Acupuncture for allergies and allergic rhinitis

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Allergic rhinitis (perennial and seasonal) affects around 10-40% of the population worldwide, and can have a substantial health and economic impact on the community.(Sibbald 1991)
The condition can affect several organ systems, and cause many symptoms. Typical symptoms include sneezing, nasal itching, nasal blockage, and watery nasal discharge.(Lund 1994)
Other symptoms include eye symptoms (e.g. red eyes, itchy eyes, tearing), coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, oral allergy syndrome (i.e. an itchy, swollen pharynx on eating stoned fruits), and systemic symptoms such as tiredness, fever, a pressure sensation in the head, and itchiness. 1
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 acupuncture the Spleen, Stomach, and Large Intestine meridians are utilized a great deal. One sees an interesting overlap of Western and Chinese medical thought. 2

Acupuncture and allergies

Traditional Chinese medicine considers an allergic reaction to be a manifestation of the body’s failure to adjust to its environment. According to the concept of the organs and their functions, weaknesses of the “Lung”(*) or “Liver”(*) could explain these allergic reactions.

The “System of the Lung”(*) is the first organ to come into contact with allergens. In a weakened state, it will be vulnerable to these substances. The “System of the Liver”(*) meanwhile, enables the body to adapt to its environment . If compromised an exaggerated response to allergens will happen and the appearance of the symptoms described above.

Other “Systems”(*) may also influence the severity and chronicity of the symptoms. By consulting an acupuncturist you will be able to better understand the energetical and clinical patterns (according to TCM principles) that are involved. The vitality of the “System of the Spleen”(*) and of “the Kidney”(*) are also very important for they directly influence the “Lung and Liver Systems”(*) and may need to be treated accordingly. 3
(*) Implies the Traditional Chinese Medicine terminology. It does not represent solely the organ mentioned but a complex system. For example The Lung implies a much larger concept than the organ. It involves the respiratory system, the skin, the mucus membrane etc. To know more about the TCM terminology contact an acupuncturist.

How does acupuncture help?

By stimulating the energy of the “Lung” and by regulating the “Liver” the acupuncture treatment aims to calm the exaggerated response. When symptoms are not so present, the treatment will aim to balance and strengthen the identified TCM disharmonies that contribute to the problematic. Acupuncture treatments for allergies have therefore a preventative and therapeutic aspect. It is recommended that patients consult before the season or apparition of the symptoms to obtain better results. 3
In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homoeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being. Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress (Hui 2010)

Acupuncture may help to relieve pain and congestion in people with allergic rhinitis by:
Regulating levels of IgE and cytokines, mediators of the allergic reaction to extrinsic allergens (Ng 2004; Rao 2006; Roberts 2008)
Stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors, and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz, 1987; Han 2004; Zhao 2008; Cheng 2009);
Reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Zijlstra 2003; Kavoussi 2007);
Enhancing natural killer cell activities and modulating the number and ratio of immune cell types (Kawakita 2008);
Increasing local micro-circulation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of  swelling. 1

Acupuncture focuses on restoring balance to the body, improving immune system functioning, helping to relieve pain, reducing stress, enhancing blood circulation, and promoting overall health and well being in adults and children. It is a natural therapy that does not requires any drug and is highly effective when performed by an experienced practitioner. 4
Seasonal acupuncture treatments just four times a year also serve to tonify the inner organ systems and can correct minor annoyances before they become serious problems.
If you experience seasonal allergies, now is the time to schedule an appointment. 5

1 (Source: British Acupuncture Council, https://goo.gl/qTckLu)
2 (Source: American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, https://goo.gl/YZRaoy)
3 (Source: Association des Acupuncteurs du Québec, https://goo.gl/xhZdjK)
4 (Source: Pacific college of Oriental Medicine, https://goo.gl/SUZcsD)
5 (Source: Acufinder.comhttps://goo.gl/LKd6iX)