Posts Tagged ‘Allergies’
May 29, 2013
Bacteria are everywhere. In the soil, on our skin, in our guts, in our eyes, and reproductive organs. Everywhere. In fact, our bodies have more than 10 times the amount of microbial life in us than our own cells.
In the last century, bacteria have gotten a bad wrap. Many bacteria are needed for healthy digestion, immune system function, and healthy reproduction among others.
So rather than having a war on bacteria, cohabitation with bacteria is gaining ground in the scientific world. Recently in the New York Times, the author Michael Pollan wrote a piece about our the latest information regarding the microbiome, the life of the microbes that live with us and believed help us stay healthy.
The war on bacteria
Since we’ve known about germs, they have become a target to eradicate. And of course this has been very successful and saved many lives. But it is possible we’ve gotten rid of too many microbes, the ones that helps us as well as the ones that hurt us.
Bacteria are helpful in digestion, our immune system, reproduction, and other bodily functions. People in cultures that do not use or have access to industrialized food production and industrialized chemical cleaners, and therfore a higher exposure to the plethora of bacteria, have a much lower rate of atopic eczema, asthma, allergies, IBS, and other chronic diseases (of course lack of access to modern medicine produces other medical dangers like severe infections).
So how do we live together in harmony?
A symbiotic relationship
In acupuncture and Chinese medicine we understand the need to live in harmony with the environment. Bacteria are part of this environment inside and outside our bodies. Now it is looking like we need to life in harmony with our microbes.
What can we do to cultivate a healthy relationship with our bacteria? The research is still being done, so there is no strict prescription. But using common sense, we can gain a few simple recommendations.
1. Eat whole foods. Plant based whole foods that have a lot of fiber and nutrients are not only good for you but also for your gut bacteria. These are called prebiotic foods because they stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. In the long run, they are much better than taking probiotics. Different forms of fiber (soluble and insoluble) may help encourage healthy bacteria in different parts of your digestive system. You can’t go wrong with eating whole foods, its healthy in many other ways such as providing vitamins, minerals, and proteins.
2. Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods are foods which bacteria, yeast, and fungi have processed. Fermented foods have been a part of human culture probably as long as we have had culture. Fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, and sour pickles contain naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria, which is what probiotics are. These foods will provide a large variety of lactic acid bacteria increasing your microbiome diversity,
They are delicious and you can make them at home!
May 16, 2013
The itch in atopic dermatitis can take over your life. It is so intense, those with atopic eczema of wake up scratching. And after your scratch, the skin becomes more inflamed, itchy, dry, and lichenified.
Most people with atopic eczema have a family history eczema, hay fever, and asthma. Allergies to foods, mold, or irritant substances may cause a flare in the condition (1). Atopic eczema is increasing rapidly in industrialized countries. Atopic eczema is treated most often with topical steroids that suppress the inflammatory response. Unfortunately, steroids also have many side effects.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help reduce eczema naturally.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine approach to Atopic Eczema
Traditionally, Chinese medicine called eczema the “wind of four crooks” referring to the eczema rashes on the inside of the elbows and knees which are the common locations of the condition (2).
Chinese medicine treats eczema not by suppressing the immune response, but rather correcting the imbalances that are causing the eczema. By correcting or removing these imbalances your body is able to heal on its own.
In eczema, the most common underlying imbalances are dry heat or dampness. To determine the imbalance, I will observe how the skin looks. If the skin is dry, cracked, and irritated, then too much dry heat may be the most significant factor in the eczema. If there is more swelling, crusting, and vesicles, then dampness may be the most significant factor.
Because Chinese medicine is holistic, we also consider how digestion, allergies, sleep, and emotional health play a role. Acupuncture points and herbs are selected specifically for their ability to correct that specific imbalance.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatment of Atopic Eczema
The therapy may combine acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and topical herbal creams.
Chinese herbal medicine focuses on correcting the imbalance. If heat is the cause of the eczema, we will use herbs that traditionally are used to “clear heat” from the body, such as sheng di huang (rehmannia) and jin yin hua (honey suckle). Many of the heat reducing herbs are also potent anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties.
If dampness is causing the eczema, herbs that drain dampness such as ku shen (sophroa) can be used. There are also herbs specifically for the symptoms. For example, di fu zi (broom cypress) is very effective in reducing itch.
External herbal creams are very effective at decreasing inflammation and stopping itching. For some people, reduction in inflammation and itching happens after the first visit.
Acupuncture is very effective to control the itching in eczema. I find that auricular and body acupuncture combination to be the most effective. After the acupuncture, I often will use magnet stickers in ear acupuncture points that correspond to the specific area of the body the itch is found. It is possible that the same physiological mechanisms which acupuncture uses to reduce pain are effective for stopping itch in eczema (3).
For many patients, acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine leads to long term reduction of symptoms. This is because Chinese medicine focuses on correcting the root imbalance causing the condition, not just masking the symptoms. The long term benefit of the herbs may be due to immunoregulatory mechanisms of Chinese medicine.
