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Acupuncture for Seasonal Allergies

Are you dealing with hay fever this spring?

By March 28, 2023 No Comments

With the cherry blossoms in full bloom, spring is upon us, and for many in the DC area, so is the onset of allergy season. Over 50 million Americans experience some form of allergy symptom. Increasing amounts of food additives, chemical pollutants, and other environmental triggers are causing more and more people of all ages to develop allergies. Seasonal allergy triggers include tree pollen, grass, mold, and ragweed. Tree pollen is the most prevalent pollen in the spring and many trees are prolific pollinators. Grass and weed pollen follow in late spring and summer, and airborne mold spores can be found throughout the year, as well as other common allergens such as dust, dust mites, and animal dander. These types of allergens cause sneezing, runny nose and eye allergies, or itchy, watering eyes.

 

While many allopathic over-the-counter medications rely on inhibiting the allergic response, practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believe that addressing the root cause of allergies, treating the whole person, and focusing on balancing the immune system leads to long term health benefits in managing seasonal allergies.

 

What are allergies?

Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is a learned response by the immune system that elicits rapid physiological changes when exposed to an allergen. Typically, exposure to an allergen such as tree pollen causes a massive release of IgE antibodies that attach to white blood cells known as mast cells. These cells are primarily located in the lungs and upper respiratory tract, the lining of the stomach and the skin. When these cells are stimulated, they release a number of chemicals including histamine which produce allergic symptoms such as itchy eyes and throat, sinus congestion and sneezing, asthma, and even diarrhea can ensue.

With some people, an exposure to a single allergen may not trigger an allergic response, but exposure to several allergens around the same time will. For example, someone may drink milk on a daily basis with no known allergies to casein, a protein found in cow’s and goat’s milk. However, if they have a known allergy to tree pollen, they may experience more severe symptoms around allergy season. By eliminating dairy at that time of year, they can decrease their “allergic load”, lessening their allergic response.

 

How can acupuncture help?

Acupuncture works to relieve allergy symptoms, and help strengthen the body’s immune defenses, so that it is less vulnerable to allergens in the environment. As Acupuncturists, we look for both internal and external factors that are affecting the health of the person.  In TCM, the immune system shields the body from external pathogenic factors by a protective, energetic barrier beneath the skin and mucosa known as Wei Qi. The lungs and kidneys provide the energy to keep Wei Qi strong and to keep pathogens from entering through the nose and mouth. However, when Wei Qi is weak, it becomes easy for external pathogens to enter. According to TCM, a person who suffers from allergies generally has a deficiency of Wei Qi, making them more susceptible to respiratory infections. People with Wei Qi deficiency catch colds more easily, and their allergy symptoms may be worse in the spring or fall. Acupuncture can help to strengthen the lungs and kidneys, which in turn helps to strengthen Wei Qi.

Making sure you are getting enough sleep, minimizing stress, and making  simple dietary modifications around allergy season, such as reducing or avoiding dairy products, excessively sweet or spicy foods, and replacing coffee with green tea, will also help to control your allergic response.

If you experience seasonal allergies, consider signing up for our special acupuncture allergy clinic on Saturday, April 22 and Monday, April 24.  Sign up here.

Sara Palmer

Author Sara Palmer

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