Spring allergies can cause a great deal of discomfort in many people, young or old. Typical seasonal triggers for allergic rhinitis, also called hay fever are pollens, while persistent triggers include animal hair and dust-mites. Episodes of allergic rhinitis produce sneezing, sinus pain, runny nose, itchy nose and eyes, blocked nose leading to interrupted sleep, fatigue and poor concentration. Allergies can have significant negative impacts on quality of life and work performance.
Our Doctors typically prescribes antihistamines, decongestants, or drugs that act on the nervous system. While these may be effective in treating the allergic response, they often have undesirable side effects, such as drowsiness, immune system suppression or over-reliance on medications.
Can Acupuncture help?
As the practitioner of Chinese medicine, I was taught to diagnose each patient’s allergies individually, looking for a pattern of disharmony that has resulted in symptoms. I usually start by dividing up the root of the problem from its branch. The branch is the allergy symptom whereas the root is the situation in the body that led to the allergy happening. Once I have a clear picture of a patient’s unique combination of symptoms, I would create a treatment plan which involves a weekly acupuncture treatments, advices on dietary and life style changes.
Why do some people overreact to everyday irritants? In my practice, the most common pattern I see is weak lung and spleen qi (energy). Lung qi is how we describe the function of the entire respiratory tract, including the nasal passages. So weak lung qi refers to a respiratory tract that is underperforming. Spleen qi is a way of describing how the digestive system is involved with the metabolism of fluids, so weak spleen qi refers to poor digestive function, which can lead to an overproduction of mucus, which tends to collect in the lungs. Kidneys are responsible not only for breathing, due to their function of grasping Qi, but also sneezing. If Kidneys are deficient, the allergic constitution is common in some people.
According to the most up to date evidence, acupuncture is an effective treatment for seasonal allergies. Acupuncture, the ancient form of Chinese medicine strengthens body’s overall defences, regulate antibodies and restore the balance from the very first treatment. Acupuncture for the treatment of seasonal allergies works at two levels. Firstly, it helps reduce the symptoms. Secondly, acupuncture treats the root cause of the condition, addresses any underlying imbalances, and thus improves overall health. Moreover, acupuncture strengthens the immune system by stimulating and strengthening Spleen, Lung and Kidneys.
According most recent western medicine studies Acupuncture has been shown to reduce IgE (immunoglobulin which anchors to mast cells and creates inflammation in nasal mucosa) levels. Additionally, Acupuncture has also been shown to reduce other inflammatory neuropeptides such SP and VIP which creates itching, sneezing, runny and blocked nose in allergic rhinitis
What can you do to help yourself?
- Weekly acupuncture treatments. Try to start before allergy season to treat the root of the allergies before they kick in.
- If your sinuses are congested, try cutting back on dairy products, which can cause mucus to build up in some people.
- Wheat/Gluten can make inflammation worse, so it’s worth limiting it if you are having an allergy attack.
- Eat foods that are rich in Vitamin C. This is a natural antihistamine and can be found in citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, broccoli, spinach, strawberries, melon, and cabbage.
- Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that supports the respiratory system. You should increase your intake of beta-carotene by eating yellow and orange fruits, such as mangoes and papayas, orange root vegetables such as carrots and yams, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale.
- Low magnesium has been linked to allergies in clinical research. Increase your magnesium by including sunflower seeds, spinach, chard, salmon, and sesame seeds in your diet.
- Quercetin is an antioxidant that is high in bioflavonoids. It too has an antihistamine effect and also decreases inflammation. Get more quercetin by eating onions, red grapes, apples (with the skin on), tomatoes, and leafy green vegetables.
- Try avoiding the triggers. Pollen sensitive individuals may remove offending plants from their gardens, wear surgical masks when anticipating pollen exposure or even in some cases move to a different location to escape pollens. Dust reduction strategies include fitting mattresses and pillows with allergen reducing covers and removing carpets and curtains from the home and workplace. Pets which trigger reactions may have to be kept out of the bedroom, or in extreme cases re-homed. Avoidance of triggers can be effective however is not always possible or practical.
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