Respiratory Health and Chinese Medicine; Wind and Wei Qi
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 thing we associate with the 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 (or Twin Peaks in the summer), 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. The goal of the acupuncturist is to develop a plan which addresses the person's acute symptoms and provides relief, while addressing the underlying immune system imbalance which is thought to be at the root of the person's allergy problems. Treatments often include dietary modification, the use of specifically chosen herbal formulas, and acupuncture.
Let's look briefly at an example of TCM treatment for allergies. John presented with acute allergy symptoms of one-month's duration which included sneezing, runny nose with lots of watery phlegm, extreme fatigue and occasional loose stools. After taking his history and doing an examination, his acupuncturist assessed his condition according to TCM as Wei Qi Deficiency resulting from a weakness of the Lung and Spleen. In addition to general recommendations for his condition, John was given Minor Blue Dragon formula which has decongestant properties for those with copious clear phlegm, as well as Astra 8, an herbal formula designed to tonify the Lung and Spleen Qi. He was also told to minimize or avoid dairy products and excessively sweet or spicy foods. As John's condition improved, he and his acupuncturist developed a plan to strengthen his immune system in preparation for next year's allergy season. This plan included replacing coffee with green tea, which is rich in catechins which exert anti-allergy effects, as well as taking quercetin, a bioflavonoid which has been shown to stabilize mast cells thus slowing the release of histamine and other chemicals related to allergic symptoms.
We can see that a comprehensive plan consists of both general therapies as well as an individualized approach to each patient. After allergy symptoms are managed effectively, we then begin to address the long range plan of modifying the person's response to his environment which, if successful, reduces the frequency and severity of future allergic responses.
Muscle Testing for Allergy Diagnosis
Kinesiology, or muscle testing, is an increasingly common method used by various practitioners to test for individual allergies or sensitivities. In this method of testing, a person holds a container of the test substance while the practitioner tests to determine if weakness occurs in a muscle, thus suggesting that the person is sensitive to the substance.
A recent study designed to assess the effectiveness of this technique was reported in the September 2001 issue of Complementary Therapies in Medicine. Seven people with confirmed wasp venom allergy were examined by four practitioners who were randomly given 20 bottles to test, 10 containing wasp venom and 10 containing an inactive placebo. Neither the person tested nor the practitioner knew which bottle was which.
The results indicated that kinesiology as a diagnostic tool was no more useful than random guessing and suggested that it may be of no value in testing for an allergy. Instead, this clinic relies on laboratory testing and other diagnostic methods.
For more information about allergies, please also see:
Tips for Lung Health
Conditions We Treat Page
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