Treating Allergy Symptoms and Their Root Cause with Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture

Springtime brings with it the promise of warmth, sunshine, flowers, pollen, and allergy. Allergens such as weed, grass, and tree pollens, and animal dander, dust mites dust, mold spores are at their most potent during this beautiful time of the year.

We all know that over-the counter drugs can provide us with much welcome relief from the misery brought about by allergies; the problem is this relief is short-term and since they are drugs, they all come with harmful side effects to the body. Traditional Chinese medicine or TCM, on the other hand, addresses allergies by treating the individual holistically (as a whole). It targets the underlying cause of the allergy which is an imbalanced immune system and therefore brings about a longstanding and significant resolution to the symptoms of allergy.

What are allergies?

An example of an imbalanced immunity is hay fever or allergic rhinitis. This condition happens when the immune system responds to a certain object that is seen as harmful to the body when it comes into contact with the skin or eyes or when it enters the body through the mouth. The reaction of the body to the foreign object may result in quick physiological changes such as asthma, sneezing, sinus congestion, itchy throat any eyes, and even diarrhea. When a person is exposed to an allergen such as tree pollen, it often causes a huge release of IgE antibodies that bind to a form of white blood cells or leukocytes called mast cells. Mast cells are usually found in the skin, the abdominal wall, the upper respiratory tract, and the lungs. The activation of these cells stimulates the release of histamines, chemicals that brings about the common symptoms of allergy.

Allergy that arises from the IgE antibodies can produce immediate symptoms that may by long-term or permanent. There are also reactions that are delayed. Sometimes the symptoms may take three days to manifest. These types of reactions are usually caused by IgG antibodies and are often triggered by inhalant or food allergies. Moreover, TCM physicians can also utilize the term allergy in reference to different immune system reactions such as intolerances or nonspecific hypersensitivity that do not result in typical allergic reactions but nevertheless result in adverse and undesirable symptoms in response to environmental exposures.

A theory known as the Total Load Theory states that when certain individuals are exposed to just a single allergen, this may not be enough to bring about an allergic reaction. But when they are exposed to multiple allergens all at once, this triggers an allergic reaction in them. For example, a person who is allergic to cypress pollen and dairy milk may not have a reaction when merely drinking cow’s milk, but when cypress pollen is present, it triggers the allergy. So during springtime, it may be best for him/her to avoid milk altogether in order to minimize the risk of allergy.

Conventional Western Modalities for Allergies

Allopathic treatments are usually drugs that try to minimize or relieve the symptoms of the allergy. The most popular of these drugs is antihistamines. Benadryl and Chlor-trimetron are two of the most popular antihistamines in the market today. Decongestants, corticosteroids and drugs such as epinephrine and Albuterol are used to treat asthma or allergic rhinitis.

Doctors highly recommend the use of air filters to lessen their patients’ exposure to allergens or avoid the allergen altogether; if this is not possible, the other recourse would be to desensitize the patient to the allergen. This is accomplished by injecting him/her with small amounts of the allergen in gradual incremental dosages to lower the sensitivity of the patient to the allergen up to the point that reaction no longer occurs.

As mentioned, Western drugs are excellent providers of short-term relief from the symptoms of allergy, but since side effects such as drowsiness and overdependence to these drugs can occur, a lot of people are looking for alternative treatment to help better manage their allergies. Many have discovered that acupuncture can actually be a safe and powerful treatment for allergies.

Traditional Chinese Medicine, Respiratory Health, and Allergies

TCM practitioners see an association of allergic rhinitis to Wind due to its symptoms that quickly come and go, result in congestion, and cause the individual to stay away from windy conditions. The Wind pathogen usually is accompanied by a weakened Wei Qi. In the view of Western medicine, Wei Qi is equal to the ability of the body to resist respiratory infections such as colds. A deficiency in a person’s Wei Qi makes him/her more susceptible to colds and allergy symptoms.

The practitioner/acupuncturist may also search for underlying and constitutional signs in their allergy-afflicted patients. Acupuncture is a holistic type of treatment that endeavors to treat the symptoms and their root cause at the same time. Chronic allergy sufferers often suffer from Kidney or Spleen Deficiency complicated by Lung signs. The aim of acupuncture allergy treatment is to resolve the symptoms and provide relief, while resolving the underlying immune imbalance at which is believed to be the root cause of the allergy of the patient. TCM modalities for allergy besides acupuncture include herbal remedies, and dietary recommendations.

Christina Prieto is an Orlando acupuncturist, a certified Yoga instructor and the founder of Harmony Wellness Center in central Florida.