Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Allergies are NOT the bee's knees

Do you have allergies? I've been blessed with not just obscure food allergies (asparagus? grapes? really?) but seasonal ones. Pine trees and cottonwoods seem to be my arch nemeses, but there are some other villains in there too.

An important thing to know, that I only discovered within the last year: The technical definition of an allergy is an immune response to the protein strands. When it comes to food, a reaction anything else is an intolerance.

It totally explains why I don't have problems with aged balsamic vinegar that has had time to denature the proteins, but wine gives me hives (and trouble breathing). It also explains why some people have reactions to raw foods that are fine once cooked. Honestly though, this post wasn't supposed to be about food allergies.

I don't know if there just weren't enough of the offensive plants in Seattle to trigger my allergies, or if they didn't even grow there at all. I know there were pine trees, but I'm not sure I saw cottonwoods. In any event, the last two springs have been great for me in the allergies department! No wracking cough, no risk of pneumonia, no costochondritis, no swollen eyes. The Great Exile seems to have changed all that, and I once again sound like a patient in a tuberculosis ward.

I read in a few hippy-dippy blogs and magazines that honey helps allergies. Not just any honey, but raw, local honey that will be full of the pollens in your area that are triggering the reactions. The idea seems to be similar to vaccines, in that it introduces these substances to your body in small doses so your immune system knows how to deal with them. I'm pretty hippy-dippy myself and didn't have any proof that it DOESN'T work, so I figured it can't hurt, right? That's how I found myself down at the farmer's market last Sunday, on the search for the most localized raw honey I could find.
I picked up some honey from a bee farm about 30 miles away, and that seemed pretty cool. Then I found another source that is packaged about 30 miles away in the opposite direction, with bees all over northern Oregon and southern Washington. I was trying to decide if I should get some more when the salesperson asked if I had allergies. I just kind of had to laugh! I told him that was why I was in the market today, and he talked me through the process of using honey as a daily vaccine-type thing, telling me how much to use and how often (about 1 tablespoon per day UNCOOKED for allergy relief). Then he shows me this bag of bee pollen! They look like little yellowy-orange sprinkles, and he said to work my way up over a few days from a tiny pinch to a full teaspoon per day, sprinkled onto my breakfast or spun into a smoothie. As he put it, "An entire day's worth of anti-oxidants and vitamins, plus a big morning energy boost that will rival a cup of coffee."

I don't know about all that, but he did say it would work just as well if not possibly better at inoculating me against these damn pollen allergies. So I plunked down $5 for a small bag and figured I'd give it a shot. These sprinkles taste like grassy honey, though less sweet, but definitely delicious! I've put them into a smoothie, on top of peanut butter toast, and on top of pancakes. Big winner. I think the peanut butter toast & bee pollen was my favorite combination.

Three days in, I don't know if it's working. I forgot my Zyrtec last night anyway, and I actually felt pretty good today! At least the attempt is delicious.

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