by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac
Why people develop allergies remains a mystery in the medical community. Until we know more about allergies, the best line of defense is to eliminate the offending agents. Sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, sinus congestion, hives, swelling are all symptoms of allergies.
Allergies can affect almost any area of the body. Substances that irritate the skin, allergic reactions to drugs, detergents, and other chemicals are all culprits. Also, grass, cow products, house dust, pets, wheat, colorants, additives, and preservatives are all possibilities.
Dust Mites. The dust mite is an almost-microscopic relative of ticks and spiders. But the living mite is not the problem. It’s the fecal material they expel in their wanderings about our carpets and furnituretheir primary residencesand the bodies of dead mites that cause reactions.
Mold. Mold grows wherever it’s dark and humidunder your carpet, in the basement. It just doesn’t matter which one you encounter. Inhale any one of them, and if you are allergic, you’ll start sneezing.
Hay fever is an allergic condition triggered by inhalant substances (frequently pollens), which leads to sneezing and inflammation of the nose and conjunctiva of the eyes.
Any skin inflammation may be considered Dermatitis. Redness, scaling, and thickening of the skin may occur with dermatitis. Pinpointing the cause of the problem is the first step toward alleviating the symptoms.
Eczema is a type of dermatitis that is allergy related. It appears as dry, cracking, crusting and red patches on the skin. Often there are swelling, weeping blisters. The skin can become inflamed and itchy. Many factors can contribute to eczema. Stress is a major factor. Exposure to cleaning compounds, perfumes, detergents, household chemicals, soaps, food allergies, as well as, nutrient deficiencies.
Hives are lumps or weals that are very itchy. They can appear all of a sudden. They can be related to a particular food or as another complication from allergies; stress.
Anaphylactic shock. This is the most serious of allergic reactions. It can kill by suffocation, the result of swelling of the larynx and obstruction of the airway. Anaphylactic shock can occur in response to insect stings, ingestion of allergenic foods in sensitive individuals, and injected or swallowed doses of medication. It is a medical emergency, but it can be treated effectively. An injection of adrenalin (administered under medical supervision) will usually end the reaction promptly.
It is known that white blood cells (also known as lymphocytes) are a fundamental component of the immune system that protects our bodies from invaders. When they make a mistake, an allergic response can occur. When a lymphocyte encounters a particle or cell and identifies it as a foreign invader, it produces antibodies specifically engineered to fight that particular threat. There are five basic types of antibodies, called immunoglobulins, or Igs. Each is classified by type with a letter suffix: IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG, and IgM. The Ig known to be responsible for most allergic reactions to food is IgE, although IgG is also commonly mentioned.
IgE allergies occur when the immune system, in an effort to reject a certain food or other substance, creates an antibody to that food, immunoglobulin E. In other words, the blood cells of an allergic person are “misinformed’ at the genetic level and cause the production of large quantities of IgE antibodies. The antibody becomes attached on one side to the food/substance molecule and on the other side to a mast cell (mast cells are a type of cell containing histamine and other allergy mediators instrumental in the allergic response). When this happens, histamines and other chemicals are released from the mast cells, causing such immediate responses as runny nose, itchy eyes, skin rashes, and indigestion. IgE can cause anaphylaxis, an extreme, sometimes even life-threatening response in which the airways swell, sometimes to the point where the person cannot breathe.
The most common tests for food allergies are IgE skin tests, where the skin is scratched or pricked and allergens such as wheat, eggs, and milk are applied. Within 15 to 30 minutes, a local reaction may occur. Other types of tests include blood tests and patch skin tests. However, there are reports that blood testing for food allergies provides more reliable results than skin testing. The latter is problematic because of their tendency to yield false positives. This means that people may show a positive result but are still able to eat a certain food. To summarize this difficult and confusing field, it appears that the efficacy of all allergy testing is under suspicion.
Managing Your Allergies
Tree and Plant Pollen are one of the biggest culprits. When you come in from the outdoors, take off your clothes and threw them in the washer. Take a shower, wash your hair and change your clothes. We trek pollen into the house from the outdoors and this is one of the biggest, yet unseen problems with people who suffer from allergies.
Antihistamines interfere with brain activity, causing drowsiness and depression. Never use antihistamines if you have a tendency to depression or mental dullness. Even when these drugs do not depress mental activity, they merely suppress allergy rather than cure it. As a result, the pattern of immune over responsiveness is strengthened rather than weakened, meaning that more treatment will be required in the future.
This is even more so with steroid drugs (cortisone and related compounds). Never use cortisone, prednisone, or other steroid drugs to treat allergic reactions unless they are very severe or life-threatening. If you must take these powerful hormones, limit your use of them to two weeks. Steroids perpetuate allergy through their suppression action. They also lower immunity.
Air-conditioning your house is probably the single most important thing you can do to alleviate pollen problems, and it can help with two other chief inhalantsmolds and dust mites.
Vitamin C has antihistamine activity. Vitamin C supplementation has been reported to help people with hay fever in preliminary research. Consider 3,000 – 6,000 mg of Vitamin C in divided doses, per day.
