TREATING ALLERGIES WITH ACUPUNCTURE: AN OVERVIEW
People often wonder if Chinese medicine can help with seasonal allergies. Acupuncture and herbal therapy can not only help manage the symptoms of allergies, but can also help treat the root deficiency that prevents the body from being able to fight off allergens. Allergies, also known as seasonal hay fever, can affect millions of men and women every year and may be caused by mold, plant pollen, animal dandruff, and dust.
Allergies may affect people either:
• During a specific season – fall, spring, summer, or even winter
• Or, year round (perennial allergies)
Symptoms of hay fever, include, but are not limited to:
• Watery eyes
• Itching of the eyes or nose
• Nasal congestion or runny nose
• Coughing or wheezing
Allergies can easily take you away from your normal activities and impose a strain on your life. The symptoms can cause missed work or school days, sleep disturbances, and the ability to perform normal activities.
In Chinese medicine, allergies are generally caused by a mixed pattern of deficiency in the body. There is an internal deficiency that affects the body’s ability to fend of allergens. There is also an external pattern, which is the actual manifestation of the symptoms of allergies, such as runny nose and itchy eyes.
To treat allergies with Chinese medicine, acupuncture may be used to help in the event of an acute attack and control the symptoms. Then, after the symptoms are under control, a customized herbal formula may be prescribed to help build up the internal deficiency to give the body has the resources it needs to fight the allergens off by itself. Additionally, a formula may include herbs to help control the symptoms of the allergies so you may continue on with your daily life. By treating both the internal and external patterns of allergies, Chinese medicine may reduce the intensity of your symptoms as well as prevent future occurrences.
In addition to a customized formula, nutritional supplements as well as dietary recommendations can be made to help supplement the body and prevent future occurrences. The body’s root ability to fend off allergies starts with getting the right nutrients to support a healthy immune system.
By using Chinese medicine and acupuncture to treat allergies, patients may be able to dramatically reduce the symptoms during the specific season they occur or may be able to get rid of them completely. This allows you to return to work, school, and the other priorities in your life.
Insomnia is defined as the chronic inability to sleep or remain asleep throughout the night that lasts more than one month in duration. According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately 10-15% of adults report chronic insomnia. It is recommended that adults receive at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Quality and sufficient sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and going without it may have negative long term effects on your body.
Sleep has many effects on the body, including:
•Assisting the body in maintaining effective metabolism and efficient digestion
•Promoting clear thinking, memory, and overall cognitive ability
•helps you to maintain a healthy outlook and stabilize your mood
•aids in both the physical and mental recovery of the body at the end of the day
•helps the body’s immune system to stay strong and healthy
Without sleep, a person may experience:
•increased anxiety or worry
•lack of mental clarity and difficulty with memory
•worsening of chronic pain or chronic conditions
•poor digestion, leading to excessive weight gain
•decreased will power and/or the energy to start new tasks
•an increased frequency of illness and sickness
•overall decreased ability to function throughout daytime activities
Additionally, there may be other conditions that prevent someone from sleeping peacefully, such as (but not limited to):
•recent surgery and its side effects
•stress from work, school, relationships
•digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome
In Chinese medicine, insomnia usually involves either the heart channel, kidney channel, liver channel, spleen channel, or any a combination of these channels. When one of these meridians becomes unbalanced, it can have a dramatic effect on sleep. Furthermore, each one of these meridians has a specific function in the body’s ability to maintain a consistent mood, have a clear mind and clear thinking, maintain efficient digestion, and have enough energy to carry out daily activities. Using specific acupuncture points and Chinese herbs, all of these channels and your body may become balanced, allowing you to sleep a restful and peaceful night.
Since acupuncture and Chinese medicine have a holistic approach to medicine, balancing sleep can easily be figured into each treatment. This allows other conditions to be treated while balancing sleep if necessary or sleep can be treated directly. Without quality and consistent sleep, chronic conditions may become exacerbated, as well as illnesses and injuries may take longer to heal.
