What Are the Options for Allergy Treatment?
With Traditional Western Medicine, allergy treatment is primarily focused on symptomatic relief. For instance, if there is itching due to histamine release, then, an antihistamine is given. If there is phlegm and congestion, then a decongestant is tried. Allergy shots are directed at blunting the overactive immune response through a prolonged series of shots, generally two times per week with gradually stronger concentrations of the allergens introduced for a time span of 3-4 years or longer. Precautions must be followed when undergoing this form of treatment because of the high risk of side effects and drug interactions. Coexisting health problems must also be monitored.
Traditional Chinese Medicine’s primary focus for allergy treatment is on correcting the main imbalance in the body. The variety of symptoms you experience is merely a reflection of this underlying weakness or imbalance. A dual approach is required to properly treat allergies. One step is correcting the root of the problem; the second is providing symptomatic relief. This allows the body to strengthen and normalize its natural defenses, resulting in a decrease in the frequency, duration and severity of each allergic episode. The potential for secondary complications is significantly decreased for the vast majority of patients as well.
Allergy treatment for Chinese medicine may consist of acupuncture, herbs or a combination of both. Combination therapy is generally indicated for a problem that has persisted for a long time, is more severe or the patient has additional health problems. Typically, treatments are given twice a week until the symptoms become less prominent. Then, the interval is gradually increased progressively until only occasional rebalancing treatments are required. Along with acupuncture and herbs, the patient is given diet and nutrition counseling. Diet is the cornerstone to treatment and to the prevention of relapses. Exercise, stress management, breathing and other lifestyle modifications are also addressed as indicated. A holistic approach always works better for a complex and stubborn problem.
A Case Study from Dr. Ritchie’s Files: Ear Pain and Allergy Treatment
A frequent air traveller came in with the problem of allergies, sinus headaches and a recent inability to unplug his ears. This was annoying and, at times, very painful during take offs and landings. He had tried over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines in the past with very limited benefit. These products also had too many side effects that he found counterproductive such as excessive dryness, fatigue, poor sleep and headaches. He was reluctant to travel to my office because there was a several thousand feet change in elevation from his home. We discussed several techniques to use during this trip to help manage the change in atmospheric pressure, similar to those used in scuba diving.
The first part of the office visit focused on identifying and eliminating some of the foods to which he was sensitive. Next, it was explained how including more dark green vegetables and adding more aromatic herbs could strengthen his immune system and prevent it from being hypersensitive to minor allergens. He was also instructed in the regular use of a neti pot to gently help the natural flushing action of his sinus air passages. A Chinese herbal formula for allergic rhinitis was given that focused on strengthening his immune function and opening up his sinuses and Eustachian tubes.
Acupuncture was then used to target his immediate problem of blocked and swollen passageways. During the acupuncture treatment, he noted a sudden increase in sinus drainage and a marked improvement in his ability to breathe through his nose again. After the treatment and during his ride back down the mountain, he could breathe easily and his ears remained pain-free. Follow-up reports indicated that the frequency and severity of his allergy symptoms remain gratefully improved.
Traditional Western Medicine defines an allergy as a seasonal or year round hypersensitivity reaction by your immune system to any one or a number of triggers or allergens, such as dust, pollens, molds, pollution, specific foods, and so on. Many parts of the immune system complex have been identified as to their role in creating the allergy symptoms, which has led to the theories and drugs currently available to treat these symptoms. Unfortunately, the reason a hypersensitive reaction occurs in some individuals and not in others is not known. Some examples of allergic reactions include:
- Allergic rhinitis
- Hay fever
- Contact dermatitis
- Gluten sensitivity
- Sensitivity to food dyes, preservatives and so on
Traditional Chinese Medicine correlates the main imbalances associated with allergies with the immune system and with the lungs and digestive organs. An underlying imbalance or weakness in any one of these primary organ systems weakens the body’s normal defenses and can result in the typical respiratory or gastrointestinal allergic symptoms. Improper diet, overwork, emotional stress, as well as environmental factors, all can contribute to the development of allergies.
What Are the Symptoms Associated with Allergies?
Allergies can range from mild to severe; they may be intermittent or chronic. Symptoms may be identical with each episode or they may be slightly different. Most allergy complaints concern the skin or the head. Common skin symptoms include:
Common head symptoms include:
- Irritated eyes
- Sinus congestion
- Poor sleep
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Tendency to catch colds
A Case Study from Dr. Ritchie’s Files: Seasonal Allergic Rhinitus
This patient was a teenage male with a history of seasonal allergies, primarily related to trees surrounding his family home. His reaction to the tree pollens were typically uncomfortable and distressing. He complained of runny nose, itching eyes, headaches, poor sleep and occasional skin rashes. This pattern had been recurring annually for several years and was progressively getting worse each year. When he and his mother came in to the office they both agreed that this season seemed to be the worst to date.
Except for the seasonal allergic rhinitis, he was in very good health and not taking any medications on a regular basis. In an attempt to get better sleep, he tried an over the counter antihistamine, Benadryl, which helped slightly. He didn’t like taking it, however, because he felt drowsy all the next day at school and it would sometimes precipitate a sinus headache.
Reviewing his dietary habits revealed a typical American teenage boy’s eating preferences: very few fruits and vegetables, fast foods and sodas. He admitted his symptoms seemed worse when he ate dairy and grains. He also stated that he consistently averaged only about 6-7 hours of sleep during the school week and tried to make up on the weekends with at least ten hours of sleep.
The first intervention was patient education on sleep and diet. We agreed on a plan to improve his diet by limiting dairy and grain and increasing the amount of vegetables and fruits.
Secondly, we discussed practical measures of avoiding exposure, showering after exposure, and sleeping with windows closed. We decided to start with a Chinese herbal formula to boost his immune system and provide symptomatic relief as well. Cold laser therapy focusing on his adrenals and sinuses was added to more quickly give him relief. Acupuncture is normally the treatment of choice, but he was nervous about the needles and so Cold laser therapy was used instead.
By the next day, he was noticeably better. He slept better that first night and was far less symptomatic. He returned the following week for a repeat treatment, this time opting for acupuncture. He reported he was now having an almond milk, fruit and whey protein smoothie each morning, and confessed to liking it. His allergy symptoms were no longer an issue, even though the pollen coated all the surfaces outside his house.
The following season he was not having any significant allergy symptoms, but chose to come in for a booster treatment of acupuncture.
Allergy Treatment that Works
You don’t need to suffer with allergies any longer. If you’d like to find out more about allergy treatment that really works or how Sedona Synergy Medicine can help you with your specific health issues, call Dr. Ritchie for a free local or remote phone consultation today.
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