Bioflavonoids such as Quercetin might act synergistically with Vitamin C as both have antihistaminic activity. Although some doctors of natural medicine advise people with hay fever to take 400 mg of Quercetin two to three times per day, only limited preliminary clinical research has yet suggested that Quercetin benefits people with this condition.
Proteins in food can cross-react with pollen we bring in from the outdoors. Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating them, and don’t forget to wash if you just came in from the outside when picking these fruits and vegetables.
Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the oldest, continually practiced, and professionally administered health care system in the world. It is a documented medical system spanning over 2,500 years based on comprehensive philosophies, rational theories, clinically tested and empirically verified by over 100 generations of highly educated practitioners. Chinese Medicine is a total system of internal medicine which is comprised of a diagnostic procedure based on signs, symptoms and treatment styles including acupuncture, herbal medicine, exercise, diet, and meditation. Its foundation is based on the principles of balance; the interdependent relationship of Yin and Yang. Through this balance, health is achieved and maintained.
Traditional Chinese medicine often views allergic rhinitis as related to Wind, noting that symptoms come and go rapidly, cause congestion, and make the person want to avoid windy situations. This Wind often coexists with a deficiency of the Protective or Wei Qi. The nearest we associate with Wei Qi in the West is resistance to colds and other respiratory infections. People with Wei Qi deficiency catch colds easily, and allergy symptoms may be particularly bad in the spring or fall seasons which are generally windy.
The acupuncturist also looks for constitutional or more deeply-rooted signs in each person who presents with allergic symptoms. The principle here is treating the whole person. Often people with chronic allergies show signs of Spleen or Kidney Deficiency as well as Lung signs according to TCM.
Herbs that are beneficial for allergies (if you are not allergic to them) are Burdock Root, Dandelion, and Echinacea. These herbs help to purify the blood, boost the immune system and improves organ function. Bee Pollen can strengthen the immune system. Start with a few drops at a time and work up to a dropper 2-3 times a day. Coenzyme Q10 improves oxygenation and immunity. 30 mg, twice daily. In traditional medicine, some herbs whose pollen can cause symptoms of hay fever have been used as a way to reduce symptoms of hay fever, which is the homeopathic theory of “like cures like”. The most important of these are Goldenrod and Ragweed (Ambrosia ambrosioides). Eyebright and Elder also have a reputation for use as hay fever remedies. However, an individual allergic to one of these plants should avoid them unless under the care of a doctor of natural medicine.
Bee Pollen – has been used to build up the immune system to fight colds and to counteract depression. Bee pollen has also been used internally to increase antiallergenic properties to enhance the immune system against allergies to pollen.
Burdock Root – Burdock root contains high amounts of inulin and mucilage. This may explain its soothing effects on the gastrointestinal tract. Bitter constituents in the root may also explain the traditional use of burdock to improve digestion. It also contains polyacetylenes that have been shown to have antimicrobial activity.
Dandelion – Dandelion is a natural diuretic that increases urine production by promoting the excretion of salts and water from the kidney. Dandelion may be used for a wide range of conditions requiring mild diuretic treatment such as poor digestion, liver disorders, and high blood pressure.
Echinacea – Echinacea is another herb useful for the relief of allergy symptoms. With a rich history of use in Native American traditions, echinacea possesses natural anti-inflammatory properties. Echinacea also helps relieve the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections and is useful for sore throats and even acne.
Green drinks – green drinks are filled with antioxidants and other nutrients, which help to detox the body. Detoxification can calm allergy symptoms by helping to flush out toxic build up in the system. Made from spirulina, wheat and barley grasses, these drinks are one of the best allergy medicines.
Nettle Leaf – Nettle leaf can help in the reduction in symptoms of hay fever, including sneezing and itchy eyes. For help with hay fever symptoms, consider taking 450 mg of Nettle Leaf capsules or tablets two to three times per day, or a 24 ml tincture, three times per day. Do not take this herb if you have high blood pressure.
Horseradish – The “heating” qualities of horseradish are a clue to its most popular therapeutic use: clearing up nasal and chest congestion. As well as helping to clear the respiratory passages and eliminate excess mucus, this herb is effective for the relief of cough symptoms and sinusitis.
Garlic – One of the oldest recorded culinary spices, garlic (Allium sativum) is mentioned as a food in the Bible, and is known to have been part of the diet of Egyptian workers as long ago as 2600 BC. It is the dominant flavor in much of Mediterranean cuisine but is also a more subtle addition to many Asian dishes. But alongside its popularity in food, garlic has a long history of medicinal use a traditional history that has gained increasing recognition from science. Garlic preparations have long been used to relieve the congestion of colds and hayfever.
Reishi Mushrooms, Ganoderma lucidum, (Ling Zhi) is documented to have great medicinal value. The reishi extract has been shown to be effective in clearing up a large variety of skin allergic conditions either due to food or airborne allergens. Ganoderma extract has been found to be useful in detoxifying the kidneys and improving its overall function.
Visit Your TCM practitioner for a proper diagnosis and treatment.