Acupuncture and Allergies

Many people are frequently afflicted by seasonal allergies and suffer from nasal congestion, sniffling, and sneezing. Seasonal allergies occur when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to external allergens. The most common triggers of seasonal allergies are pollen from wind-pollinated plants such as weeds, trees, and grasses, which result in allergic reactions. Let us take a quick look at the symptoms of allergies:

Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Watery and itchy eyes
  • Irritated sinuses, throat, or ear canals
  • Ear congestion and ringing
  • Postnasal drip
  • Acid reflux
  • Skin rashes

Allergies can make you feel weak and anxious because when you cannot get enough oxygen due to nasal congestion, your nervous system will be hypersensitive. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can address the root cause of allergies to prevent seasonal allergens triggered by environmental factors.

Modern medicine can save people’s lives from severe allergic reactions such as anaphylactic shock. When allergists treat food allergies, they first prescribe anti-histamine medication, then cortisol. If these don’t work, they will give allergy shots and suggest that the patient avoid all foods to which he or she may possibly be allergic. In most cases, following this protocol, children’s allergies do not get better if they do not have a healthy lifestyle. Eventually, they may have to carry an EpiPen everywhere to protect them from dying of an anaphylactic shock.

If your acupuncturist can find the root cause of an allergy and then use appropriate preventative methods and changes of lifestyle, you could get rid of allergies gradually. If you cannot get rid of your allergies in this way, try Chinese herbal medicines to clear up chronic inflammation and to restore balance of your immune system. After your symptoms completely disappear, gradually re-introduce the food you are allergic to in very small amounts once or twice a week. For some children for whom even the smell of peanuts or the accidental consumption of foods containing a trivial amount of peanut oil can lead to anaphylactic shock, if they follow the above advice, I am fairly sure that they may grow out of this dangerous condition, even though they may never be able to eat real peanuts.

How acupuncture can help treat the root cause of allergies?

Acupuncture helps to maintain vital energy flow through the meridians of your body. These meridians are channels that serve all organs, muscles, nerves, and surfaces of the body. Energy flows through these meridians into the body and balances your immune and nervous systems. However, allergies block meridians and obstruct the flow of energy, causing inflammation and infection. Acupuncture helps restore the smooth flow of energy by placing thin needles on the acupuncture points. These needles can reduce the histamine release from the mast cells by balancing different chemicals such as histamine, dopamine, serotonin and endorphin. Acupuncture can also improve your digestion to reduce histamine release because undigested food tends to trigger immune reactions even you have no allergies to food. Acupuncture can also reduce the stress, so your body can function better.

The effect of acupuncture can last up to 12 months. However, its actual efficacy depends on factors like the nature or severity of the patient’s symptoms and their duration. The effects of acupuncture and healing time can vary from person to person. For some people, the time taken to cure seasonal allergies can be more, while for others, it may be less. The longer a person has had the allergies, the longer the time required to cure the problem. Most of the time, the body takes some time to respond to a new treatment and may require multiple sessions of acupuncture to cure allergies. As symptoms improve, less frequent acupuncture treatment is required. Thus, if you are suffering from seasonal allergies, it is recommended that you seek acupuncture therapy and Chinese herbs three months before the allergies starts.

How to Prevent Allergies?

1. Drink enough water to prevent dehydration and to help your body discharge environmental toxins. Chemical toxins can sensitize your body. Dehydration can lead to histamine release, which is one of the reasons why athletes may have asthma attacks during or after training or races. Drinking coffee, soda and other soft drinks can make your body dehydrated more and aggravate the allergies each year.

2. Avoid seafood or nuts during periods of allergic reactions. Reintroduce them little by little after the allergies are gone. When you have a weak digestive system, try to eat easily digested food because your stomach may not be able to digest seafood or nut protein thoroughly if it is not functioning well. The undigested protein can trigger the allergic reaction. Cooked nuts or vegetables can make them absorb more easily.

