By Judy Xu,
Acupuncturist, Advance Wellness
What are allergies?
In the spring, budding trees, flowers, weeds and grasses release pollen, which is spread through the air by wind. This natural occurrence can trigger an allergic reaction, known as hay fever (allergic rhinitis).
Tree pollens are at their height in early spring, while grass and weed pollens arrive in late spring and summer.
Aside from these seasonal offenders, other common allergens such as dust, dust mites, mold and animal dander trigger symptoms year-round.
Exposure to the allergen results in symptoms such as itchy eyes and throat, sinus congestion and sneezing, asthma, and even diarrhea.
What occurs physiologically is 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 reactions.
This is a misplaced immunity, and a learned response by the immune system.
Western (Allopathic) Treatment of Allergies
It is important to understand that symptoms are signs of a malfunctioning immune system.
In the case of allergies, things that are normally harmless, such as pollen, present a threat.
The allergens are not actually the problem.
The problem is the person’s reaction to the allergens.
The histamine produced when attempting to fight off allergens is what causes the symptoms.
Basic allopathic medical therapies, such as antihistamines, rely on inhibiting the allergic response.
Other types of drugs used to treat allergic rhinitis or asthma include those that act on the nervous system (Albuterol, epinephrine), while cortico-steroids (prednisone) and decongestants focus on suppressing the symptoms of allergies.
While allopathic medicine is effective in treating the allergic response, side effects such as drowsiness, immune system suppression or over-reliance on medications often result.
How acupuncture can treat the allergies?
Acupuncture is a safe, natural and effective option for treating allergies.
The goal is to promote the healthy flow of qi (vital energy) that travels through the meridians of our bodies. TCM interprets the cause of allergic rhinitis, referred to as an imbalance in the distribution of qi.
The blockages, excesses, deficiencies and imbalances that can occur in each of the meridians and organs need to be identified and corrected in order to eliminate allergy symptoms.
When we treat someone for allergies, we also look for constitutional or more deeply rooted signs.
The idea is to treat the person as a whole.
According to TCM, people with chronic allergies often show signs of spleen or kidney deficiency as well as lung problems.
The goal of the practitioner is to develop a treatment plan that will alleviate the patient’s acute symptoms while addressing the underlying immune system imbalance at the root of the allergy.
Treatments often include lifestyle and dietary recommendations.
How we can help
We like to use a two-phased approach when treating seasonal allergies.
First, during the pollen season, the focus will be to treat the acute symptoms by expelling the wind-cold or wind-heat.
Second, after the pollen season, or when the symptoms have cleared, our focus is on treating the underlying problem by strengthening the immune system or wei qi.
After an initial series of treatments, further treatments are provided as needed.
Some people may need to return once or twice a year for a booster, while others may need to come more often. Your treatment will always be individualized to meet your needs.
Allergies are definitely treatable. Acupuncture provides an alternative treatment that doesn’t require taking western-style medications, which can have unpleasant or even serious side effects.