Allergies are a condition when the body becomes hypersensitive to an external object. The symptoms of allergies vary from person to person. Symptoms may include watery ot red eyes, skin irritation and rashes, breathing problems and weakness. Once diagnosed, the best treatment for any kind of allergy is to avoid exposing the body to the object that provokes allergy. There are many ways by which allergies can be treated. They are medication, acupuncture, homeopathy, yoga and various other therapies.
Acupuncture, as an option for treating allergies is becoming more widespread. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese method of healing by inserting thin, fine needles into specific points in body to control and relieve pain and cure or prevent certain diseases.
Acupuncture is based on the principle of balancing “Qi” which is the vital energy that flows throughout the body. According to Chinese, any imbalance and disruption of the flow of Qi in the body affects the health of the individual. The points or the energy flows are stimulated and balanced throughout the body by inserting needles and hence health is restored. Acupuncture to treat allergies can be used alone or as a combination treatment with any other therapy or medication. Acupuncture is generally preferred over strong medication because it has no side effects. The acupuncturist develops a plan to relieve a patient from the allergy symptoms while focusing on the underlying cause of the problem and curing any imbalance in the immune system. Allergy creates different reactions in different individuals; hence the acupuncturist decides the placement accordingly. He determines the direction and the depth to which the needles are to be inserted in the patient’s body. Each session can range between 20 minutes to about an hour. The time taken to respond to acupuncture may vary in each individual.
In Chinese Medicine digestion is like a fire that burns food as fuel, leaving “ash” or metabolic waste behind that needs to be excreted by the large intestine. Often in food allergies this fire is not strong enough, causing the digestive organs to struggle to break foods down completely so that they pass through the intestines rapidly and partially undigested, causing abdominal pain and diarrhea. Patients with these symptoms usually present with other clues that indicate low fire, such as recent weight gain, cold hands and feet, or tiredness after eating. In these cases acupuncture points and herbs that raise the metabolism and improve the functioning of the digestive organs are used. Adding more culinary spices to foods also helps warm the digestive organs, as does supplementing with digestive enzymes. Strengthening and warming the digestive organs is especially important in the case of multiple food sensitivities, which is looked at more as weak digestion.
In other instances of food allergies there may be nausea and vomiting. In Chinese Medicine every organ has direction associated with it when it is functioning properly and the proper direction of the stomach is down. In other words, the stomach is supposed to empty its contents down into the small intestine, passing it on to be broken down even further. When the stomach fails to dissolve food properly, instead of it going down it will go up in the wrong direction, causing nausea and vomiting. Other versions of this, in which the energy of the stomach is going in the wrong direction, include acid reflux, heartburn, belching, and hiccups. In Chinese Medicine acupuncture can be used not only to stimulate the secretion of gastric juices but to literally redirect the energy back down again. One herb that can help redirect the energy is ginger. This is also the Chinese medicine explanation as to why this herb is helpful for morning sickness.
Respiratory allergies tend to present with symptoms like nasal congestion, cough, or wheezing. These are all signs that there is too much phlegm in the body. One way to address these symptoms is with herbs that help the body “transform phlegm.” That is, herbs help the body break down and eliminate excess mucus. An important dietary adjustment in these cases is to reduce or eliminate refined carbohydrates, dairy, and other foods that encourage the production of phlegm.
Acupuncture an herbs can also be used to open the lungs and sinuses and to strengthen the lungs and the immune system. Sometimes even the digestive organs will be treated as well because excess mucus in the system can be a by-product of inefficient digestion. This is especially important with patients who experience congestion immediately after eating meals or after eating specific foods.
Skin reactions like hives or eczema are treated with acupuncture and herbs that stop itching and reduce inflammation. Often there are underlying contributing factors like generalized dryness or inflammation of the body that must be addressed to prevent symptoms from reoccurring. There are specific herbal formulas that return moisture to the body overall that will simultaneously address other symptoms of dryness like dry hair or dry eyes, even constipation can improve with these formulas. Supplementation with essential fatty acids can also help replenish the moisture of the skin, easing dryness and itching, and reducing inflammation.
In cases where there is systemic inflammation, herbs that cool the body overall can help immensely. One herb that you may know that is used for this purpose is honeysuckle. Interestingly, one of the traditional southern uses of this herb is as a cooling iced tea for the summer.