Allergies, seasonal or year round, are an ongoing problem for many individuals. Seasonal allergies typically affect people during a particular season or time of year. They are also referred to as outdoor allergies and are generally triggered by tree, grass and weed pollens or outdoor mold spores. Year round allergies also known as indoor allergies are typically brought on by animal dander, dust mites, mold spores or insect allergens. There are also food allergies, which occur as a result of eating a culprit food, and can also create physical and/or emotional symptoms such as body hives, swelling, itching or redness of the skin, depression and/or moodiness.
No matter what kind of allergy you suffer from, environmental or food related, acupuncture can provide needed relief. While medications (over-the-counter or prescribed) often come with unwanted side-effects, acupuncture does not. This makes acupuncture an appealing option for people looking for a new way to combat allergies. According to Chinese medical theory, the symptoms and signs that indicate a Western diagnosis of allergies relate to imbalances in the meridian and Organ Systems of the body. These imbalances may stem from a variety of causes, including stress, poor diet, foods that don’t agree with your body, constitutional weakness, pollutants and environmental toxins. Over time, if imbalances remain within the body, they will affect the functions of the Organ Systems. Some of these Organ Systems are involved in the production of Wei Qi (pronounced “way chee”). According to the theories of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, it is important to have the correct quality and quantity of Wei Qi circulating around the body in order to stay healthy.
What is Wei Qi? The Chinese concept of Wei Qi is similar to the Western concept of the immune system. Wei Qi functions to protect and defend the body against foreign substances, that if not caught can lead to allergies. When Wei Qi is strong and abundant, we remain healthy. When the supply of Wei Qi becomes deficient, health is compromised and we become vulnerable to foreign invaders such as dust, mold, animal dander, bacteria, viruses and pollen. People who have a Wei Qi deficiency are prone to allergies and frequent colds. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine support and strengthen the systems of the body that are involved in the production of Wei Qi. By building up the supply of Wei Qi, and facilitating the smooth and free flow of it through the body, symptoms and signs related to allergies could be greatly reduced or eliminated.
What will an acupuncturist do? An acupuncturist will conduct a thorough exam, taking a complete health history. He/She will then develop a unique treatment plan that will address your specific concerns. The goals of the treatment plan will be to eliminate visible symptoms and signs, while addressing the root cause(s) and underlying imbalances affecting the quality and quantity of Wei Qi. Acupuncture treatments may be combined with herbs, dietary changes, massage (tuina), or exercise. These therapies accelerate the healing process in order to balance, build, and support the health and functioning of your body’s systems. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are a drug-free, safe, natural and effective way to eliminate hay fever, allergies or the common cold.
Allergies according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be due to a variety of factors. Below are some of the more common TCM diagnoses that your acupuncturist may discover and treat.
Wei Qi deficiency
Seasonal allergy tips:
1.Flush your nose with a Neti pot.
2.Add spicy foods and omega-3’s to your diet.
3.Keep your windows closed during allergy season to prevent dust and pollen from entering.
4.Put on a dust mask when you are doing yard or house work.
5.Do not hang your clothes out to dry in the sun, as they will gather dust, mold and pollen.
6.Come in for an acupuncture tune-up.
If you suffer from food allergies:
1.See an allergist and get tested for a proper diagnosis of a food allergy.
2.Avoid the foods that cause your reaction.
3.Peanuts, the proteins in cow’s milk, shellfish, tree nuts, fish, eggs, gluten, wheat and soy are the most common food allergens.
4.It is possible to outgrow some food allergies.
5.Ask about ingredients at restaurants or when eating food prepared by another person.
6.Read food labels carefully.
1. Chest stretch. Place both hands on the back of your head, elbows outward, and interlock your fingers. Make sure your back is straight, pelvis rocked forward, and that your shoulders are relaxed downward, not shrugging up towards your ears. The goal is to bring your elbows back as much as possible, bringing your shoulder blades closer together. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
2. Spinal twist. This one is great for wrist and lower back tightness, and to stretch your sides. Sit sideways on the right side of the chair. Put your right arm up in the air, making sure your back is straight, and swing the right arm to the back of the chair on the opposite side. Be sure to breathe long and deeply in this pose; sitting up straight will give the rib cage more room and makes the breath easier. Hold this pose for a 3-5 breaths and then switch to the left side.
3. Neck stretch. Tuck your chin forward to touch your chest and enjoy the stretch in the back of your neck for 3-4 breaths. Make sure to keep your back flat to keep the spine aligned. Slowly swing your chin down and to the left, looking at your left shoulder, and hold for 3 breaths. From the left swing right and look at your right shoulder, holding for another 3 breaths. Repeat this cycle once more with one long breath per movement.
