Acupuncture for Allergies: How it works

automn allergy season

Symptoms and Western treatment:

Hayfever or allergic rhinitis refers to a complex of symptoms characterized by sneezing nasal congestion or discharge, itching, and often conjunctivitis and pharyngitis in response to air-born allergens…Symptoms can include itching of the nose, roof of the mouth, throat and eyes. Commonly these are accompanied by tearing, sneezing, and clear nasal discharge. There may also be frontal headache and irritability. More severe conditions may include coughing or wheezing. Western treatment usually involves taking antihistamines. Glucocorticoids and corticosteroids may be prescribed if the antihistamines are ineffective. These treatments aim to suppress the symptoms. Desensitization treatment is the next step if patients don’t respond well to the the above drugs.

Chinese medicine’s approach

Factors that predispose people to allergies

All patients with this condition are considered to have deep-lying, hidden phlegm in their lungs; this causes the body to react strongly to allergens. They also have chronic immune system deficiencies, which are often caused by poor diet. People who regularly eat sugar or an excess of high glycemic foods, daily large salads or other raw foods, cold drinks, and dairy are likely to develop seasonal allergies. A history of frequent antibiotic use also tends to depress the immune system and lead to hidden phlegm, leading to allergies.

Treatment with acupuncture and Chinese medicine

Before deciding on a course of treatment the clinician takes a detailed history, and examines the patient, according to Asian traditional methods. This often includes palpation of key areas of the body, pulse diagnosis and tongue diagnosis. Pulse diagnosis provides much more than pulse rate: it gives an indication of the function and relative strength or weakness of 12 major organs of the body, and the state of the humors (fluids, blood and Qi). It can also show how well the organs are working together.

  • Acute phase: This is when the patient has full blown allergy symptoms as described above. Treatment approach is similar to treatment of a common cold; we use acupuncture points that support the immune system, open the sinuses to encourage full release of the phlegm, and prevent the cold from going deeper or developing into sinusitis. If there is a head-ache we treat that as well.
  • Chronic phase: Here the patient has mild (ie: chronic post nasal drip) or no sinus symptoms, but feels quite tired, may have poor appetite and digestion. They may be highly susceptible to catching colds, have pale facial complexion, possibly cold hands and feet or sweat too easily during the day. These are signs of a weakened immune system. The treatment focus is to strengthen the Qi or vital energy to support the immune system; we mainly focus on strengthening the lung and digestive energy to strengthen the body. Moxibustion, the application of heat on some needles, can help warm the body if necessary. After several treatments, the patient will usually develop an acute phase of allergy symptoms; this is a sign that the immune system is working better. We then treat the acute symptoms. It is possible to heal allergic rhinitis, although it is usually not a “quick fix”, especially if one has had allergies for a number of years. I often prescribe specific herbal remedies to be taken as a tea or in pill form to support this process.

Essential oils as a treatment for allergies

Essential oils are a product of the distillation of plants; they are highly concentrated and are an effective alternative to herbal teas for people who are hesitant to use herbs. I frequently make custom essential oil blends for patients suffering from allergies or upper respiratory infections. I prescribe acupuncture point protocols that match the properties of the formulations. Essential oil blends typically include 3 to 4 oils which work synergistically to support healing. The oils are applied to these points typically three times daily for best results. This is a powerful adjunct to acupuncture.

Please call Marie for a free phone consultation or to schedule an appointment: 516-455-2206

Summer soup recipe

Summer is a time of plenty and variety in fruits and vegetables. Our eating should reflect that. Foods can be cooked a shorter time than in colder seasons. Many people avoid soup in warm weather, but soups are actually healthier than salads even in the summer. They are hydrating and offer plenty of electrolytes to compensate for sweating. The below recipe is light and easy to make. Enjoy!

Jade Green Soup

  • 1/2 cup Tofu, diced
  • 2 cups of leafy greens, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 cups of broth
  • 1/2 tablespoon kudzu dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
  • Saute or steam tofu 5 min. Add salt
  • Add greens. Saute 2 min.
  • Add broth and simmer until greens are bright-colored
  • Add kudzu mixture and simmer until thickened
  • Serves 3-4

This recipe is borrowed from Paul Pritchard’s classic book: Healing with Whole Foods: Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition

Studies show Acupuncture helps Acid Reflux better than medication

acupuncture

By Marie Regis, M.S., L.Ac.

