Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include abundant nasal discharge, sneezing, and nasal congestion. Allergic rhinitis can be a regular or seasonal disorder with many patients manifesting red and itchy eyes apart from the other aforementioned symptoms. As the sinus pathways get congested even more, patients may suffer from thickened mucus, asthmatic symptoms, breathing problems, headaches, and poor mental concentration. Western medicine views the symptoms as originating from the extreme sensitivity of the patient’s nasal cavity to fumes, animal dander, dust mites pollens and spores. The immune system of the patient, for some unexplained reason, has caused the body to become very sensitive to perceived threats that may enter the body through the throat, nose and mouth. When these perceived factors do really enter the body, the immune system transmits signals commanding killer white blood cells to attack the invading elements and confine them in the orifices. The signs and symptoms of the allergy are the outcomes of the battle between the white blood cells and the invading elements.
For western medicine, treatments for allergic rhinitis often are used to desensitize the person to whatever causes his/her allergy, or take antihistamines to suppress the person’s immune system. Basically, the treatments are targeted on scaling down the sensitivity of the immune system towards a certain allergen. What they do not do is change or strengthen other aspects of their immune system that may be important in resolving the patient’s allergic reaction. Conventional treatments also do not clear out the blockages that prevent or delay certain organ systems in the body from regaining their normal healthy function.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
In addressing allergic rhinitis, Traditional Chinese Medicine targets the internal factors that caused the immune system of the body to malfunction and at the same time help relieve the symptoms resulting from the system’s hyperactivity. Chinese herbs and acupuncture help improve the health of the immune system enabling it to correctly and calmly assess the level of threat and normalize the response in accordance with the properly evaluated degree of threat.
In order to better comprehend the functions and essence of immunity, Chinese Medicine has adopted the notion of “Wei Qi.” The body’s life energy known as qi (pronounced chee) possesses a defensive aspect known as Wei Qi. Wei Qi acts like the body’s policeman traveling under the skin and along muscles to protect the body from forces that in TCM are known as heat, wind cold and other elements that may be encountered in certain types of environment. The Qi of Lung and kidney aid the Wei Qi in guarding the body against wind-transmitted factors that can be potentially pathogenic. Kidney Qi carries nutrients up to the lungs. It also sends information from the endocrine system to help Wei Qi defend well against the pathogens it may meet. The mucosal linings of the respiratory passages, the nose and the mouth are guarded and nourished by Lung Qi. If a person’s Wei Qi is strong and properly nourished, it can precisely identify a foreign element within its vicinities and then execute an appropriate inflammatory response to snare the pathogen and at the same time summon killer leukocytes or white blood cells to eradicate the captive histamine allergen. Sneezing and nasal discharges take out the dead pathogens thus helping bring back the body to a state of homeostasis.
Allergies that come along with a deficiency:
If the Wei Qi is weak due to malfunctioning organs that supply it, a simple allergic reaction can turn into a severe reaction. The leukocytes might enter the battle weak and fatigued and fail to neutralize the pathogen. The symptoms then can become very severe. The person’s breathing might be severely affected causing him to struggle in his/her breathing. There are certain factors that might bring about allergic rhinitis combined with a deficiency.
-Deficient weak pulse
-Allergic rhinitis that develops due to a change in the weather
-Past and/or present occurrences of asthma or eczema
-Waxy and pale complexion
-Increased itching along the nose and eyes
-Recurring and temporary sneezing
Allergies exacerbated by stagnation:
If for any reason blood vessels and Qi pathways become obstructed, Wei Qi can also be affected. Obstructions may develop when liver weakens due to extreme stress. Unreleased anger or frustration can literally choke liver qi stagnating its flow as well as that of the flow of blood throughout the body. The slow distribution of energy, information and blood makes the defense mechanisms weak causing them to overreact. Some signs of allergic rhinitis exacerbated by stagnation include:
-Whitish or reddish face that’s does not correspond to current events
-A taut-string pulse
-Whitish or reddish face that turns purple when angry when
Food choices can better or worsen your allergic rhinitis
Another cause for blockage/stagnation develops when the person chooses a poor diet. Cold foods that produce abundant phlegm can cause dampness conditions in the body that slows digestion as well as the absorption and transport of nutrients throughout the body. Sugary drinks and foods as well as peanuts, cow’s milk, and cold fruit juices can increase mucus in the digestive tract that can travel to the lungs and nose. Children are the most prone to this condition. They often suffer from chronic noisy respiration, persistent runny noses and/or itching of the nose. Some aspects of this pattern of hypo-activity include:
-Loose bowel movement
-Thirst without the need to drink
-Muzzy-headed, tired and a droopy posture
The effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of allergic rhinitis
Two of the most common forms of TCM treatment for allergic rhinitis are acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy. The acupuncturist carefully inserts ultra fine needles into specific acupuncture points. These acupuncture points are stimulated to suppress a current allergic reaction and clear the mucus. It can also help reestablish normal communication between the immune system and the brain to make sure there is no recurrence of the allergy reaction. Around three sessions of acupuncture is sufficient to help prevent development of allergy during months just before the allergy season. After the treatment, the Wei Qi, kidneys and lungs are fortified in a way that the person has no more reactions to former allergens.
Chinese Herbal Prescriptions Offer Relief:
Taking Chinese herbal medicine on a regular basis can strengthen the kidneys and lungs eventually which can make your body strong enough to repel any potential allergens it may encounter.
Scott Paglia is a licensed and board certified acupuncturist in Bellingham, WA and provides master level pulse diagnosis, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture in Whatcom County, WA.