By April 4, 2022
If you’ve been following my blog, then you know we’ve been talking about allergies for the past few weeks. This is because it is the single most common complaint that my patients have at this time of year. Now, my last blog post was all about preventing allergies in the first place, but let’s say you missed that boat. Is all hope lost until next year?!?
Of course not. There are absolutely steps you and I can take to mitigate the symptoms you already have, and to strengthen your protective energy (Wei Qi) to help heal the cause of your allergies.
What causes my allergies?
In Western medicine, allergies are traditionally referred to as allergic rhinitis and is caused by an overactive immune system attacking harmless allergens like pollen. The shortcoming of the western definition is that while it can treat allergy symptoms with antihistamines, it kind of shrugs its shoulders at stopping this reaction in the first place.
Traditional Chinese Medicine takes a different approach. According to TCM, allergies are caused by one or more organs being in a state of imbalance, or having an energy deficiency. The organs that are typically allergy epicenters are the Liver, Kidney, Lung, and Spleen. All of these organs have different functions that can affect our allergies, but they all work together.
Typically the Lung is associated with Autumn, and blockages or deficiencies in Lung Qi are the source of our fall allergies. Common symptoms with Lung related allergies would be sneezing and coughing. The Lung is responsible for creating that protective energy I mentioned earlier (Wei Qi).
The Kidney is associated with Winter, and it stores our essential life Qi. When we overstretch ourselves and use up all of the daily energy we generate through sleep and healthy foods, we dip into the Qi stored in the Kidneys, which speeds up the natural decline of aging.
The Liver is associated with Spring, and ensures that the flow of Qi in our bodies is smooth while also clearing toxins from our systems. Common Liver related allergy symptoms include itchiness and redness in the eyes, as well as phlegm buildup.
The Spleen (the small intestine and pancreas in Western Medicine) is responsible for digestion, and when it’s imbalanced, can lead to a buildup of phlegm and mucus in the respiratory tract.
So lets play out a hypothetical here. It’s fall, and you’ve got some hay fever going on. You’ve got coughing and sneezing, and you’re filled with mucus. Right now, your Lung Qi is imbalanced (often caused by a poor diet as the Spleen and Lung are intimately connected). Because your Lung Qi is out of whack, it can’t generate enough of the protective Qi that’s supposed to see you through winter in a healthy way.
So winter shows up, and you’re already feeling run down because your protective Qi isn’t up to par so your body is having to fight off every little thing. Then you add in that you’re overworked and under-rested and now you’re dipping into your Kidney Qi reserves – and while that will keep you functioning, it’s going to wear you down even more.
Now it’s spring. Your Liver is waking up and starting some spring cleaning in your body. But that means it’s also dredging up the toxins you spent all winter accumulating and not clearing by overeating, under-resting, and drinking. And all that mess starts to present itself as allergies.
I’m feeling attacked, how do I fix this?!?
Don’t panic. There are a lot of ways that we can address your allergies. Now, the above scenario was kind of a worst case – your allergies could be caused by any one or combination of those organ systems, so the treatment is going to vary from person to person. But in general treatment will involve some or all of the following:
If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that acupuncture affects the body by clearing the flow of Qi. If we can get your energy flowing properly through your body it will more successfully clear out any accumulated toxins and improve the function of those organs that contribute to your allergy symptoms.
Western medicine attributes the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating allergies to its ability to inhibit an overactive immune system, and relieve inflammation. Either way, both TCM and Western medicine agree that acupuncture is an effective treatment for allergies.
There are lots of herbal remedies that can help to address both the root cause and symptoms of your allergies. Common blends include Angelica dahurica, Magnolia flower buds, and Xanthium sibiricum to dry phlegm and mucus without the side effects of traditional allergy meds. Some other herbs that can help are:
- Butterbur – This can be as effective as OTC antihistamines without the drowsiness they often cause. Unfortunately, it’s in the same family as ragweed, so if you have a ragweed allergy it can actually make your symptoms worse.
- Quercetin – acts as a natural antihistamine
- Euphrasia officinalis (eyebright) and Scutellarai (Chinese skullcap) – effectively treat the symptoms of hay fever (especially congestion and watery eyes)
A friendly reminder though – your specific allergies may or may not require or respond to the above herbal treatments, and you need to be careful to get high quality herbs. Better to let me figure it out for you and provide you with the best quality herbs.
I know, I know. So much easier to let me stick needles in you than to change your diet, but I promise it will help!
In general, allergies are caused by Cold and Damp, so we want to avoid foods that carry these energies:
- Cold drinks
- Raw vegetables and salads
- Dairy products
- Concentrated and refined sugars
- Fruits that cause dampness like citrus, bananas, and melons
In addition, avoid eating 2-3 hours before bed, and stop eating when you’re 80% full to ease the energy strain on your body.
Foods that support your body in conquering allergies:
- Warming spices (ginger, cinnamon, cumin, small amounts of cayenne pepper)
- Foods that support the Liver in Spring (salmon, scallions, eggplant, broccoli, dandelion greens)
- Foods that support the Lungs in Fall (pears, almonds, chickpeas)
- Foods that strengthen the Spleen (mildly sweet foods like grains, squashes, and most fruits)
- Green Tea (so many benefits that someday it will be its own blog post, but also has antihistamine effects)
Stop overextending yourself! We can do all the treatment and diet modifications in the world, but if you’re still draining your Qi by overworking, under-resting, and stressing out all the time then we’re just going to be treading water. Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep.
So. Are you finally ready to deal with the causes of your allergies instead of chasing the symptoms? Give me a call today so we can get you sorted out!