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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 29, 2010

Treating allergy with acupuncture may be worth try

By Elizabeth Chen-Christenson, M.D.

Q. Is there any treatment for allergy without drugs?

A. Acupuncture may prove useful in allergy treatment.

Allergy is a disorder of the immune system. The immune system recognizes and defends against a myriad of foreign substances (allergens) that may come in contact with or enter the body. With allergy, excessive stimulation of the immune system results in release of a variety of powerful mediators, such as histamine, that can cause swelling, itching and secretion of mucus. Common allergic reactions include hives, running nose, itchy and watery eyes, hay fever, asthma and eczema.

Modern treatments for allergies include: avoidance of allergens; antihistamines such as Benadryl; epinephrine; steroids; and immune therapy (allergy shots). For some people, these approaches may not be adequate because of side effects.

According to Chinese medical theory, allergic reactions may be a result of a blockage in energy flow, by physical, chemical, emotional or other noxious stimuli. These stimuli are ingrained in our body memory. When we come in contact with those substances, our cells trigger physical symptoms.

A Chinese medicine approach may involve light acupressure applied along both sides of the spinal column in an area where energy flow intersects with the nerve roots, in order to teach the body/mind not to overreact to noxious stimuli. After the acupressure treatment, a kinesiologic test is done to indicate whether the allergy has been removed. Specific acupressure points are then massaged, or acupuncture needles may be inserted for 20 minutes to stabilize the treatment. For children or those who do not tolerate needles, we use acupressure only. If effective, the person may no longer need to go through long-term fasting, elimination diets or lifelong avoidance of allergens.

While there is no modern literature to support the effectiveness of this treatment, the concept is thousands of years old. Reputable medical institutions such as Duke Integrative Medicine are now trying this approach in their programs. Many patients indicate that it has been effective in reducing the need for medication in the treatment of their allergies and other related chronic conditions such as eczema and asthma, chronic fatigue, insomnia, etc. For those who cannot tolerate the long-term use of medication, it may be worth a try.