Resetting the Immune System: Allergies, Asthma, and Acupuncture

Mast Cells

The immune system is a wonderful thing.  Without it we could not live a second–we would be totally consumed by bacteria and viruses.  But, it is fickle.  It can overreact or react in response to something that is not a pathogen.

Allergies are caused by the immune system reacting in a way it should not, and giving us problems.  Asthma is also caused by the immune system overreacting.

Why do asthma and allergies often occur together?

Asthma and allergies are both caused by an over reaction in your immune system. And it is no surprise to those with asthma, that allergies make asthma worse.  The same allergen will also irritate your lungs and cause an acute flare up with many asthma attacks and difficult breathing.  With some people, this flare up can even happen with skin allergies.

How does Chinese medicine approach asthma?

Chinese medicine therapy is not one treatment, but involves many.  The idea behind Acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatment is that it corrects imbalances in the body.  In other words, it works to reset the body’s immune system.  In chronic immune conditions, your body becomes hypersensitive to what should not cause a major reaction.  The acupuncture, acupressure, and Chinese herbs work to correct the imbalance and stimulate the body to heal itself.

1. Acupuncture is frequently used for treating asthma.  As with all acupuncture, the treatment focuses on correcting the root imbalance that is causing your asthma, resetting the body to be healthy.

2. Chinese herbs have long been used to treat asthma, and researchers are beginning to explore this idea.  Just like acupuncture, the herbs are focused on correcting the imbalance and regulating the immune system.  Most often, Chinese herbs are given as formulas, that is a combination of many different herbs combined which are taken together.

The combination helps to create a synergy.  Herbs correctly combined together are more powerful than single herbs. They also work together to reduce side effects.

For some people with asthma and allergies, the formula Jade Wind Screen is effective.  This helps to gently boost the qi while reducing allergy symptoms.  It is important to consult an herbal practitioner before taking Chinese herbs.

3. Acupressure is the massage of different acupressure points on the body.  It can be done by a professional acupuncturist

Qi gong practice
Qi gong practice

or you can do it yourself as a self care technique.  Gentle rubbing the points of PC6, LI 4, and ST 36 can boost your energy and immunity.  LI 4 works specifically to treat frontal headaches.

4.  Tai ji and qi gong are slow moving exercises which help to improve the circulation of qi. Chen Man-ching, one of the early and most famous tai ji teachers in America, began to study tai ji in order to help a chronic lung problem.  The exercises helped to heal him and prevent his condition from coming back.

5. Chinese cupping is a technique which glass or plastic cups create a suction on the

Zorba the Greek using Cupping
Zorba the Greek using Cupping

skin.  This helps to increase the circulation at that area.   It has been used with many different type of respiratory conditions.  With asthma, it helps to open the lungs and increase the expectoration of phlegm.  The tradition has also been used in Europe for a couple centuries and was captured in the movie Zorba  the Greek.

6. It is also important to watch what you eat.  Avoiding dairy and greasy food is important for those with asthma.  Dairy often stimulates the production of mucus and phlegm.  Ice cream and milk are the worst offenders.  Yogurt in moderation maybe ok. For those with severe asthma, it is better to avoid dairy products in general to help the body clear out the phlegm.

Photos: euthman, Oda’s courses, barelyfitz

Joseph Alban, L.Ac.
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