I had come to dread Saturdays.
Saturday was my one sleep-in morning of the week, the only morning where I get to sleep past 5 am. It should have been the highlight of my busy week.
But no, Saturdays were my worst morning of the week. I dreaded Saturdays because I knew what was coming to me — morning nasal congestion that would quickly escalate into an all-day hurricane of hay fever.
Not only was I totally congested, but I also experienced asthma, chain-reaction sneezing (“20 sneezes in a row”), itchy and watery eyes, brain fog, fatigue, and the feeling of being on the verge of a sneeze all day long.
What was I so allergic to that only came around on Friday nights??
I tried for years to answer this question.
I Tried Everything
I went to the best allergist in Silicon Valley and got allergy shots. I stopped experiencing all the allergies — dust mites, cats, tree pollens — that had harangued me since childhood.
I went to naturopaths, acupuncturists, and an “allergy tapping” clinic. From multiple rounds of allergy testing, I learned that I had strong intolerances to certain foods, so I stopped eating dairy, fermented foods, and wheat.
I cleaned out my allergies. My digestion improved, I lost the puffiness under my eyes and around my nasal passages that had become so normal I’d begun to think that was just how I looked, and I felt much better in my daily life.
These changes were great improvements to my life… but they didn’t change my Saturday Congestion.
If you’ve read this site, then you know that I live and advocate a natural lifestyle, not one filled with over the counter drugs.
And yet, every Saturday for years, I was so desperate that I loaded up on Claritin, Allegra, homeopathic allergy remedies, quercetin, and even Benadryl.
Finally, after years of research (with myself as the guinea pig), I discovered that my condition was a Real Thing, that it had a name, and that millions of people all over the world suffer from it.
What is Non-Allergic Rhinitis?
Non-allergic rhinitis is the devil.
In all seriousness, it is a highly uncomfortable condition mimicking allergic hay fever. Some common devilish symptoms:
- nasal congestion alternating with nonstop runny nose
- sequential, chronic sneezing (“20 sneezes in a row”)
- itchy and watery eyes
- facial swelling, especially around the nasal and sinus passages
- dark under-eye circles
- asthma, chest tightness and difficult or constricted breathing (especially on the inhale)
To people who have never experienced hay fever, these symptoms may sound merely bothersome.
To those of us who have gone through the hell of full-blown rhinitis, whether triggered by allergies or non-allergic, the above list is a familiar prison sentence.
Besides being highly uncomfortable when it’s happening, non-allergic rhinitis can also put a major cramp in your life:
- Sports and active life. Exercise can often help with vasoconstriction (constricting the blood vessels in your nose), but having a severe bout of non-allergic rhinitis in the first place can often prevent people from even starting their favorite workout or activity
- Relationships and social life. I cannot count the number of weekends that my non-allergic rhinitis ruined. It’s hard to explain your suffering to friends, especially when it’s recurring and solution-less. It’s hard / impossible to be funny, romantic, clever, or give a good public talk when it’s a non-allergic rhinitis kind of day. In short, it can “significantly affect a patient’s quality of life” in every single way (a small understatement from the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine).
- Work. Where do I even begin on this one… the biggest invisible symptom of non-allergic rhinitis is brain fog. By brain fog, I mean the distinct heaviness, fatigue and confusion that happens on a mental level. In short, it’s hard to think. Kinda like it’s 8 in the morning and you’ve been up all night. For two nights straight. Brain fog makes it hard to do any sort of work, whether that’s for your job and career or just for a side pursuit.
- Spiritual life. Lastly, I’d like to mention the impact that non-allergic rhinitis has on your life outside of the external, tangible categories I’ve listed above. There’s an implication, especially in modern positive-pop psychology, that we can invite the right or wrong things to happen in our lives. I am the first to agree that positive thinking can work wonders for our creativity, our productivity, our stress levels — and therefore our outward performance. However, the truth is that you cannot meditate or pray your way out of non-allergic rhinitis! And believe me, I’ve tried through three 10-day vipassana retreats, and many many hours of regular meditation practice. To the contrary, non-allergic rhinitis can make it hard to do your spiritual practice, because we do everything with our bodies. If your body is going through a non-allergic rhinitis emergency, then it’s going to have a pretty hard time sitting for meditation and observing what’s there (which is congestion and 20 sneezes in a row).
What Can You Do About It?
By now you’re convince that non-allergic rhinitis is a blight upon humanity. You probably knew that before reading this post, but maybe you didn’t know the personal hell you were experiencing has a name, and affects tens of millions of other people.
So what can you do about it?
In the next installment, I’ll share the ONE home treatment that I’ve found to work.
It’s been studied by universities and research institutions as an “innovative” new treatment approach for non-allergic rhinitis.
It’s also completely natural, and (nearly) free.