Hayfever & Allergies

Hayfever and Allergies are a cause of much suffering according to 10-40% of the population worldwide.  

Hay Fever or allergic rhinitis, is a chronic inflammation of the nose, throat and sinuses. It is induced by external irritants, usually airborne pollens carried in the air.  Spring hay fever is related to tree pollen, summer and autumn to grass and weed pollen.   Non-seasonal allergens such as dust, animal hair, house dust mite excretions, mould, mildew, insect stings and bites trigger year-round discomfort that is often hard to manage.  Symptoms include a running nose, sneezing, watery itchy eyes that recur seasonally at specific times of the year.

Western medicine views seasonal allergies as a form of immediate hypersensitivity reaction which occurs when anti-bodies produced by lymphocytes interact with airborne particles such as pollen. Western medicine describes the locations of lymphocytes in addition to being in the blood stream as also in Peyer’s patches in the gastrointestinal tract, spleen, lymph nodes, and bone marrow. Interestingly in traditional acupuncture the Spleen, Stomach, and Large Intestine meridians are utilized a great deal, with a noticeable overlap of Western and Chinese medical thought, and the further implication that sugar is also a causative factor in allergenic response.

Exposure to the allergen results in symptoms such as itchy eyes and throat, sinus congestion and sneezing, asthma, and even diarrhoea. What occurs physiologically is a massive release of IgE antibodies, which attach to white blood cells known as mast cells. These cells are mainly located in the lungs and upper respiratory tract, the stomach lining, and the skin. When these cells are stimulated, they trigger a chemical release, including histamine, which produces allergic reactions. This is a misplaced immunity, and a learned response by the immune system.

Traditional Chinese acupuncture is a safe, natural and effective option for treating allergies. Chinese medicine interprets the cause of allergic rhinitis, referred to as “bi yuan,” as an imbalance in the distribution of qi, or vital energy flow that runs through the body, which treatment seeks to regulate and balance, in order to eliminate allergy symptoms.

Western (allopathic) medicine tends to rely on relieving the uncomfortable symptoms of allergy sufferers with the use of medications. While this approach may provide temporary relief, there are often unpleasant or even intolerable side effects. Increasingly, evidence-based research shows that Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine offers an effective means of controlling allergies and to address longterm management and prevention with treatment addressing both symptom and underlying cause,  treating the underlying constitution and regulating the immune system.

What are allergies?

Symptoms are signs of a malfunctioning immune system. In the case of allergies, things that are normally harmless, such as pollen, present a threat.  in reality, it is each person’s reaction to the allergens rather than the allergen itself.  Symptoms are caused by the histamine response produced as the body attempts to fight off allergens.  Basic allopathic medical therapies, such as antihistamines, rely on inhibiting the allergic response. Other types of drugs used to treat allergic rhinitis or asthma include those that act on the nervous system (Albuterol, epinephrine), while cortico-steroids (prednisone) and decongestants focus on suppressing the symptoms of allergies.

Western medicine also stresses the importance of avoiding the allergen with air filtration encouraged to decrease allergen exposure. When avoidance or elimination is impossible or impractical, the next level of treatment may be desensitisation, involving small amounts of the allergen injected in gradually increasing doses, in order to neutralise the volume of antibodies present over time. While allopathic medicine is effective in treating the allergic response, side effects such as drowsiness, immune system suppression or over-reliance on medications often result, making it an untenable or unsustainable solution over time.

Treatment of Allergies using Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine can dramatically lessen allergic reactions, and in some cases help the sufferer develop tolerance of the cause of the symptoms.  Regular treatment also enables most people to reduce or eliminate their dependence on allergy medication.  Treatment ideally adopts a two-phase approach when treating seasonal allergies. First, during the early spring to autumn pollen season, treatment focuses on treating acute symptoms of congestion.  Later, after the pollen season or on symptoms clearing, the immune system is strengthened and supported.  Regular maintenance treatment is encouraged, in order to foster longer term prevention, with a sustainable course of treatment tailored to your individual systems and needs.

Allergies are treatable. TCM provides an alternative that doesn’t require taking western-style medications, which can have unpleasant or even serious side effects. If you suffer from allergies, you may want to consider the natural approach offered by Traditional Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.

