Acupuncture for Allergies

Spring is here! But for those of us who suffer with allergies, while we look forward to the blooming flowers and warmer weather, we also anxiously await the onset of seasonal allergy symptoms.  And we all know what’s coming – the runny nose, the itchy/watery eyes and scratchy skin, and the constant sneezing.  For some it even includes asthma or more severe symptoms.

While there are many conventional treatments available, many people are incorporating alternative approaches to treat their allergies, including acupuncture and other elements of Asian Medicine.

A small Randomized Controlled Trial published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine in 2002 (Vol. 30, No. 1, 1–11) demonstrated a statistically significant effect on treating Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis (SAR).  http://www.traditionalacupuncture.com.au/files/acupuncture%20and%20SAR.pdf

The study looked at 26 individuals assigned to one of two groups, an acupuncture group or a “sham” acupuncture group.  Results indicated that subjects in the acupuncture group reported significantly reduced levels of both nasal and non-nasal symptoms.  While this was a small study, and larger studies are needed, it does provide some support for the use of acupuncture in the remediation of allergy symptoms.

It’s important to note than Asian Medicine works best when it is preventative.  One of the primary classics of Asian Medicine has an interesting statement about the need to be preventative in treating illness.  It states, “In the old days the [physicians] treated disease by preventing illness before it began . . . Treating an illness after it has begun is like suppressing revolt after it has broken out. If someone digs a well only when thirsty, or forges weapons only after becoming engaged in battle, one cannot help but ask: Aren’t these actions too late?”

Following this theory, allergy sufferers are encouraged to begin treatments BEFORE allergy season begins.

There are many things an individual can do to prepare for allergy season before the first bud appears on the trees.  Asian Medicine is a patient-centered therapeutic approach.  This means that there is no single treatment for all allergy sufferers.  Rather, a treatment must be developed based on your specific signs and symptoms.

However, some typical things that would benefit most people include:

  1. Reducing or eliminating dairy products from the diet.
  2. Reducing or eliminating cold foods and beverages during the cooler/colder months of the year.
  3. Making sure to keep your neck covered, especially during the winter and early spring (a scarf is a good idea).
  4. Using a nasal rinse, such as a neti pot throughout the year, but especially during the winter and spring.
  5. Doing milder exercises during the winter such as yoga or tai chi, and getting sufficient sleep.

Individuals interested in learning more about how they can positively impact their health and potentially reduce the effects of allergies are encouraged to contact me.

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Acupuncture and PCOS

A new study published in the “American Journal of Physiology” has demonstrated that women diagnosed with polycystic Ovary syndrome (PCOS) can benefit from acupuncture and frequent physical exercise.

PCOS is a disorder characterized by irregular or lack of ovulation or menstruation leading to infertility. Women diagnosed with PCOS often have additional signs and symptoms such as extra face or body hair, high insulin levels, higher levels of testosterone, and signs of insulin resistance.  These women often tend to be overweight.  However, it is unclear whether increased weight leads to PCOS, PCOS leads to a susceptibility towards weight gain, or whether other factors contribute to both conditions.  In any event, it is estimated that at least 10 percent of women of child-bearing age in the United States suffer with the condition.

The randomized controlled trial placed 84 women diagnosed with PCOS into one of three groups: low frequency electro-acupuncture (EA), physical exercise, or no intervention.  The study found that after 16 weeks of treatment, and again at a 16-week follow-up, both the EA group and the exercise group saw significantly reduced levels of testosterone (by 25%), reduced acne and weight, and increased the frequency of menstruation.  Women in the EA group improved significantly over women in both the exercise group and the no intervention group, indicating that EA may be effective in improving hormone levels and regulating menstruation in women with PCOS.

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Acupuncture for Menopause

For many women, menopause can bring with it a number of uncomfortable symptoms including hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, and a host of other issues.  Antidepressants and hormone replacement therapy are typical treatments and may alleviate some of the symptoms.  However, these treatments themselves come with significant risks and side effects and in many cases, only hide or delay the problems.

A recent study in the British Medical Journal – Acupuncture in Medicine, suggests that acupuncture may be a viable option for some women in reducing or eliminating the issues that come with menopause.

In this study, researchers took 53 women with menopausal symptoms and whose periods had stopped for at least a year and randomly assigned them to either a “sham “acupuncture group or a real acupuncture group.  After ten sessions with a licensed, experienced acupuncturist, the women in the real acupuncture group reported fewer hot flashes and mood swings.  Continued treatment provided even further benefit.

Although the exact mechanisms behind how acupuncture may work are still unclear, studies like this one reinforce what practitioners of Chinese Medicine have known for a long time; acupuncture is capable of helping with a wide array of conditions.

Dr. Mosquera, M.D., a Board Certified physician, integrative medicine practitioner, and adviser to CunsumerReportsHealth.org points out that, “scientists can now measure changes in neurotransmitters or hormones that are triggered by stimulating the musculoskeletal system at known acupuncture ‘points,’ or meridians. And MRI or PET scans to visualize changes in the central nervous system.”

For women dealing with these and other conditions, consulting with a qualified Chinese Medical practitioner may provide the relief you seek.

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