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Allergy Relief with Acupuncture: A Guide

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For individuals suffering from allergies, could using acupuncture help relieve and manage symptoms?

Allergy Relief with Acupuncture: A Guide

Acupuncture Can Help With Allergies

Acupuncture is becoming a more respected alternative treatment for various medical issues, from anxiety to fibromyalgia to weight loss. There is evidence that acupuncture can help with allergies by alleviating symptoms and improving the quality of life. (Shaoyan Feng, et al., 2015) The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation recommends doctors offer acupuncture to patients looking for nonpharmacological treatments for their allergies or refer them to an acupuncturist. (Michael D. Seidman, et al., 2015)

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine/TCM practice in which extremely thin needles are inserted into the body at specific points, creating a network of energy pathways known as meridians.

  • These pathways circulate vital life energy/chi or qi.
  • Each meridian is associated with a different body system.
  • Needles are placed to target the organs associated with the condition being treated.
  1. Acupuncture can help with allergies by targeting several meridians, including the lungs, colon, stomach, and spleen. These meridians are believed to circulate defensive life energy or a type of immunity energy.
  2. A backup of defensive energy or a deficiency can cause allergy symptoms like swelling, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, allergic eczema, and conjunctivitis. (Bettina Hauswald, Yury M. Yarin. 2014)
  3. The objective is to stimulate the points to restore balance in the energies and relieve symptoms.

Scientific Theories

  • One theory is the needles work directly on nerve fibers, influencing messages to the brain or the autonomic nervous system and transmission of signals within the body, including the immune system. (Tony Y. Chon, Mark C. Lee. 2013)
  • Another is the needles influence certain activities of cells, particularly the transport, breakdown, and clearance of bioactive mediators.
  • The combination of these actions is thought to decrease inflammatory conditions like allergic rhinitis – hay fever, in which the inside of the nose becomes inflamed and swollen after breathing in an allergen. (Bettina Hauswald, Yury M. Yarin. 2014)

A 2015 review concluded there have been high-quality randomized controlled trials demonstrating acupuncture’s efficacy in treating seasonal and perennial allergic rhinitis. Smaller studies have shown some preliminary benefits of acupuncture when compared with antihistamines, but more research is needed. (Malcolm B. Taw, et al., 2015)

Treating Allergies

  • Some individuals who choose acupuncture are seeking alternatives to standard treatment like medications, nasal sprays, and immunotherapy.
  • Others are looking for ways to enhance the effectiveness of medications already being taken, such as antihistamines or nasal sprays, or shorten how long or how frequently they are needed.
  • Initial treatment usually involves weekly or twice-weekly appointments over several weeks or months, depending on symptom severity.
  • This may be followed by annual treatments or on an as-needed basis. (American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. 2020)
  1. Most states require a license, certification, or registration to practice acupuncture, but these vary from state to state.
  2. Recommendations are for a practitioner who is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
  3. A medical doctor who offers acupuncture.
  4. The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture has a list of acupuncturists who are also medical doctors.

Improperly administered acupuncture needles can cause serious side effects that range from infections, punctured organs, collapsed lungs, and injury to the central nervous system. (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. 2022) Before trying acupuncture, consult your primary healthcare provider, allergist, or integrative medicine specialist to make sure it’s a safe and viable option and the best way to integrate it into overall allergy care.


Fighting Inflammation Naturally


References

Feng, S., Han, M., Fan, Y., Yang, G., Liao, Z., Liao, W., & Li, H. (2015). Acupuncture for the treatment of allergic rhinitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American journal of rhinology & allergy, 29(1), 57–62. doi.org/10.2500/ajra.2015.29.4116

Seidman, M. D., Gurgel, R. K., Lin, S. Y., Schwartz, S. R., Baroody, F. M., Bonner, J. R., Dawson, D. E., Dykewicz, M. S., Hackell, J. M., Han, J. K., Ishman, S. L., Krouse, H. J., Malekzadeh, S., Mims, J. W., Omole, F. S., Reddy, W. D., Wallace, D. V., Walsh, S. A., Warren, B. E., Wilson, M. N., … Guideline Otolaryngology Development Group. AAO-HNSF (2015). Clinical practice guideline: Allergic rhinitis. Otolaryngology–head and neck surgery : official journal of American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, 152(1 Suppl), S1–S43. doi.org/10.1177/0194599814561600

Hauswald, B., & Yarin, Y. M. (2014). Acupuncture in allergic rhinitis: A Mini-Review. Allergo journal international, 23(4), 115–119. doi.org/10.1007/s40629-014-0015-3

Chon, T. Y., & Lee, M. C. (2013). Acupuncture. Mayo Clinic proceedings, 88(10), 1141–1146. doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2013.06.009

Taw, M. B., Reddy, W. D., Omole, F. S., & Seidman, M. D. (2015). Acupuncture and allergic rhinitis. Current opinion in otolaryngology & head and neck surgery, 23(3), 216–220. doi.org/10.1097/MOO.0000000000000161

American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. (2020). Acupuncture and Seasonal Allergies.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2022). Acupuncture: What You Need To Know.

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The information herein on "Allergy Relief with Acupuncture: A Guide" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN* CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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