Seasonal Allergies can be put to rest!
Finally, the sun is out and the warm weather upon us. But for roughly 45 million Americans, seasonal allergies (also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis) make this time of year a miserable one. How can allergy sufferers enjoy themselves with all the sneezing, runny nose, fatigue, sinus pressure, congestion, red itchy eyes, scratchy throat and headache?
Many seasonal allergies sufferers turn to medications throughout the season despite the common side effects of drowsiness, dryness, dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, nervousness, and digestive disturbance. There’s also immune system suppression and the risk of becoming medication-dependent to worry about. Worse still, the Western treatment of allergies treats only the symptoms and not the root cause. Those seeking a natural and effective alternative need search no further than Chinese medicine.
In Chinese medicine the strategy behind treatment is alleviating the acute symptoms as well as correcting the root energetic imbalance causing those symptoms. The symptoms of seasonal allergies are most often related to underlying disharmonies involving wei qi, or defensive energy, phlegm or dampness, and the lung, spleen, and kidney energy systems, all of which I explain below.
Wei Qi and Lung Qi: In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), illness prevention begins with a protective layer around the exterior of the body called wei qi, or defensive energy. A strong and healthy wei qi is the body’s initial protection against all external pathogens. If the defensive energy is weak, “wind pathogens” transmitted through the air will enter the body, so a combination of a wind-born pathogen and a deficiency of the protective wei qi is a recipe for illness. People with wei qi deficiency catch colds easily, and seasonal allergies symptoms may be particularly bad in the spring or fall seasons which are generally windy. Patients with seasonal allergies, chronic cough and/or recurrent colds and flu are also likely to have Lung deficiency, since wei qi and immune function are part of the lung energy. Lung qi controls the domain of skin, lungs, nose, sinuses, and respiratory passages.
Spleen Qi: Behind every weak immune system is a deficiency of the spleen qi, part of the digestive system. It is the job of the spleen to make healthy qi from food. If the spleen qi is weak, it is not able to efficiently digest food and make a healthy quality of energy to distribute to all systems of the body. The immune system suffers. Spleen qi deficiency is usually accompanied by dampness; fluids fail to metabolize and often end up turning to excess phlegm and mucus. Spleen Qi vacuity with Dampness is a common underlying condition with allergy symptoms.
Kidney Qi: Since kidney energy is the root of constitutional and all other energy systems in the body, it is usually related to imbalances involving deficiency. Especially when seasonal allergies, asthma, or frequent or chronic respiratory illness are problems since childhood, the kidney energy must be addressed. It is also important to note that kidney energy is damaged by long-term medication use.
Chinese herbs are very important both for quick relief of the acute symptoms as well as support for the underlying imbalance in energy responsible for allergic problems. Though every patient has a unique combination of symptoms and is treated according to their individual pattern, the most common treatment principles are boosting the lung qi, wei qi, and supporting the spleen qi while expelling wind and phlegm dampness from the body.
There are many Chinese herbs that build wei qi and enhance the immune system. For best results (and safety!), herbal formulas should be prescribed only by professionally trained herbalists. The formula prescribed will address each patient’s unique presentation of symptoms, and hence will vary greatly from case to case. However, an example of one of the simplest and most famous formulas is called Jade Windscreen and is comprised of just three immunity-enhancing herbs: Huang qi (Astragalus), Fang feng (Saposhnikovia) and Bai zhu (Atractylodes).
Huang qi (Astragalus) is traditionally used to strengthen wei qi. Modern research has identified several notable pharmacological effects confirming its historical use. Huang qi is an immunostimulant, increasing both specific and non-specific immunity. It also increases the number of white blood cells and has antibiotic actions against streptococcus and staphylococcus. Clinical studies have shown it effective in the prevention of colds and respiratory infections. It is also considered a hepatoprotective (liver-protecting) herb.
Fang feng’s (Saposhnikovia) TCM name is translated to mean “guard against wind,” and it has antibiotic and antiviral properties.
Bai zhu (Atractylodes) is traditionally used as a tonic to build both spleen qi and wei qi. Recent studies have shown that Bai zhu increases the activity of macrophages and increases the number of white blood cells and lymphocytes.
The above herbs are also included in many variations of the original Jade Windscreen formula, such as Allerease by Blue Poppy, which is often relevant and prescribed.
|Allergies and Lifestyle: Survival Tips
The following suggestions may help minimize suffering:
Diet and Supplements for Allergy Season
In general, eating a well-balanced healthy diet will keep the immune system strong. Specifically, minimize or avoid cows milk and other dairy products as they contribute to the production of phlegm and mucus. Overindulgence in simple carbohydrates and sweets can also contribute to allergies, since they harm the spleen qi.
Include both omega-3 and omega-6s fatty acids included in salmon, tuna, mackerel, and other cold-water fish. Eat mercury containing fish, such as tuna, in moderation especially pregnant women. Check the USDA Website for more information on mercury and fish. Flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and canola oil are high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body converts to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), the form found in fish.
Another article about Natural Allergy Control gives more suggestions about diet and supplements that may be helpful. It also explains how allergies are related to imbalances in the nervous system, and which allergies respond well to chiropractic care.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
The best time to get treated for seasonal allergies is before they show up. Starting a treatment program including acupuncture and Chinese herbs 6-8 weeks before they typically start for you, helps boost the immune system and hence prevent symptoms from appearing since the underlying energy will be strong and resilient. However, if allergy symptoms are already bothering you, start treatment as soon as possible for best results.
Contact Aiyana Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs for more information or to make an appointment today!