1. PubMed Health. Atoptic Eczema. Accessed 5/14/2013.
2. Mazin Al-Khafaji. Atopic Eczema “Wind of the four crooks.” Journal of Chinese Medicine. Number 77: p5-8. February 2005.
3. Pfab F, Huss-Marp J, Gatti A., et al. Influence of acupuncture on type I hypersensitivity itch and the wheal and flare response in adults with atopic eczema – a blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial.Allergy. 2010 Jul;65(7):903-10. Epub 2009 Dec 11.
May 13, 2013
I came to Alban Acupuncture a year ago. My major concern was chronic pain in my neck, back and shoulder. I tried physical therapy, chiropractor, massage and acupuncture without lasting results. After a few months of being treated by Joseph, my condition significantly improved. Presently I’m coming once a month to maintain a good shape. I think Joseph’s method is unique because he combines acupuncture with Chinese massage.
Joseph is also helping me with many other problems like palpitations, low energy, stress, seasonal allergies, old knee injury, ankle sprain…
Joseph gives a lot of attention to his patients. His approach is holistic. In the beginning of my visit I tell Joe my current complains and he is addressing them in the same session with my chronic neck/back problems. Overall experience from my visits ( I commute from Staten Island to get there!) is so positive that I’d definitely recommend Alban Acupuncture to my friends.
Apr 12, 2013
It finally warmed up here in New York (well kind of) and I was out for a bike ride in Central Park. It was a beautiful sunny blue sky day. The tulips are in bloom and buds on the trees are coming out. Everyone is excited to get out on their bike or go for a walk in the park. Spring is in the air.
Spring being in the air also means pollen is too. During my ride, my throat became a little scratchy. My eyes were becoming dry and irritated. After I returned home, my sinuses felt full and heavy. Allergies have arrived.
Acupuncture and Herbal Formula for Sinus Congestion
Acupuncture and herbs work wonders to prevent and treat the symptoms of allergies. Later that day I put myself on a treatment course of acupuncture and herbs to reduce these symptoms and stop the allergies from progressing.
I chose to use an acupuncture point prescription to reduce the itchy eye and boost my qi (energy). It included acupuncture points such as Large intestine 4, Stomach 36, Liver 3, San Jiao 5, Yin Tang, Du 20. He Gu, LI 4, helps to ride the head of pain. SJ 5 reduces eye itchiness. St 36 boosts qi and Liv 3 clears the wind to reduce the itching. Yin Tang relaxes and clams pain in the sinuses.
For herbal therapy, I used an herbal formula called The Sinus Congestion Formula which reduces sinus pressure, itchy eyes, and headaches.
After the acupuncture my sinus felt more open and eye itching was relieved. I’ll keep this acupuncture up weekly during the allergy season. The herbs are great to reduce the sinus pressure and discomfort.
Photo: kataghs photostream
Apr 4, 2013
Spring has sprung. Well not quite yet with this cold weather here in NYC. But my patients are already telling me that their allergy symptoms are coming back.
Acupuncture can help reduce allergies. For those with severe allergies, it is better to start treatment before the allergies season to prevent the intensity of the symptoms.
Read more about how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can reduce you allergies.
Apr 1, 2013
April allergies can be cruel. Headache, itchy eyes, sneezing, and scratchy throat are overwhelming. Chinese herbal formulas are very effective for reducing the runny nose and stuffiness, headaches, and itchy eyes,
Nasal Symptoms and Sinus Headache
For people with hay fever and sinus symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and sinus headache the overall most effective formulas is called Bi Min Gan Wan, the nasal congestion formula. This is a mild formula that helps to reduce headache, nasal congestion.
In Chinese medicine, itchy eyes from allergies is generally from heat. The herbal formula best for itchy eyes form heat is Sang Ye Tang. This formula has mulberry leaf and chrysanthemum flowers that help to relieve itchy eyes. Another effective formula for itchy eyes is called Qi Ju Di Huang Tang, which has gou qi zi and ju hua that stop eye itching.
Asthma with Allergies
Because allergies and asthma are so closely connected, allergies can trigger asthma attacks, those with asthma often need different herbal formulas. Sometimes there is too little qi. In this case, formulas like Jade Wind Screen works to boost qi and release external wind. Also, the mushroom Cordyceps or Reishi is helpful to boost the qi.
May 31, 2012
A recent patient with headaches at my New York acupuncture clinic reminded me of the powerful way acupuncture treats the whole person.
She was coming in for tension headaches which were exacerbated by seasonal allergies. Stress was also a major factor.
The acupuncture had almost an immediate effect in reducing the headaches. After 4 treatments she had very little pain.
The following month this patient returned for follow up acupuncture treatment. And she reported she did not have any PMS or cramps that month.
The acupuncture treatment was focused on the headaches, but correcting the underlying imbalance helped to heal the whole person.
May 29, 2012
I developed seasonal allergies in my 20’s. For years I did not notice my allergies so much as I noticed I was moody when the flower bloomed. I didn’t understand if everything is so beautiful why was I feeling so blue.
Eventually I realized my headaches, stuffy nose, and moodiness was allergies.
