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Allergy Relief with Acupuncture

by Dr. Elizabeth Langer

Coughing, sneezing, red eyes, and a runny nose... 

Welcome to allergy season! 

Fortunately, you don't have to suffer. There are many ways to fight allergies, and acupuncture is one of the most effective.

What are allergies?

Allergies are overreactions of your body to normal stimulation. Allergens are factors that exacerbate allergies and originate from animals, dust, foods, and the change of seasons. Common allergy symptoms include coughing, sneezing, a runny nose, congestion, and red, watery eyes. Allergies may also cause you to experience 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, 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 occurs.

Seasonal allergies are often due to an excess of "pathogens," such as "Wind" and "Heat." Acupuncture stimulates specific points to eliminate these "pathogens" from your body, reducing symptoms upon exposure. At the same time, acupuncture strengthens your system so that you are more resilient to allergens that make you sick. Unlike antihistamines and allergy shots, acupuncture does not lower your 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 that week. If you are sick and must take medication, acupuncture 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. Common foods that create allergic reactions include dairy, eggs, shellfish, soy, peanuts, 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 food is processed. Some foods should always be avoided. If your symptoms are mild, you may be able to re-introduce some of these foods back into your diet. Check with your healthcare provider first.

If reactions are severe, which they tend to be in allergies to peanuts and shellfish, don’t rely completely on acupuncture for protection. 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 that create this state include, but are not limited to bee venom, shellfish, 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 at all times. These medicines may include oral diphenhydramines 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? 

For more information on how acupuncture can help you this season, send me a message and I will be happy to answer any questions.