Can acupuncture help me with my allergic reaction to the pollen? I am so miserable.
Looking at the big picture. Acupuncturists believe in addressing the causes of allergies – that is, treating the whole person and making sure to balance the immune system. Treating the cause, and not just the symptoms, leads to substantial long-term benefits in managing allergies. Certainly we focus on alleviating the immediate response to environment allergens, but it is also very important to take the long term view and offer support to each person so that his/her reaction to allergens is more comfortable.
What, exactly, is the problem? Tree pollens are the most prevalent pollens in the spring and many trees are prolific pollinators. Weed and grass pollens follow in late spring and summer. Airborne mold spores can be found almost year around, as well as other common allergens such as dust, dust mites, and animal dander.
Treating allergies. Allopathic medicine is often very effective at treating the allergic response but side effects such as drowsiness, immune system suppression, and over-reliance on medications cause many people to seek alternative approaches (acupuncture/ TCM herbalist) to manage their allergies through advice and treatment.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views allergic rhinitis as related to Wind, noting that symptoms come and go rapidly and people have congestion, watery eyes, overall fatigue, and often want to avoid windy situations. This Wind often co-exists with a deficiency of the Protective Qi or Wei Qi. People with Wei Qi deficiency catch colds or other respiratory infections easily, and allergy symptoms may be particularly bad in the spring or fall, seasons which are generally windy.
Looking further. Acupuncturists also look for constitutional or more deeply-rooted signs in each person who presents with allergies or other immune responses. These responses, such as nonspecific hypersensitivity or intolerances, are not classic allergic reactions but produce undesirable health effects in response to environmental exposures. We often see signs of Spleen and Kidney and Lung deficiency.
What’s the plan? The goal of the acupuncturist is to develop a plan which addresses the person’s acute symptoms and provides relief. At the same time, the acupuncturist will address the underlying immune system imbalance which is thought to be at the root of the person’s allergies. Treatments often include dietary modification, the use of specifically chosen herbal formulas, acupuncture, and Qi Gong exercises.
One and done? When it comes to allergies and sensitivity, there is no”quick fix.” This is especially true if a person is serious about dealing with the problem. Yes, we can make them more comfortable during “allergy season,” but an underlying deficiency has to be addressed. That process takes some time and patience. Ideally, it is better to get a person balanced before a big allergy season begins so that they are less reactive.
Recommendations. When an allergy sufferer has more of a response to pollen, with increased congestion, I recommend that they stop drinking milk and stop using milk products, such as cheese. You can try using goat milk and/or goat cheese and see how you tolerate them.
Probiotics. I also recommend that people get on (and stay on) a good probiotic such as PearlBiotic Spheres (Dr. Whitaker 1-800-722-8008). There are probiotics that are made for children. These probiotics are especially helpful if children have had antibiotics. Probiotics help maintain a strong, efficient digestive system, which will really support a strong immune system.
The result. Several of my patients have come into the clinic this spring (who have been treated for a while now) and have reported that they are not as reactive as they have been in the past. Hearing that really makes my day! It is wonderful to see such positive results!