Microbial diversity in the gut may protect against allergies – Journal of Chinese Medicine, Feb 2012

Having a high diversity of bacterial species in the gut may protect babies against developing allergies, according to a comprehensive study of intestinal microflora in allergic and healthy infants conducted in Sweden. Stool samples were analysed at one month of age from 20 children with IgE-associated eczema, as well as from another 20 healthy controls. The researchers then used DNA sequencing to identify the bacterial species in the samples. The results showed that gut microflora diversity at one month was significantly greater in healthy children, compared to those children with atopic eczema. The authors results help substantiate the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, which suggests that early exposure to environmental allergens reduces the risk of developing allergies. They suggest that the composition of intestinal microflora during the first weeks of life is critical to the development of the infant immune system. In the absence of sufficient stimuli from a wide variety of bacteria, the immune system may overreact against harmless antigens in the environment, such as foods. (Source: Low diversity of the gut microbiota in infants with atopic eczema. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011 Dec 6. [Epub ahead of print]).

Acupuncture reduces itch and basophil activation in eczema – Journal of Chinese Medicine, June 2011

Results from a German pilot study show that acupuncture reduces itch intensity in patients with atopic eczema and that this correlates with reduced activation of basophils (histamine-secreting white blood cells). Ten patients with atopic eczema were randomised to receive acupuncture or no treatment. Mean itch intensity on a visual analog scale was rated significantly lower in the acupuncture group on day 15 (after five acupuncture treatments) and day 33 (after 10 acupuncture treatments). Compared with the control group, basophils from the acupuncture group showed significantly less in vitro activation following allergen stimulation, at all time-points. (Effect of Acupuncture on Allergen-Induced Basophil Activation in Patients with Atopic Eczema:A Pilot Trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Apr;17(4):309-14.J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Apr;17(4):309-14).

Acupuncture reduces allergic itching – Journal of Chinese Medicine, Jun 2010

Acupuncture can significantly reduce itching in patients with atopic eczema. A German study has investigated the effect of acupuncture on type I hypersensitivity itch and skin reaction in a crossover RCT. An allergen stimulus was applied to the skin of 30 patients with atopic eczema before (direct approach) and after (preventive approach) the following treatments: acupuncture at Quchi L.I.-11 and Xuehai SP-10 (verum acupuncture, VA), sham acupuncture at non-acupuncture points (placebo acupuncture, PA), or no acupuncture (NA). Subjective itch intensity was recorded using a visual analogue scale and an itch questionnaire (IQ). Objective measurements of wheal and flare size and skin perfusion (via LASER-Doppler) were carried out at the stimulus site ten minutes after application of allergen. The scientists found that acupuncture performed within minutes of initial exposure to the allergen (direct approach) appeared to soothe subjective feelings of itchiness – itch intensity and IQ scores were significantly lower with VA compared to NA and PA. They also found that, when patients were exposed to the allergen after acupuncture (preventive approach), not only did subjective itch intensity and mean IQ scores decrease (significantly lower with VA and PA compared to NA), but they also tended to have a less severe skin reaction. Mean wheal and flare size were significantly smaller with VA compared to PA and NA, and mean perfusion was significantly less with VA than with NA. The results additionally showed that the preventive effect of verum acupuncture on subjective itch sensation diminished over time, whereas its suppressive effect on skin-prick reactions increased over time. (Influence of acupuncture on type I hypersensitivity itch and the wheal and flare response in adults with atopic eczema – a blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. Allergy.. [Epub ahead of print]).

Nuts during pregnancy increase asthma risk – Journal of Chinese Medicine, Oct 2008

A cohort of 4,146 pregnant Dutch women was asked about their frequency of consumption of fruit, vegetables, fish, egg, milk, milk products, nuts, and nut products during the preceding month. The children’s diets were assessed at age two years, and their asthma and allergy status was assessed yearly until eight years of age. Daily consumption of nut products by mothers during pregnancy was found to increase the risk of their children developing asthma symptoms by more than 50%, compared with women who rarely consumed nut products during pregnancy. (Maternal food consumption during pregnancy and the longitudinal development of childhood asthma. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2008 Jul 15;178(2):124-31).

Apples and fish during pregnancy protect against atopy – Journal of Chinese Medicine, Feb 2008

Intake of apples and fish by women during pregnancy may reduce the risk of their children developing atopic conditions, according to the results of a longitudinal cohort study of nearly 2000 Dutch children. Mothers completed a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) during pregnancy, and children in the cohort were followed up at five years of age with a symptom questionnaire and FFQ. Food groups analysed were fruit, vegetables, fruit juice, whole-grain products, fish, dairy products and fat spreads. Maternal consumption of apples was found to have a protective effect on the children against asthma, while fish consumption was associated with protection against eczema. (Maternal food consumption during pregnancy and asthma, respiratory and atopic symptoms in 5-year-old children. Thorax. 2007 Sep;62(9):773-9).

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