One common form of allergy is allergic rhinitis which is usually a perennial and seasonal type of allergy marked by episodes of copious nasal discharge, nasal congestion and sneezing. Some patients also manifest red and itchy eyes. The increase of congestion in the sinus pathways can lead to asthmatic symptoms, headaches, impaired concentration, breathing difficulty and thickened mucus membranes. These symptoms are due to the extreme sensitivity of the nasal cavity lining to certain and several types of allergens including fumes, animal dander, dust mites, spores and pollens. A person may develop an immune response to a thing or substance that prompts the immune system to be on high alert especially when a foreign and potential allergen enters the body through the throat, mouth and nasal passages. When a specific foreign element enters the body, the immune system responds by sending signals to the body to isolate and attack it. White blood cells are dispatched to destroy the perceived threat. The activity of the white blood cells in destroying this element results in the symptoms and signs that characterize a typical allergic reaction.
Allergic rhinitis symptoms are usually treated with drugs particularly antihistamine drugs. The antihistamine works by blocking the immune response of the body. Basically, allergy medications focus on suppressing or redirecting the person’s immune response by inhibiting the production of histamines. Histamines are compounds in the body that help dilate capillaries, stimulate gastric secretion, decrease blood pressure and constrict the bronchial smooth muscle.
Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis Using the Chinese Medical Approach
The aim of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in treating allergic rhinitis is to balance the internal factors that are responsible for the overreaction of the body’s immune response and to alleviate the symptoms caused by the overreaction. Chinese herbal medicine is often combined acupuncture to aid the immune system into regulating the organs responsible for the immune response hypersensitivity.
Wei Qi or Wei Chi
Wei Chi is a Chinese medical term that corresponds to the functions and nature of immunity. Wei Chi is the defensive characteristic of Qi or Chi which is the Chinese word for life energy. The Wei Chi flows just under the skin and between the muscles. Its role is to protect the body from being severely affected by elements of heat, cold or wind. Kidney and lung Chi help Wei Chi to defend the body against wind elements that carry pathogens. Lung Chi protects and nourishes the mucosal linings of the respiratory tract, mouth and nose. Kidney Chi’s role is to convey nutrients to the lungs, and also to send endocrine system information to enable Wei Chi to capably defend against any type of pathogen it encounters. A strong and well-nourished Wei Chi correctly recognizes a harmful foreign element within its borders. Upon identifying an invader, it will then create a response (usually an inflammatory reaction) to trap the foreign pathogen and at the same time send an alert to the white blood cells to destroy the trapped pathogen. The battle between the pathogens and the white blood cells results in sneezing and nasal discharges to remove the mucus containing the pathogen/allergen.
Energy Deficiency Causes Allergy Complications
Sometimes the organ systems producing Wei Chi can suffer from energy imbalance/deficiency due to blockages in the organ’s meridian systems. When this happens, a typically minor allergy can aggravate into severe symptoms. The energy deficiency can weaken the white blood cells and can result in the failure of these cells to neutralize the pathogens. As a result the inflamed area becomes excessively worse. So when mucus accumulates, it can lead to violent sneezing as well as extreme breathing difficulty for the patient. Some of the features allergic rhinitis patterns complicated by deficiency are:
A weak and deficient pulse
History or present conditions of eczema or asthma
A pale and waxy complexion
Increase of itching around the eyes and nose
Recurrent and transitory sneezing
The allergy usually begins with a change of weather
Allergies Exacerbated by Stagnation
If the pathways of blood and Chi are blocked, Wei Chi becomes weak. Blockage can develop due to emotional stress that affect the liver Chi. Suppressed anger or frustration can choke liver energy and suppress the flow of blood and Chi throughout the body. The weak flow of energy and nutrients causes dysfunctions in the defense mechanism of the body which can manifest in the overreaction of the body’s defense mechanisms. Noted features in this type of rhinitis include:
A pulse that has a string-tight quality
White or red face turning purplish when angry
Disproportionate and easy irritability to current events
Allergic Reactions Caused by Certain Foods
Another type of obstruction/stagnation can happen due to poor choices in foods. Regular intake of phlegm-causing and cold foods generates dampness in the body. The dampness slows digestion retarding the absorption of nutrients to the body. Mucus-producing foods such as all drinks or foods containing sugar, peanuts, cold fruit juices and cow’s milk generate mucus in the digestive tract that collects eventually in the lungs and nose. Typical features in this hypo-reactive type of rhinitis include:
Thirst without the urge to drink fluids
Muzzy-headed, fatigue, droopy posture
Acupuncture Treatment for Allergic Rhinitis
Acupuncture and herbal medicine are the most common modalities used by TCM in treating allergic rhinitis. Treatment for this condition involves the gentle insertion of ultra-thin needles into pre-determined meridians. These meridians are stimulated to suppress an existing allergic reaction and help in the removal of accumulated mucus as well as removal of blockages in the meridians. During allergy season about a single or a couple of acupuncture sessions are enough to substantially strengthen and normalize the Wei Chi, kidneys and lungs making the patient more resilient to allergens.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Daily use Chinese herbs can effectively alleviate the symptoms of allergic rhinitis during an attack and also strengthen the kidney and lung organ systems. Avoiding foods that contain allergens is one guaranteed way of avoiding any episodes of allergy symptoms.
Acupuncture Health Center
1303 Astor St #101
Bellingham, WA 98225