Classic Esophageal Reflux Disease or GERD, also called Acid Reflux, has become alarmingly high in recent years. Conventional treatment with acid-blocking medication (Proton Pump Inhibitors) is often ineffective and can lead to serious side-effects over the long term. Studies have found that Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal therapy are  more effective than medication for the treatment of this common ailment.A

Increased incidence of GERD

In the past, GERD used to be mainly seen in overweight middle aged people. Not any more. A 2010 study found that of a randomly picked sample of 686 US citizens, “40% had reflux disease, 22% having GERD, and another 18% had LPR (airway reflux). The most striking and unanticipated finding was that 37% of the 21 to 30 year old age group had reflux.”   Conventional treatment with acid blocking medication was intended for short term use only due to unhealthful side effects. Many are ignoring the directions for these drugs and taking them for months or years. “Blocking stomach acid fosters the growth of bacteria that cause gastritis and are associated with GI cancer, pneumonia and with antibiotic resistant bacteria”.T

Types of Reflux

  • Acid Reflux, or GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease) happens when digestive juices from the stomach rise up causing irritation and inflammation in the esophagus
  • LPR (Laryngo Pharyngo Reflux) Airway Reflux is where the stomach juices enter the Larynx (voice box), which is part of the Trachea.
  • With GERD, there will be discomfort in the upper abdomen or chest
  • With LPR, also called Silent reflux, there are no such symptoms. Instead, people may experience sinus congestion or irritation, sore throat, a feeling of a lump in the throat, coughing or asthma, hoarseness especially upon waking, difficulty swallowing.

Western pathophysiology

  • GERD is caused by the malfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter, a valve at the top of the stomach that is supposed to keep digestive juices in. These juices, consisting primarily of the digestive enzyme Pepsin and stomach acid, cause inflammation and erosion along the esophagus.
  • LPR (Laryngopharyngo Reflux) is caused by dysfunction of the Upper Esophageal Sphincter, allowing fluids to rise into the Trachea, or airway, and from there into the Larynx or voice box. The lining of the airway is thinner and much more vulnerable to attack. It is the Pepsin, a digestive enzyme that digests protein, that attacks the lining of the Trachea in the presence of acid.  Pepsin can settle into the cells of the lining and be activated by acidic foods even if the person temporarily is not experiencing Reflux. The Pepsin then attacks protein in the lining.  Long term reflux can lead to Oesophageal cancer.

Eastern pathophysiology and treatment

Chinese medicine considers that reflux is often due to dysfunction of the stomach, liver, and spleen/pancreas. Stress affecting the liver and stomach is a major factor in this disease, contributing to increased acidity, inflammation and causing stomach juices to go up instead of down. Emotions such as chronic worry, anger, frustration or rebellious attitudes are common culprits. Stress also impairs the spleen’s ability to transport and transform digestive fluids. Food in the stomach fail to be digested and assimilated. As a result, the stomach contents backflow into the esophagus. Reflux esophagitis in TCM focuses on transforming turbid fluids, supporting stomach function and restoring the downward movement of stomach Qi (energy) to prevent counterflow. This focus restores normal functioning of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), enhances gastric motility, and improves gastric emptying.

Food and drinks to avoid

  • Additives in prepared foods (canned or bottled food and drink) designed to acidify the food to help preserve it.  This has been required by the FDA since 1973 to prevent spoilage. Ie: Citric Acid.
  • Acidic foods such as tomatoes, peppers, citrus fruit.
  • Coffee and chocolate
  • Saturated fat
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup and other sugars in foods
  • Organic pollutants such as DDT, PCB’s and Dioxins
  • Gluten and flour products
  • Carbonated beverages including soda and seltzer

Other factors

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Lying down immediatly after eating
  • Over-eating or late night eating (within 3 hours of bed time)
  • Dry mouth, especially after head and neck irradiation for cancer

Treatment of Reflux and LPR

  • AVOID  harmful foods and bad eating habits listed above
  • Lower your stress with meditation, Tai chi, Qi gong or Yoga
  • Consult with an Acupuncturist, and schedule a series of treatments to gradually restore normal digestive function. Often at least 4-6 bi-weekly treatments are necessary to provide lasting change.
  • Always consult with your medical doctor to rule out other medical conditions

Studies

  • According to a study by Hebei Privincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine in China, Acupuncture plus Chinese Herbal Medicine outperformed omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid) for the treatment of acid reflux. Important features of Chinese Medicine protocols is that they produce a high total effective rate, low relapse rate, and no significant adverse effects.
  • A 2007 study by the University of Arizona studying patients who did not show improvement with a standard PPI dose, showed that Acupuncture plus standard PPI dose was more effective than the accepted protocol of doubling the standard PPI dose

Parkinson’s Disease: Nutritional factors

By Marie Regis

PARKINSON’S DEFINITION According to conventional medicine, “Parkinson’s disease is an idiopathic, slowly progressive, degenerative disorder of the Central Nervous System characterized by four main features:

  1. Slowness and poverty of movement
  2. Muscular rigidity
  3. Resting tremor
  4. Postural instability..”

(Taken from the book “The Treatment of Modern Western Medical diseases with Chinese medicine”, by Bob Flaws and Phillippe Sionneau)

Parkinson’s includes severe depletion of Dopamine.

