an herbal formula to transform phlegm and Nourish Lung Yin with Yu Ping Feng San, herbs to strengthen Wèi-Qì. I also recommended a course of acupuncture treatments to move Wèi-Qì and open the sinuses.

Chad didn’t notice a difference until the fourth treatment when his symptoms went away, even though the pollen count in the air was higher than usual.

He was able to stop taking the Bai He Gu Jin Tang when his tongue became moist, but I recommended he retake Yu Ping Feng San for three months in autumn to prevent his allergies from returning the next spring. 

That’s how we approach seasonal allergies from a Chinese medicine point of view, but you may be wondering how it works from an allopathic viewpoint.

Acupuncture stimulates the nervous system, which influences hormones and neurotransmitters, which, in turn, causes the release of neurochemical messenger molecules.

The resulting biochemical changes influence the body's homeostatic mechanisms and triggers its innate healing abilities. In the case of seasonal allergies, acupuncture promotes proper immune function.

A variety of research on seasonal allergies says that acupuncture may help by:

  • regulating levels of IgE and cytokines (Ng 2004; Rao 2006; Roberts 2008)
  • promoting the release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Zijlstra 2003; Kavoussi 2007)
  • enhancing natural killer cell activities, modulating the number and ratio of immune cell types (Kawakita 2008)
  • increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009).

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, there are some general guidelines you can follow to reduce symptoms which includes:

  • Reducing or eliminating phlegm forming foods. These are ice-cold foods and drinks, and greasy, fatty foods like cheese, bacon, pork, nut butters, fried food, and dairy.
  • Adding foods that dissolve phlegm. These are bitter or pungent foods such as ginger, mint, radishes, leeks, onion, mustard, black pepper, lotus root, kohlrabi, etc.
  • Limiting alcohol
  • quitting smoking
  • Doing gentle exercises such as tai chi, qi gong, or yoga.

Michael Côté, R.TCM.P, is a registered practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. He can be reached at the Okanagan Acupuncture Centre at 1625 Ellis St.

Useful links:

For a summary on the research on acupuncture and Chinese medicine for allergic rhinitis see the British Acupuncture Council website:



Arthritis message to Christy

Address B.C.’s growing burden of arthritis by improving arthritis care and treatment

By Christine Basque

Political leaders must commit to boosting the care available to those with arthritis..

Doing more to help those living with arthritis may not be the most top-of-mind in this provincial election, but it should be. Political will is, after all, the only thing that stands in front of the opportunity to demonstrably improve the lives of the approximately 650,000 British Columbians living with chronic arthritic pain.

It’s a change that every single one of us can commit to making part of our decision about who to vote for on Tuesday.

For most people, waking up, getting dressed, and going about their daily activities is done without a passing thought or worry.

But for the one out of every six British Columbians living with arthritis, the chronic joint pain and stiffness associated with the condition can make even the simplest of tasks, such as brushing teeth or putting on socks, an agonizing experience.

Improving the care and treatment landscape for people living with arthritis deserves much greater political attention in the upcoming provincial election.

Arthritis can strike anyone at any time, regardless of age, physical condition or ethnic background. While many people associate the disease with old age, the fact is that more than half of British Columbians living with arthritis are under the age of 65.

Arthritis is everywhere, and its impacts are a lot more serious and costly to our province than many people realize.

As it stands, inadequate supports and access to treatment options for people living with arthritis are hurting the B.C. economy. A lot has been done, but we need to see more. Currently, one in four British Columbians living with the disease of working age report not being able to work due to their condition.

Many still are frequently forced to change jobs or reduce work hours, negatively impacting their careers and their livelihoods. In British Columbia, and across the country, the impact of arthritis on the economy, in terms of health care costs and lost productivity, is enormous: an estimated $33 billion each year.

But the heavy economic burden does not begin to take into account the daily personal struggles of people affected by the disease of dealing with constant debilitating pain. In B.C., almost half of people living with arthritis report having pain that prevents them from doing everyday activities.