3. Check your medications, because some medications may aggravate allergies. Non-steroid, anti-inflammatory medications and antibiotics are the drugs most commonly associated with hives. Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI), angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEI), and systemic anti-fungal medications have also been reported to cause rashes and make your current allergies worse due to higher level of histamine. One woman told Boston Acupuncturist that after she received chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer, she developed chronic hives, lasting more than a year. One day, she suffered from a headache, took one tablet of aspirin, and was then rushed to the emergency room because her throat almost closed up. Later, an allergist told her that she should not take aspirin if she has hives or other allergy symptoms.

4. Avoid long-term use of antibiotics; try other ways to treat acne. For example, many teenagers reported to Boston Acupuncturist that when they cut down on sweets, ate less greasy, spicy food, and drank more water, their acne became much better. Teenager acne is due to hormone fluctuation. If they eat enough vegetables, drink more water, and avoid simple sugars, their bodies are better able to discharge extra hormone metabolites. Antibiotics can destroy your gut lining, causing leaky gut. Your digestive system cannot absorb food properly, making you prone to allergies.

5. If you have never eaten a certain kind of food before, especially during childhood, try to introduce it little by little. Do not eat it every day; start by testing it out no more than twice a week. If you find that you have itchy sensations, rashes, or acid reflux, stop eating it for a while and see if the symptoms clear up. Do not try anything new during allergy seasons or when your immune function was challenged during chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

6. Do not over-eat any kind of food, such as strawberries or nuts. You should have as many choices as possible, with moderate amounts of each kind. The theory here is that small amounts of food will desensitize the body whereas large amounts could do the opposite. Allergy shots operate by the same mechanism. Some allergists treat allergies by introducing sublingual drops that contain many kinds of allergens in small amounts.

7. Try to protect children less than 2 years of age from bacterial or viral infections because their immune functions are not yet fully developed. If they do get an infection, do not use antibiotics for too long. Certain herbs have very good anti-bacterial and anti-viral effects, as proven by both human experience and scientific research. You can get some researches from Pub med when you type Chinese herbs and allergies.

8. Feed children home-made foods as much as you can, especially when they are sick and have weak digestive functions. Try to avoid feeding kids barbecued meat; well-cooked meat has a much smaller chance of inducing food allergies. Parents should start baby food as early as 6 months of age to raise a healthy child without allergies in the future.

9. Get plenty of sleep. Remember that histamine release is closely related with the sleep-wake cycle. Boston Chinese acupuncturist have found that children who are always alert and have too much energy tend to develop various kinds of allergies due to the high levels of histamine circulating in their bodies.

10. Avoid intense exercises (such as running) if you have allergy, because it can stimulate the release of adrenaline and temporarily lower the cortisol level, thus aggravating the symptoms of allergies. Try more relaxing exercises such as Tai Ji, Yoga and Qi Gong to lower histamine release during allergy seasons.

11. Reduce your stress level as much as possible. Every kind of disease can be aggravated by stress. I.J. Elenkov et al. at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, localized a corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. This hormone stimulates the adrenal glands to produce more cortisol to fight stress. In humans, CRH is found in the inflamed tissues of patients with severe autoimmune diseases. These researchers demonstrated that CRH activates mast cells, leading to the release of histamine, which ends in fluid leaking from blood vessels. Thus, the activation of the stress system through the direct and indirect effects of CRH may influence the susceptibility of an individual to certain autoimmune diseases, allergies, infection, or even cancer.

12. If you currently have allergies, do not drink red wine or any kind of alcohol, which can stimulate the body to produce more histamine. You can resume drinking once your seasonal allergy is gone. When we get older, we need to cut down on the alcohol intake because we cannot metabolize the alcohol as well as when we were young.

13. Maintain regular bowel movements. Constipation can make allergies worse because toxic materials stay in the intestines for days and may be reabsorbed into the blood stream.