According to Chinese medicine, this disease can be caused by constitutional weakness, aging, longstanding illness, physical taxation, chronic emotional problems and poor diet. Emotional trauma can lead to a decline in Dopamine levels. Dopamine is a pleasure hormone; therefore doing things that bring us joy may bring back Dopamine.  Dopamine makes us feel nourished, and that life is worthwhile. It also reduces pain.

  • DETRIMENTAL FOODS and EATING HABITS
  • Eating sugar depleats Dopamine and Serotonin levels. It also weakens the digestive system, which is where 80% of the Serotonin is produced. Serotonin is a mood regulating hormone.
  • Skipping meals and eating a lot of cold or raw foods will weaken digestion, which makes the stomach unable to digest protein in particular
  • A vegetarian diet is problematic for many people in that it often leads to amino acid / protein deficiencies. This will lead to an insufficiency in neurotransmitters that are important to brain health
  • Caffein intake in combination with a stressful lifestyle can add to the physical taxation mentioned above.
    • Alcohol and drugs leach out Mg, leading to increased acidity / oxidative stress in the body
  • HELPFUL FOODS
  • Dopamine is found in flesh, meat. 
  • Dark leafy greens are alkalizing and high in many minerals and B vitamins
  • Legumes are very important: velvet beans esp., Fava beans. These beans have high amounts of Tyrosine to build back Dopamine
  • Mushrooms are high in nutritional value. They are a great source of fiber and protein, as well as B vitamins, copper, potassium, selenium and vitamin D
  • Quinoa has all essential amino acids. The Chinese use Buckwheat (not as high as Quinoa) to build Dopamine
  • Our Dopamine can become deficient because the stomach isn’t able to digest it. The easiest thing to digest meat are enzymes found in fruit: Pineapple (bromaline), apricots, figs, jujube have enzmes. We stew meat with figs in meditarreanian cooking. Cook the meat with the fruit, so body can easily get the raw material. Helps with depression- trouble managing  pain, the pleasure principle. 
  • GABA: Epinephrine and Norepinephrine relate to the flight or flight response. Fear shuts down the pleasure principle and reduces pleasure hormones. GABA is antagonist to the fear hormones. Foods high in GABA include: seeds (sunflower seeds) and shellfish, shrimp, halibut, grouper. 
  • Antioxydants can help reduce  the fight and flight response
  • Adequate concentration of Mg is very important for Ph balance. Low Mg can lower dopamine. Diet can affect alkaline-acid balance (7.2-7.3 is balanced). Increasing acidity means increasing Sympathetic Nervous System activity (flight or flight). Increasing alkalinity leads to increased Parasympathetic Nervous System activity (Digestion, healing, immunity). *Note that testing is not accurate in blood tests because Mg stays in cell. A swab from the tongue could measure it..

This is by no means a comprehensive list of foods that are either beneficial or harmful to people with Parkinsons. Please consult with your physician regarding any possible interaction between supplements and medicine prescribed to you.

Recovering from Parkinson’s

By Marie Regis, L.Ac.

As with any chronic degenerative disease, a diagnosis of Parkinson’s is a life-changing event. Shock, disbelief, fear or anger can set in- understandably!. The medical prognosis is not good, and treatments available with conventional medicine are palliative and do not provide a cure.

As a practitioner of Classical Chinese medicine, I believe there is no incurable disease, only incurable people. There are people who have recovered from stage four cancer, for reasons that are not yet explained by modern science and lived for years without recurrence. (Read “Radical Remission, the Nine Key Factors That Can Make a Real Difference, by Kelly A. Turner, PhD. ) Yet culturally we have come to expect these healings are impossible.

People who have recovered from Parkinson’s have committed to a comprehensive lifestyle change, which may include: dietary changes, meditation, Qi gong, Acupuncture and Chinese medicine, and a commitment to changing detrimental and stressful beliefs and attitudes. Chinese medicine tells us that all chronic disease starts with a chronic emotional/spiritual imbalance. This leads to inflammation, weakness in certain organ systems, leading to loss of function in the neurological and hormonal systems.

Howard Shifke’s book “Fighting Parkinson’s and Winning” is based on his own recovery from Parkinson’s. It is a must read from anyone who has had this diagnosis or anyone with a family history of this disease.