Allergies and Acupuncture
Worldwide, allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, affects between 10% and 30% of the population. This was the statistics reported by The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
An allergy is a condition involving an abnormal reaction to an ordinarily harmless substance called allergen. This means the body views this allergen as an invader and reacts by white blood cells of the body’s immune system producing antibodies. These antibodies attach themselves to special cells within the body to release histamine to fight the allergen, which in turn causes symptoms such as runny nose and itchy eyes.
There are many types of allergies. From food related allergies, such as nuts, wheat and gluten to pollen from trees and grasses. Other allergies can include pets, insect bites and dust particles.
Symptoms of allergic reaction range from sneezing, runny nose, itchy watering eyes, red rash, swelling of the throat and mouth to difficulty in breathing and losing consciousness. A severe allergic reaction can lead to anaphylactic shock which is life threatening.
In this article we ask ourselves what has changed in our lives for this dramatic increase in allergies. We also look at how more and more people are looking to acupuncture as a remedy. Could this possibly be the miracle cure for some of the allergies out there? After all, we are not born with these allergies. We develop them over time.
So, what causes these allergies and why do we develop them? Some believe it may be due to our modern living from central heating, air conditioned offices to the pollutants in the air. 50 years ago we spent more time outdoors in the fresh air, we walked to work or the shops, we had fewer cars on the road, and we spent less time on crowded platforms and trains. Now most of our time is spent commuting to and from work, inhaling polluted air or staying couped up indoors with windows and doors shut. Also with the advancement of technology and the ease of staying connected, generally as a nation, we have become so wired and tuned into our equipment that we perhaps sometimes forget to take a breather let alone take a walk in the fresh country air.
Another factor may be our eating habits. We no longer have to peal a vegetable and cook a meal using raw ingredients as we have a variety of ready-made meals available to us. It is easier to go for a meal which has been prepared for us then to motivate ourselves to think up a menu and cook it. However, most of these processed meals lose a lot of their nutritional value during the high pressure cooking process. In addition they have preserving additives to help the food have a longer shelf line. To our immune system, the lack of these nutrition and reaction to preservatives can have adverse effects causing us to have allergies.
Cleanliness has sometimes been discussed as the cause of children developing allergies. As an infant, playing outdoors or eating a freshly pulled earth covered carrot exposed us to the micro-organism that helped to develop our immune system for later on in life. Now, with most of us living in cities and cleaning detergents with anti-bacterial agents means that our immune system has nothing harmful to attack and so mistakes food protein or pollen as a harmful threat and tries to fight it.
Survey conducted by Allergy UK in September 2015 stated allergy rates was on the increase worldwide and would affect 30-35% of people at some stage in their lives. It is no surprise then that more and more people are looking to alternative remedies, such as acupuncture to combat these allergies.
Hay fever is when there is an inflammation of the whole sinus system. It is brought on by external irritants, usually pollens carried in the air. Tree pollen is commonly related to hay fever in spring and grass pollen in summer. Although, spraying of pesticides on crops in nearby fields can also induce hay fever.
For some hay-fever sufferers it can restrict, even prevent them, from undertaking day to day activities such as performing a job or being able to sleep. Hay fever can be difficult to control without medication. Over the counter drug treatments such as antihistamine, nose sprays give temporary relief, however sometimes the side effects and prolonged use can make the symptoms worse.
Acupuncture has been commonly used for centuries in eastern cultures to treat a range of health problems. Developed by traditional Chinese medical practitioners the art of acupuncture is to restore the flow of energy which runs through the channels of our body. This energy is known as Qi or pronounced as chee.
When our natural immune system does not function properly due to an imbalance within are body, it causes blockages of blood flow and disorder of organ function which then leads to diseases. Acupuncture activates the healing ability of the body rather than attack the disease, aiming at the whole body and not just the symptoms. It concentrates on the immune system to correct the imbalances within our body, restoring the flow of Qi, thus restoring good health, which in turn prevents the causes of illnesses occurring.
Acupuncture is done by inserting tiny thin needles through the skin at specific “Acupoints” which are distributed along the 14 major channels, known as meridian, throughout the body. The needles are left for a period of 15 to 20 minutes so that they can stimulate the nervous system to release chemicals in the body that in turn regulates the body’s own internal system. The improved energy balance results in the body’s natural healing abilities. It then strengthens the body’s resistance and can regulate the antibody’s thus helping to relieve the hay-fever.
Dr Chen is a Practitioner and member of the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture UK (ATCM). The ATCM is UK’s largest regulatory body for the practice of traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, herbal medicine and therapeutic massage. With 21 years of clinical and medical research experience both in China and in the UK, Dr Chen commented how he has seen an increase of patients wanting acupuncture for the treatment of allergies. He states, “A lot of my patients find out for themselves through research that has already been done on how Acupuncture treatment works and the benefits that it can provide. Also, patients undertake trial sessions. This then gives them the confidence of whether they are receiving any benefits to then continue on with the treatment. Some patients have reported that they no longer take as many medications or as often as they may have done previously.”
Acupuncture has now gradually gained acceptance by medical professionals in the West. Although limited, access to acupuncture treatment can now be available from GPs or physiotherapist and on the NHS.