In Chinese Medicine, allergic rhinitis as related to “Wind” noting that symptoms come and go rapidly, cause congestion, and make the person want to avoid windy situations. This Wind often coexists with a deficiency of the Defensive or Wei Qi. People with Wei Qi deficiency catch colds easily, and allergy symptoms may be particularly bad in the spring or fall, seasons which are generally windy.
The acupuncturist also looks for constitutional or more deeply-rooted signs in each person who presents with allergies. The principle here is treating the whole person. Often people with chronic allergies show signs of Spleen or Kidney Deficiency as well as Lung signs. The goal of the acupuncturist is to develop a plan which addresses the person’s acute symptoms and provides relief, while addressing the underlying immune system imbalance which is thought to be at the root of the person’s allergies.
When treated with acupuncture for allergies, there is often a quick response. Often patients get some relief during the first visit while lying on the exam table with their acupuncture needles in place. After an initial series of treatments, patients come in for further treatments on an as needed basis. Some patients come back in once or twice a year for a booster while others may come more often.
In general, patients do better if they avoid sugar and milk in their diets. They have better and longer lasting responses. Patients continue with whatever standard treatments they are currently undergoing while getting acupuncture treatments. Most patients end up significantly reducing or eliminating their dependence on allergy medications.
Treatments often include dietary modification, the use of nutritional supplements, and acupuncture.
Symptoms of runny nose, sneezing, and watery itchy eyes that recur certain time of the year cause a great deal of suffering among a large segment of the U.S. population. The worst offender of all is tree pollen which is most prevalent in the spring; grass and weed pollens follow in late spring and summer.
While many over-the-counter remedies promise symptomatic relief, acupuncture and Chinese Medicine offer healthier and more balanced solutions by addressing the underlying causes of symptoms, and treating the whole body instead of focusing only on the respiratory-related issues.
What are allergies?
Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is an example of misplaced immunity. It is a learned response by the immune system wherein rapid physiological changes resulting in itchy eyes and throat, sinus congestion and sneezing, asthma, and even diarrhea are produced. Typically, exposure to an allergen such as tree pollen elicits a massive release of IgE antibodies which attach to white blood cells known as mast cells. These cells are mostly located in the lungs and upper respiratory tract, the lining of the stomach and the skin. When these cells are stimulated, they release a number of chemicals including histamine which produce the allergic symptoms.
Allopathic Treatment of Allergies
Basic allopathic [western] medical therapies often rely on inhibiting the allergic response; antihistamines (Chlor-trimetron, Benadryl, etc.) are a good example. Other types of drugs used to treat allergic rhinitis or asthma include ones which act on the nervous system (Albuterol, epinephrine), cortico-steroids (prednisone), and decongestants.
Western medicine also emphasizes the importance of avoiding the allergen if possible, and the use of air filters to decrease exposure. When avoidance or elimination is impossible or impractical, the next level of treatment may be desensitization, the injection of small amounts of the allergen in gradually increasing doses in order to neutralize over time the number of antibodies present.