Allergy Misery Arrives Early and What to Do About It

Posted on September 13, 2011. Filed under: Allergies |

Acupuncture can help with allergies

Even as this is written in winter, already sensitive patients are suffering from early-season allergies. This winter has seen an increase in flu and upper respiratory infections to top it off, and what’s set in place is a situation in which oscillation occurs: sick, allergic, sick, allergic – the result is runny-nosed misery!

How Allergies Work

Let’s look at how an allergy actually works; it’s not all that complicated to understand the essentials. In really basic (but accurate) terms, you are exposed to a substance your body interacts with as though it were an enemy. If the substance really is an “enemy” such as an invading bacteria – good. Your immune system is working. However, if your body classifies ordinarily harmless substances (e.g. peanuts) as an enemy, your body immediately goes on alert, mobilizes troops, and you experience a runny nose and itching.

There’s more. Sometimes your body can so hate a substance that it chooses the nuclear option; we have all heard the stories about how someone gets bitten by a fire ant, finds he or she can’t breath, and has to be rushed to ER. Last year I had the opportunity to help a patient recover from this very dramatic and dangerous reaction. She came to the clinic after getting out of the hospital feeling very pained and drained, with substantial swelling on her ankle where the bites occurred. Acupuncture, herbs and some energy medicine techniques helped her get back to work quickly, but the sheer magnitude of her reaction to what is ordinarily a minor nuisance was truly remarkable.

Histamines and Runny Noses

Let’s look a little deeper; everyone has heard of histamines, so we’ll look at the role they play in making you miserable!  When you come into contact with an allergy producing substance by touching, breathing, or swallowing it cells in your immune system sense it but don’t recognize it as “yourself.” The alarm goes out as alert chemicals are released! These cells collectively are called immunoglobulins, and are so named by function and shape: a cellular glob that functions in your immune system. There are many of these, and they are abbreviated by letters which you may have seen in articles on allergy medications. For example, immunoglobulin E is abbreviated IgE and IgE is involved in the process that ultimately releases histamines, which in turn acts in concert with other substances to start your nose running and skin itching.

So, the logical conclusion is that a runny nose is a bad thing, right? Wrong! A runny nose is messy and inconvenient, but what is a body to do when it contacts toxic junk? What a runny nose is all about is your bodies attempt to flush out the stuff that’s causing the reaction in the first place. You body secretes excess mucus in the attempt to wash the invader out before penetrating more deeply into the body. While in cases of strong allergic reactions antihistamines are useful in preventing the reaction getting worse, in cases of infection it’s actually best to skip the anti-histamine and let your body purge itself. Much better to let your nose (and your kids noses!) run and let your natural immunity do it’s work, if it’s socially acceptable to do so in your situation. Also, be sure to swallow as little infected mucus as possible; otherwise an intestinal upset is likely to occur.

Conventional treatment for allergies involves identification, medication and elimination when possible. Oriental treatment takes another approach, in which the body is “re-programmed” to reduce the over-reaction. Some patients live in allergic misery for many years, but there is really no need; relief is a definite possibility.

Next time: more on allergens, hypersensitivities, treatments and prevention.

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