4. Arm and shoulder stretch. Hold your right elbow with your left hand across the front of your chest and gently pull to stretch the shoulder. Hold for 3-5 breaths and switch to the left. Next, interlock your hands behind your back, shoulders relaxed down, back straight, and palms facing toward your lower back. Gently pull back, expanding the chest and stretching the shoulders. Hold for 3-5 breaths and slowly release.
5. Leg stretch. Place the left foot flat on the ground, and put the right leg out straight; imagine your toes stretching up and back toward your forehead. Draw yourself upward, back straight, and, leading with the pelvis, lean forward. Keeping the back flat is crucial to feeling the best stretch in the back of the leg. It helps to sit as far forward on the chair as possible. Hold for 4-5 breaths and switch to the left leg. Repeat on both legs for 3 breaths.
Next, place the left foot flat on the ground and hug your right knee into your chest for 3-5 breaths. Make sure to keep the back straight. Repeat on the left leg.
1. Elise Miller & Carol Blackman. Yoga Journal, "http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/231." Accessed February 4, 2014. http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/231.
2. Schreiber, Katherine. Huffington Post, "Stretches All Desk Workers Should Do Today." Last modified June 14, 2013. Accessed February 2, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/14/stretches-desk-workers-sitting_n_3422679.html.
3. Brooks, Melanie. Work Awesome, "Desk Fitness: A Series of 11 Simple Stretches." Last modified April 1, 2013. Accessed February 3, 2014. http://workawesome.com/productivity/desk-fitness-series-11-simple-stretches/.
4. One Powerful Word, "18 Benefits of Deep Breathing and How to Breathe Deeply." Accessed February 4, 2014. http://www.onepowerfulword.com/2010/10/18-benefits-of-deep-breathing-and-how.html.
Many people, without realizing, spend most of the day slouching over desks and sitting on the couch, which can lead to back pain, neck pain, headaches, and weakened core muscles. By taking just a few minutes each seated hour or two to do the following exercises, you can reap the benefits of better posture, improved circulation, and clearer mental functions. Remember to breathe long and deep while in each stretch, the belly expanding with each breath in, and shrinking toward the spine with each exhale. This “belly breathing” not only provides better oxygen flow to the brain, thus improving circulation and thought processes, but contributes to stress release and many other positive effects. These 5 simple stretches will give you the mid-day refreshment you need to feel your best!
Once the cups are placed on the proper areas of the body, the cups are slid across oiled skin. The effect is much like a “reverse massage”; skin and superficial muscle are gently pulled into the cup, which loosens muscles and encourages better blood flow, among other positive effects. According to the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, “Cupping is one of the best deep-tissue therapies available. It is thought to affect tissues up to four inches deep from the external skin. Toxins can be released, blockages can be cleared, and veins and arteries can be refreshed within these four inches of affected material” (4). The cups are placed along the meridians of the body to target specific maladies, like in acupuncture, which is often administered alongside the cupping procedure. If you experience chronic conditions that keep you from living your best, there’s only health to gain by trying this non-invasive, low-risk treatment.
Sources: 1. Dharmananda, Subhuti, Ph.D. Institute for Traditional Medicine, "Cupping." Last modified March 1999. Accessed February 3, 2014. http://www.itmonline.org/arts/cupping.htm.
2. Ullah, Kaleem, Ph.D. British Cupping Society, "A Brief Overview of Cupping Therapy." Last modified May 15, 2011. Accessed February 3, 2014. http://www.britishcuppingsociety.org/http:/www.britishcuppingsociety.org/a-brief-overview-of-cupping-therapy.
4. Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, "The Many Benefits of Chinese Cupping." Last modified June 17, 2009. Accessed February 3, 2014. http://www.pacificcollege.edu/acupuncture-massage-news/articles/677-the-many-benefits-of-chinese-cupping.html.
“Cupping” may sound strange, but practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine have healed people with this method since 300AD (4). According to Dr. Kaleem Ullah, secretary of the British Cupping Society, “Cupping Therapy is an ancient medical treatment that relies upon creating a local suction to mobilize blood flow in order to promote healing” (3). Cupping can provide relief for migraines, muscular tension, respiratory diseases, digestive diseases, and chronic pain, among other conditions.
In Ge Hong’s A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies, the earliest recorded mention of cupping from the early fourth century, a hollowed-out horn was the recommended tool of choice. A lot has changed since this technique’s inception; modern practitioners use glass, bamboo, and pottery cups to create the healing suction. During a typical session, a cotton ball soaked in alcohol is burned inside the cup, removing all oxygen and creating a vacuum that anchors the cup to the skin. Other methods are also used to create suction, such as holding the cup over a small flame and using a hand pump instead of fire. Flame is never used near the skin, only to create suction.
Acupuncture Alexandria LLC - Sarah Shupe Hung L.Ac., FABORM