Having the disease also translates into a three times greater likelihood of having mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, and an 80 per cent chance of having other chronic health issues, such as obesity and diabetes.

Despite all this, arthritis is a long way down the list of issues that get mentioned by political leaders during this year’s election campaign trail.

While the province is faced with another hot- button issue — the ongoing opioid crisis — political leaders must also give due attention to people living with the disease. They must recognize that arthritis patients need better access to effective management strategies for their chronic pain.

This includes improved access to promising new therapies, like biologic drugs. These medications have been instrumental in helping many British Columbians living with rheumatoid arthritis, and should be part of the physician’s toolbox.

As no single biologic therapy works for all arthritis patients, a range of choice among these therapies is critical.

Special attention must also be given to First Nations people, where the prevalence of arthritis is five times higher, and to people all across British Columbia living in rural and remote communities.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential to preventing the permanent joint destruction associated with arthritis; however, many people living outside urban areas face difficulties receiving timely diagnosis and care.

There is an urgent need for improved access to specialist expertise and local supports, including homecare, to improve mobility and decrease pain for these underserved populations.

Arthritis may not be the No. 1 issue on the minds of candidates. But for one in six voters, it’s the No. 1 issue in their lives.

For more information about the impact of arthritis, visit the BC Arthritis Society website: www.arthritis.ca/bc.

Christine Basque is the executive director of the Arthritis Society, B.C. and Yukon Division. 

How about living little?

Innovative Solutions Required to Address Soaring Cost of Living

Good grief, if you are anything like me, Kelowna’s current real estate market may be causing you feelings of nervousness, uncertainty or simply disbelief.

Really, $600,000 for a tear down? How are these prices possible? This market cannot be sustainable. My kids are never going to be able to own a home in Kelowna. 

I’m willing to bet that many of you who have been looking to purchase real estate in Kelowna in the past year have had similar thoughts. Whether you are looking for a primary home, or you are an investor looking to obtain a revenue or development property, the numbers just don’t seem to add up. 

According to Okanagan Mainline Real-estate Board’s statistics, the average price of real estate in Kelowna has increased 10 per cent since March 2016.

High demand and low interest rates are driving prices up in our beautiful city. How much longer can this go on? When a half million dollar price tag on a town home doesn’t even seem shocking any more, I have to wonder, where it will end? 

Since CMHC is insuring mortgages and offsetting bank risk, will our banks just keep lending more and more money to the average Canadian? When interest rates rise, and people default on their mortgages, the banks won’t be out of pocket, the consumer will be. 

Is our economy on the verge of a downturn or is it as strong as it seems?

We know B.C. exports such as lumber and coal (yes, I said coal – that is a whole other column) are thriving and are the backbone of our stable economy.

Perhaps, with this natural resource economic base, our growing post-secondary institution infrastructure, a strong tourism and tech sector as well as a steady stream of people moving to the Okanagan, we could be in for high land and home prices for the foreseeable future.

With all of these thoughts swirling, in my mind I decided to ask some local experts. I asked my friend, Ted Rhind, a mortgage broker with Invis, what trends he was seeing in the lending industry. 

He stated that he has noticed more people owning homes together, whether it be with siblings, friends or parents. Also, he noted, more and more clients are looking for homes with suites.

Interesting stuff; people are getting creative, looking for new ways to generate more income through renters or co-ownership in order to qualify or a mortgage.

I then asked the knowledgeable Terri-Ann Novello, from Century 21, about the future of the local real estate industry. She predicted that Kelowna's market will remain strong over the next five years. 

She believes we have to keep in mind not everyone can afford the average priced single family home. As a result, she has noticed that our city council and local builders are becoming creative so that buyers will be able to purchase a home.

She sees this innovation as essential in keeping Kelowna one of the best and most diverse places to live.

Novello speaks to the need for new and innovative solutions to keep housing options diverse and more affordable. Our current City Council does seem open to new urban planning concepts. Most recently, they created a four dwelling housing zone called RU7. 