Scientists have reported that depression increases with allergy symptoms. Most people thought that mood changes during allergy season were simply related to feeling uncomfortable from the sinus pressure, headache, sneezing, and watery eyes. Recently researchers have suggested there is a connection between the inflammatory processes that lead to allergies and the feeling blue.
Inflammatory diseases in general, such as asthma and psoriasis, have higher rates of depression compared to other chronic diseases. This may suggest that the inflammatory process itself has some influence on the development of depression.
Aug 31, 2011
Chinese herbal remedies have been used for centuries for many conditions and to boost overall health. For many conditions the combination of acupuncture and herbs is the most effective approach. I almost always use herbs when treating acne, eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions.
The current Chinese pharmacopeia contains more than 5000 herbs and medicinal products. A pharmacy will most often contain 500-1000 of the most commonly used herbs. Some of the herbs are only used in the region they are grown and are not easy to find elsewhere.
Chinese herbs are most often combined into formulas rather than given as a single herb. This approach produces synergy, the combination is more powerful than any one herb. The herbs are combined and specifically tailored to your imbalance.
Chinese herbs are holistic, that is they target the underlying imbalance as well as the symptoms, herbs can address many conditions at the same time.
There are many ways to take Chinese herbs.
Raw Herbs: The most traditional way, and the most potent for certain conditions, are raw herbs. Raw herbs are generally dried herbs.
The are prepared by boiling in water to make a very strong tea. The herbal dregs are discarded and the tea is drank. The herbs should be cooked in a ceramic herb pot or a glass pot. Metal pots, even stainless steel, should be avoided.
Many herbal pharmacies have pressure cooking machines that can prepare the herbs for you. The tea is then vacuum packed into a small bag.
Raw herbs are very potent. I believe they are the strongest form of herbs. I most often use raw herbs for skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
Pills or Capsules
Herbal pills are possibly the most common way to take herbs. This is also a traditional method, as many formulas were designed to be made into honey pills. Honey pills consist of ground herbs which are binded together with honey.
I find prepared herbs very effective for many chronic health concerns such as anxiety, insomnia, and allergies. They are very easy to take and easy to store. They may not be strong enough for certain women’s health or skin conditions.
Tinctures are alcohol extracts of herbal formulas. That is, the herbal formula is boiled down to make a very concentrated tea. A small amount of alcohol is added as a preservative. They are very easy to use, quite effective, and affordable.
Granules or Powders
Granules are concentrated boiled herbs. The herbal formulas are boiled down and the liquid is concentrated. Mix this powder with warm water to reconstitute the herbs. Sometimes the herbs are also encapsulated for pills.
May 18, 2011
This is the second post on herbs for traveling. This one focuses on altitude sickness.
Peru was our first high altitude trip. In Peru, we went to the Canyon del Colca, the towns on top of Canyon de Colca are at 3700 meters. At this height, altitude sickness is an concern.
We had come from Arequipa, a colonial city in the Mountains, resting at about 2300 so there was some time for our bodies to adjust. We took a 6 hour bus ride over dirt roads with the locals and their smaller farm animals, chickens and a baby lamb.
There, on top of the Canyon de Colca, we met Remijio, our guide for the three day hike. Remijio made walking into an art, with his graceful steps. He knew much about the local herbs, remedies for diarrhea, stomach pain, and gynecological disorders.
At the onset of the hike, we ascended to the highest point over the canyon, 3700 meters, but then descended over 1000 meters. Remijio kept reminding us “Despacio, descpacio (slowly, slowly). ” We were feeling ok overall, no headache, naseau, or other symptoms of altitude sickness.
I had been reading earlier about the Chinese herb called Dong Chong Xie Cao, or Cordyceps which doctors of Chinese Medicine have used for altitude sickness. Cordyceps is a mushroom that is known to grown on the bodies of worms and insects in the Tibetian pleateu. It is known to warm the body and boost yang qi.
Traditionally, cordyceps is used for asthma and allergies, cancer support, and certain types of pain and fatigue. At times, it has also been used by athletes as a energy booster.
After the three day hike, we did not have altitude sickness at all. We had been taking the cordyceps for 2 weeks prior. Yang qi warms and give the body energy helping to prevent altitude sickness.
Some have theorized that cordyceps and energy boosting Chinese herbs help the body to better utilize the oxygen in the blood, therefore helping to prevent sickness. Another theory is that these herbs actually help you produce more red blood cells giving the body the ability to carry more oxygen in the blood and prevent altitude sickness.
I have since used cordyceps on trips to China and Mexico. Giving yourself time to acclimate and following an experienced guide is the most important action to stay healthy and safe. Chinese herbs have helped to reduce my symptoms of altitude sickness.
About Buying Cordyceps
Wild cordyceps is very expensive because it is very rare. Wild cordycpes is gathered in the fields of the Tibetian plateu.
Sadly the high price tag has lead to a black market and much adulterating of the product. I recommend finding a quality company that grows natural organic cordyceps. I personally use Aloha medicinals, but I am sure there are others.
Read More: There is a great article on Chinese herbs for Mountain Sickness at the Institute for Traditional Medicine.