Are Your Allergy Symptoms Trying to Tell You Something?

allergy symptoms, allergies, acupuncture

Treat your allergy symptoms with acupuncture & Chinese medicine.

Often at the change of seasons I see people suffering from allergy symptoms including runny nose, itchy eyes, feeling foggy or tired. If you are reacting to pollen, grasses and other environmental “allergens,” your sensitivity and intolerance to these substances may be just the tip of an iceberg.  In Chinese medicine we treat each person individually to assess what the root of the problem could be and determine the best way to treat the manifestation of those allergy symptoms. This usually involves weekly acupuncture treatments, herbs, supplements and changes to what one is eating.

In Western medicine over the counter medications can reduce symptoms but do not address the root cause. In Chinese medicine both the symptoms and root cause are considered. For symptom relief, it is vital to reduce inflammation which manifests as the sneezing, wheezing, itchy eyes, headaches or foggy thinking.

We look at a number of areas to determine the best treatment: what one is eating and digestion, stress and immune system resiliency. From the Chinese medicine perspective we look at the lung and spleen qi. The lung controlling breathing and the superficial immune response and the spleen controlling the transformation, digestion and absorption of nourishment. Let’s look at each of these areas individually.

Are your allergy symptoms telling you to pay attention to what you are eating?


It appears that seasonal allergy symptoms are expressed based on a “total load” of antigens in the body, of which food is a part.  Some foods are inflammatory in nature ( think sugar, processed foods, dairy and wheat) which can aggravate seasonal allergy symptoms. Other foods are anti-inflammatory in nature ( think salmon, green leafy vegetables, certain nuts and seeds). Dietary changes have proven again and again to influence our sensitivity to season allergens and are an easy entry into reducing seasonal allergy symptoms.

Are your allergy symptoms telling you to pay attention to your digestion?

For centuries, Chinese Medicine have given us insight into the relationship between digestion and the entire respiratory system. In most cases where susceptibility to allergy is strong, there is a central digestive component.    We are not only what we eat but what and how we digest what we eat. A burdened spleen ( by poor  or irregular eating habits, fast food and cold food) which governs the digestive process from a Chinese medicine perspective leads to poor digestion. Poor digestive symptoms are gas, bloating, indigestion, feeling full quickly after eating, pain after eating or generally feeling tired after eating. When we do not digest our food effectively we are not nourished effectively or the body is not processing food for elimination effectively.Poor digestion can lead to  a condition we name in Chinese medicine as dampness, which leads to the production of mucus in the body, which then moves to the respiratory passages and tries to move out the excess through excess mucous production, sneezing. etc. Working on supporting a healthy spleen leads to better digestion which pays big allergy dividends.


Are your allergy symptoms telling you have a close look at your stress levels and immune system?

Stress, even low levels of long term stress, can wreak havoc on our immune system. A stressed person has higher levels of cortisol, the hormone produced by the adrenal glands which is the body’s natural anti-inflammatory hormone which when produced in excess due to constant stress can have the opposite effect on the body when it comes to allergies, aggravating symptoms. Stress also can lead to diminished digestive function, poor sleep which furthers stresses the immune system. Stress management is key to a healthy immune response and acupuncture helps to reduce stress and inflammation in the body.

In Chinese Medicine, practitioners have understood that what we call “immune system,” is a function of the “defensive qi of the lung, influenced strongly by digestion which is described as “spleen.”  In spring, the “season of the liver” where all the movement of environmental influences (“pathogenic influences) can challenge our body’s balance.


Are your allergy symptoms telling you to work on your liver qi?

While conventional allergists focus on reactivity to specific allergens, measured through skin testing, what appears to be true is that you are often reacting to a “total load” of allergens with which your body—and more specifically your liver—has to cope. Centuries ago, in the context of their own understanding of physiology, the Chinese Medicine discovered that the liver is what “courses and drains” the body.  In more modern terms, the liver is the “factory” that filters toxins and breaks them down for excretion from the body.  In allergy sufferers, there can be a fault of this mechanism, where liver detoxification functions poorly, “upregulating” instead of “downregulating,” and building up large accumulations.   Sometimes the “total load” of poor food choices, medications, environmental toxins (such as heavy metals) are simply too much.  In such cases, regulating and moving the liver qi offers support.

What can you do in the meantime?

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  • Set up a weekly acupuncture appointment.
  • Take herbs. Or in the meantime drink nettles tea.
  • If you suffer from nasal congestion trying cutting back on dairy, sugar, wheat, alcohol and processed foods. Sometimes a neti pot to clear out the sinuses can help.
  • Drink lots of water and take more Vitamin C and eat foods rich in minerals (dark leafy greens).


Call today to set up an acupuncture appointment for help with your seasonal allergies

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Ellen Goldsmith

Ellen Goldsmith

Ellen Goldsmith is a licensed and nationally board certified acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. She has been in the field of Asian medicine for the past 30 years, teaching, speaking and working with thousands of people to give them the resources, skills and tools they seek to improve the quality of their health and lives. Ellen is the author of the well respected book, Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine: + 175 Recipes for Optimal Health. She is on faculty at the National University of Natural Medicine’s College of Classical Chinese Medicine in Portland, Oregon.

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