Perhaps it is time for even more forward thinking zoning options. A micro home zone that allows for smaller lot sizes to maximize land use for small, efficient, single family dwellings comes to mind.

One of the biggest challenges faced by those wishing to follow the “little living” movement is with zoning bylaws. Could our City become a model for innovative bylaws that allow people to live more affordably and with less environmental impact?

I think I’ll ask them.

Tara Tschritter is the owner of a Kelowna-based contracting company, Little House Contracting, which specializes in building small homes and designing small spaces. Find out more at www.littlehouseco.com.


A life-changing gift

Give Yourself a Gift - smartUBC Mindfulness

By Corinne Crockett

Anxiety, depression and burn-out are familiar words that take on a whole new meaning when you’re the one experiencing them 

I know, because it happened to me. 

A queen at multi-tasking and doing it all, I thought I had it all under control, until I hit the wall and just could not take another step forward. 

I thought I had strong practices to support me in meeting the many challenges of life. 

I thought I was amazingly resilient and strong, until I wasn’t. 

I thought a few weeks off work would help, but my symptoms worsened. I was exhausted, yet could not sleep, and then out of the exhaustion came the anxiety and depression.

My body, so used to functioning on adrenaline, did not know what to do when it wasn’t busy, and so the adrenaline that had been my friend and kept me going through all of busyness, kept firing, causing a sense of anxiety that was always there. 

My brain could not function clearly, and this was terrifying, as I relied heavily on my mind. My confidence started to waver. I grew depressed. It was a mess!

I had strong family and medical support as we tried remedies, therapies, and medications. These took the edge off, but I certainly did not feel like myself. 

I had a long-standing meditation practice and engaged in this and my spiritual practices; I started to improve, but still felt fragile.

Then, I was handed a gift that has changed my life.

The gift was enrolment in the smartUBC Mindfulness Program and it has changed my life for the better. 

A completely secular program, smart is an acronym for stress management and resiliency techniques, and it is doing just that for the many who have taken this program! 

As I sit today, I wonder that I had survived at all without this. I am so moved by my own personal results that I want all of my children, family and friends to experience what I have experienced. 

I feel this program should be incorporated into all schools and businesses (as Google has done) as a simple, yet powerful way of life that is proven to have myriad positive effects.

Life today sees increasing numbers of people experiencing stress, anxiety, depression and a sense of being fatigued, over-whelmed and burned-out.

As a nurse, this alarms me as it seems to be a plague of modern society, with anxiety even being identified among children of today. People often get stuck in an expanding loop of negative thoughts and feelings that can negatively affect our health, our sleep, and quality of life. 

Mindfulness practice is a powerful, yet simple way of life that has proven effective in alleviating myriad challenges, both mental and physical. 

The research into the positive benefits of mindfulness is compelling, causing a ripple in the health and corporate world as the paybacks are both personal and global. The power of doing this in a group setting is exponential. 

Through participation in the smartUBC Mindfulness program, I feel whole, have developed strength and resilience. I have gained a sense of well-being that feels like a welcome back to life as I have never lived it. 

UBC Okanagan has been offering a mindfulness program called smartUBC to their students with good result. The Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna is partnering with UBC Okanagan to offer smartUBC in a secular, eight-week experiential course to the public.

It will be facilitated by UBC Okanagan senior instructor Jeanette Vinek, and hosted by me.

This eight-week secular program will be offered on Monday evenings from 6-8 p.m. at UBC Okanagan, starting May 1. 

The investment is $300, plus $20 for the manual. 

There is a half-day silent retreat on June 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. included in the registration feel. All held on UBCO campus 

Don’t wait as long as I did. Give yourself this powerful gift.

Register On-line at www.cslkelowna.org or call me at 250-868-9090 for more information. 

Corinne Crockett, a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, has a master’s of health sciences in nursing, and is a clinical assistant with UBC Okanagan School of Nursing. 

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