14. Try to avoid extreme hunger, as this may aggravate allergic symptoms. Clinically, when people have rashes, extreme hunger makes them feel itchy everywhere. P. Clementsen of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, studied histamine release in white blood cell suspensions from normal individuals and from patients allergic to house dust mites or birch pollen. He found that the influenza A virus enhances histamine release from one kind of white blood cell, the basophile, but that sugars can abolish this effect by blocking the binding site on the cell membrane. If your blood sugar level drops too low, it may facilitate histamine release enhanced by other factors such as a viral infection. Furthermore, extremely low blood sugar can trigger fight or flight hormones.

15. Avoid a high salt diet, which can lead to dehydration and histamine release. When your body tries to discharge extra salt, the salt draws out huge amounts of water from your body. That is why the more soda you drink, the thirstier you are.

16. Improve your digestion by adding turnip or daikon into your soup. You can also soak tangerine peels in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes, and then drink the water. For tea drinkers, you can choose barley green tea.

17. Add apple cider vinegar to your salad or simply add one tea spoon of it to 5 ounces water and drink it twice to three times a day, depending on how determined you are to get better. You will need to rinse your mouth with water after drinking the vinegar.

18. Get rid of processed food and simple sugar can make your digestive system stronger, so you will not suffer seasonal allergies.

19. If you already try acupuncture and lifestyle changes for allergies for over 3 to 6 months, your allergic reaction is not improving, you may need to see Herbalist to have a specific formula to improve your digestion and balance your immune and nervous system. Chinese herbal formulas are multi-targeting. Herbs can help you digest food better, sleep deeper and balance your immune function, so your body will not supersensitive to the environmental stimuli.

Acupuncture points:

ST43: On the dorsum of the foot, in the depression distal to the junction of the second and third metatarsal bones. This point helps clear the inflammation in your stomach, so it helps allergies by improving the digestive function.

UB12: 1.5 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the 2nd thoracic vertebra. This point help clear up the wind on the bladder channel, so the immune function is more balanced.

UB13: 1.5 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the 3rd thoracic vertebra. This point help improve lung function for sneezing, coughing and asthma during allergy season.

UB44: 3 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the 5th thoracic vertebra. This bladder point help balance the immune function, so your immune system will not react to pollen and other environmental stimuli.

CV14: On the anterior median line of the upper abdomen, 6.0 cun above the bellybutton.

This point help improve digestion and smooth the energy flow in the chest.

Bai Chong Wuo: 2 cun superior to the medial end of the patella. This point improves spleen function and lowers the histamine level. It also helps arthritis.

Questions for practitioner and patients:

  1. Why is digestive system linked with allergy?
    a. Indigestive food can trigger immune reaction, leading to allergies.
    b. Leaky gut can cause imbalance of nervous system, which can lead to hyperactive immune function due to insomnia and anxiety.
    c. Undigested food can stimulate the immune system to produce antibody, causing severe allergies.
    d. A, b, C, D
  2. Alcohol can aggregate the allergy because it cause indigestion and histamine release:
    a. True
    b. False.
  3. If you have allergies, you need to drink sufficient water and avoid nuts to reduce the histamine release.
    a. True
    b. False
  4. What are the common symptoms of the allergies:
    a. Post-nasal drip
    b. Nasal congestion
    c. Running nose
    d. A, B, and C.
  5. How can acupuncture help get rid of allergy when combined with diet changes?
    a. Acupuncture reduce stress level
    b. Acupuncture help strengthen the digestive system
    c. Acupuncture can balance immune function.
    d. A. B, and C.
  6. Dehydration can induce the histamine release, making allergy worse
    a. False
    b. True
  7. Which of the following acupuncture points can help allergies?
    a. ST43
    b. SP10
    c. BL13
    d. All of the above.
  8. Lack of sleep can make allergy worse because insufficient sleep can make body produce more histamine and cause imbalance of the hormones.
    a. True
    b. False
  9. Spicy food can make allergy worse because it produces heat, leading histamine release and inflammation in your gut.
    a. False
    b. True
  10. What factors can make seasonal allergy worse?
    a. High level of stress
    b. Extreme hunger
    c. Alcohol
    d. All of the above.