Acupuncture for Allergies

Allergies can affect sufferers in varying degrees. Some with mild allergy symptoms might be bothered by mild rashes or some sneezing while others may experience life-threatening symptoms.  Some people might not be able to eat or sample mouth-watering morsels and other people might not enjoy a visit to a relative who might have a pet cat whose dander might cause sneezing fits on the visitor. Others might not enjoy a sunny spring day due to allergy to certain pollens and others might be always wary of foods offered that may contain peanut whose mere contact to the skin can produce in them an anaphylactic shock. Whatever the severity of the reaction, the root cause is the same: the over reaction of the body to certain substances in the environment.

One type of allergy is season allergy which can be in the form of hay fever or rhinitis. Symptoms can include sinus congestion, stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes. The body produces copious amounts of phlegm that block the nasal cavity. This causes pressure in the sinuses to build up (sinuses are the spaces in the skull that help detect pressure changes in the environment. It also helps keep the head lighter). The growing pressure affects the lymph nodes which start to swell causing the person to be more susceptible to flu and colds. Though usually evidenced in the nose and sometimes in the eyes, phlegm is really a derivative of poor digestive function. In traditional Chinese medicine terms, the digestive function associates to Spleen function.

According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the process that transforms the food we eat into something the body needs to produce energy is one of the responsibilities of the Spleen system. This system is also responsible for the transportation function in the body. A dysfunction of the Spleen system will prevent or slow down food transformation and this creates dampness in the body.  When the dampness lingers, it starts to accumulate and when combined with heat results in the formation of phlegm. Phlegm then starts to increase in the body and it begins to coat the linings of the body, particularly that of the nose, throat and lungs. It also coats the tissues and linings of the internal organs and can even attach itself to the muscle tissues.  Two things that phlegm can do are to weaken the body’s electrical conductivity and obstructs the normal flow of blood and chi.

Here are some of the body connection TCM speaks about:

The ears are the portals to the Kidney
The tongue is the gate the Heart
The mouth is the gate to the Spleen
The eyes are portals to the Liver
The nose is the portal to the Lungs

When a certain sense organ has a particular problem, it also affects a specific organ system in the body. One example is when the eyes become itchy and watery due to an allergy, a TCM/acupuncture practitioner will state that there is blockage within the Liver system. One of the functions of the Liver system is the cleansing of the Blood. The phlegm coming from the immune system is very sticky and needs to be addressed by the Liver system.

The sneezing and stuffy nose are signs that the phlegm has collected in the Lungs.  TCM explains that that the Lungs dominate the defensive chi.  A weakness in the defensive chi causes the body to over react to pathogens that the body perceives to be hostile. The body then sends in white blood cells to kill the pathogen. The battle of the leukocytes and pathogens creates the allergic reaction.

Traditional Chinese medicine recognizes the meridians of the body as thoroughfares of chi pertaining to various organs. Where there is a health problem, a specific meridian is affected. A sinus congestion points to problems in the Large intestine and Stomach meridians. Therefore, allergy problems may be due to certain factors in the Large Intestine and Stomach functions.

In summation, seasonal allergies such as sinusitis and hay fever have an underlying problem which is phlegm blockage. The phlegm is derived from a poorly functioning Spleen system. The blockage is in the nasal cavities which is the portal or gate of the Lungs.  Also blockages or obstructions also develop in the Liver system leading to symptoms such as watery and itchy eyes and obstructions and build up of toxins in the colon, which are evidenced as build-up of pressure in the sinus cavity.

The objective of acupuncture treatment for allergy is to reinforce the function of the organ systems. This starts with relief from the symptoms.  Acupuncture is quite a potent tool in releasing the nasal cavity from blockages. It helps drain the sinus blockage and clear the nasal passages, thus clearing up the fuzziness in the head and restoring normal breathing.

Overcoming, preventing and long term relief of allergies entail the modification of the environment in the body. The Lung and Spleen systems need to be strengthened. Foods that foster Dampness like refined flour, sweet food, rich food, fried food and greasy food are not particularly recommended if your aim is the fortify the Spleen. Moreover, too much consumption of cold foods (sodas and cold water and beverages) can impair Spleen function as well. Foods good for optimal Spleen function include quickly cooked (not overcooked) vegetables and whole grains.

Foods that are pungent and aromatic like spices, ginger, scallions, garlic and onions are good for the Large intestine and Lung systems. Foods with a sour taste or strong tart are very good for the Liver system. Examples of these include berries and lemons.

Furthermore, Chinese herbal formulas specifically created to optimize the function of these organ systems are absolutely important in helping one become more resilient allergies or get prompt relief from their allergy symptoms.

Typically for an allergy treatment an acupuncture course involving 10 sessions is required to attain best results. The degree of severity the allergy may also factor in the duration of treatment.