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Allergy Relief with Acupuncture

by Dr. Elizabeth Langer

Coughing, sneezing, red eyes, and a running nose?  Welcome to allergy season! 

There are many ways to fight allergies, and acupuncture is one of the most effective!

What are allergies?

Allergies are over-reactions of your body to normal stimulation. Allergens, factors which exacerbate allergies, can originate from animals, dust, foods, and the change of seasons. Common allergy symptoms may include coughing, sneezing, a runny nose, congestion, and red and watery eyes. Other symptoms may include fatigue, headaches, and mental fogginess. Given such a broad range of symptoms, allergies can often be mistaken for the flu, a cold, or a sinus infection.

In some cases, living with allergies is not difficult because the allergen can easily be removed. If milk makes you sick, eliminate it from your diet. If cats make you sneeze, avoid them. But if you have seasonal allergies or are bothered by dust and molds, avoidance is not possible. You need a treatment that will strengthen your body and prevent flareups. 

How does acupuncture treat allergies?

Acupuncture relieves acute allergic reactions such as coughing, sneezing, irritated eyes, and congestion by dispersing the energy in your body, or Qi, to provide almost immediate relief.

However, acupuncture provides more than just symptomatic relief. Receiving regular acupuncture treatments can decrease the severity of symptoms if exposure to an irritating allergen does occur. If cats leave you feeling congested with a runny nose for days, regular acupuncture treatments may reduce the reaction to a minor irritation. 

Seasonal allergies often occur due to excess of "pathogens," such as "Wind" and "Heat." The needles stimulate specific points to eliminate these "pathogens" from your body, reducing symptoms upon exposure. At the same time, acupuncture points can be used to strengthen your system so that your constitution in general is more resilient to allergens that make you sick.

Unlike taking antihistamines and receiving allergy shots, acupuncture does not lower the immune system. After having allergy shots for over nine years, I know that if I was sick, then I was not able to receive a shot until the illness passed.

If you are experiencing symptoms and you are unsure whether they are due to allergies or illness, the acupuncture treatment will not reduce your body's own natural immune response. And if you have an infection and must take medication, the acupuncture treatment will not interfere. It may even help to reduce some of the medication's side effects.

What about food allergies?

Though acupuncture is associated with treatment for seasonal allergies, it can also be used to manage food allergies. Food allergies can cause a wide range of symptoms such as mental fogginess, gas, and bloating. Other reactions may include swelling and edema, fatigue, rashes, and itching. Food allergies may be misdiagnosed as "irritable bowel syndrome" as certain foods upset digestion and create constipation and diarrhea.

Common foods which create allergic reactions are dairy, eggs, shellfish, soy, nuts, and gluten. Allergies to these foods can often be controlled by eliminating them from the diet.

Acupuncture promotes digestion and absorption of nutrients by improving how the body processes food. Some foods should always be avoided. However, if your symptoms are mild, you may be able to introduce some of these foods back into your diet. Check with your health care provider first.

If reactions are severe, which they tend to be in allergies to nuts and shell-fish, don’t rely completely on acupuncture. Food allergies can create life-threatening reactions and you may go into anaphylactic shock!  

Anaphylactic Shock

Anaphylaxis is a severe and life-threatening reaction to an allergen. Upon exposure, these reactions can occur within seconds to minutes. Common allergens which create this state include, but are not limited to bee venom, shell-fish, nuts, penicillin, and morphine.

If you have an allergy that you know can induce an anaphylactic reaction, please don’t rely on acupuncture treatments alone. Get medication and carry it with you. These medicines may include oral diphenhdramines or injectable epinephrine.

While there may be some anecdotal "evidence" that acupuncture (or any other treatment) can "cure" allergies, do you really want to bet your life on it?  In the end, it's all about balance.

For more information on how acupuncture can help you this season, call 412-860-0246 and we will be happy to answer any questions.