Allergic rhinitis, often called hay fever or seasonal allergies, is an allergic response to indoor or outdoor airborn allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, or pet dander. This causes cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, congestion, sneezing and sinus pressure.
For many people, allergic rhinitis is seasonal, worse at certain times of year, especially in the spring, summer or fall. But some people experience year-round.
Allergic rhinitis is due to an over-reactivity of the immune system. The immune system mistakenly identifies a harmless airborne substance as something harmful, and then starts producing allergy-causing antibodies in a process called sensitization. Every time the body comes in contact with the substance after that, these antibodies recognize it and signal the immune system to react, releasing chemicals (such as histamine) that lead to the irritating symptoms of hay fever.
Allergic rhinitis can be triggered by either seasonal or year-round (perennial) allergens. Seasonal triggers include tree pollen, grass pollen, weed pollen, and spores from fungi and molds, which can be worse in warm-weather months. Year-round triggers include dust mites, cockroaches, pet dander, or spores from indoor and outdoor fungi and molds. Symptoms usually develop immediately after exposure to allergens and often start or worsen at a particular time of year, such as in the spring when they are triggered by tree pollen, grasses, or weeds. People with sensitivities to indoor allergens such as dust mites, cockroaches, mold or pet dander may have year-round symptoms.
Common symptoms include runny nose and nasal congestion, watery or itchy eyes, sneezing, cough, itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat, sinus pressure and facial pain, swollen, blue-colored skin under the eyes (allergic shiners), and decreased sense of smell or taste. More intrusive are symptoms of sleeplessness, fatigue, and irritability. Conventional treatment may involve over-the-counter and/or prescription medications to relieve symptoms. Medications may include nasal or pill-form corticosteroids to treat and prevent the inflammation symptoms, antihistamines for itching, sneezing, and runny nose, decongestants, or medications that have an effect on the immune system.
With Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the lungs, kidney, and immune system often play a role in the cause of allergies. Allergy is very often due to a kidney deficiency because the kidneys are responsible for breathing as well as sneezing. The kidneys also play a role in our immune system so when the kidneys are weak, our immunity is affected. In the case of allergic rhinitis, this manifests as a hyper-reactive immune response. The more severe the kidney deficiency, the more frequently the allergic reactions are experienced- this includes year-round allergies to allergens such as dust, fungus, or animals.
A kidney deficiency leaves the body susceptible to external environmental invasions, leading to an invasion of wind in the nose, and this is when allergy symptoms begin to occur. Wind-cold pattern will produce symptoms of sneezing, profuse runny nose with white-watery discharge, pale complexion, stuffed nose, slight headache and no thirst. Wind-heat pattern will lead to sneezing, runny nose with white-watery discharge, itchy throat, itchy red eyes, and slight thirst.
During allergy season, frequent acupuncture treatments focus on alleviating the symptoms experienced and often yield a quick response. Patients may notice a decrease in their nose stuffiness, sneezes, and number of itching episodes around the eyes, as well as an increase in overall energy levels. Outside of allergy season, treatments may be less frequent and focus on correcting the underlying imbalance in order to strengthen the body and boost the immune system in order to prevent future allergic reactions from reoccurring.
Acne is a disease that affects the skin’s oil glands. The small holes in your skin (pores) connect to oil glands under the skin. These glands make an oily substance called sebum. The pores connect to the glands by a canal called a follicle. Inside the follicles, oil carries dead skin cells to the surface of the skin. A thin hair also grows through the follicle and out the skin. When the follicle of a skin gland clogs up, a pimple grows.
Acupuncture as a cure for acne has proved to be a great solution. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years in China and the East, and one of the benefits is that the skin tends to clear up. Painful cystic acne can leave scars but sufferers may find lasting help using acupuncture to treat their acne. This treatment does not involve puncturing your pimples or cysts with needles; instead points on the body or ears are selected.
Acupuncture has been studied for a long time. Healers around the world use this method as a way in treating several health issues. Acupuncture is the insertion of hair-thin sterile needles into the skin and is a typical way to signal the brain to make changes within the body. A properly trained acupuncturist knows how to insert the needle painlessly. Surprisingly it has been shown that the acupuncture points are electrically different to surrounding skin, and that the electrical characteristics changes when organs or tissue related to the acupuncture points are damaged. It appears when the point is needled it increases the energy sent to promote healing of the damage.
An acupuncture treatment can zone in on one specific area of complaint, but often you are asked about your entire medical history so your whole health can be affected. It is this whole approach that makes true acupuncture a holistic form of treatment. Acupuncture patients usually find treatment benefits more than the problem they sought help for; they often report relaxing the entire body, calming emotions and reduced stress levels.
Treating acne with acupuncture seems to help in at least two ways. One is, since it is through hormone imbalance that can cause the body secrete more oils than it really should, acupuncture can help regulate your body’s hormone output, thus regulating the skins oils and making your skin clearer. The other is that acupuncture is also believed to be effective in stimulating the body’s immune responses which can help deal with the bacteria that causes the acne cysts. Though this is only two of the healing ways, it is commonly known that acne can be caused by stress as well, which acupuncture has proven to reduce. Acupuncture can also help with other skin diseases like psoriasis, dermatitis and warts.
Treating acne with acupuncture isn’t a magic cure-all, though. You still have to eat a healthy diet, keep your skin clean and avoid heavy make-up or products that might irritate your skin. Still, acupuncture is highly recommended for treating acne effectively.
Eczema is an itchy eruption of the skin that is usually more common in children but can appear in adulthood. Eczema symptoms include discoloured patches of skin, itching which may be worse at night and can be quite severe, small, raised bumps that may leak fluid and crust over when scratched, and thickened, cracked, or scaly skin. Patches most often occur on hands, wrists, arms, feet, ankles, face, neck and upper chest, and behind the knees.
A hormonal imbalance occurs when there is too much estrogen relative to progesterone in a woman’s body, also referred to as estrogen dominance. In a normal cycle, estrogen and progesterone hormones work together to maintain a woman’s menstrual cycle, each playing an important role.
When a hormone balance occurs and estrogen levels are too high, it can lead to many problems with a woman’s reproductive cycle, from PMS symptoms to menstrual problems or irregular periods, to mood swings, abdominal weight gain, increased levels of stress hormones, uterine fibroids, and an increased risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, and breast cancer.
The causes for an estrogen-progesterone hormone imbalance include aging, stress, birth control pills, and lifestyle factors like diet and weight.
A hormone imbalance can lead to a drastic decrease in quality of life and cause very real difficulties in a woman’s daily life, from mood problems to sleep problems, to menstrual cycle problems. It can be a complex problem to treat, and many women are dissatisfied with medications or hormone replacement as a solution.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine offer an effective and safe option for managing and resolving a hormone imbalance. Acupuncture has a regulating effect on the body and can help to promote normal functioning of various systems, from hormone levels to sleep cycle, energy levels, moods, and digestion.
By looking at the various symptoms that are presenting, we can determine the areas of the body that are not functioning properly and treat the root cause of the problem. As the body regains healthy equilibrium and these causes are treated, the hormones begin to normalize and the symptoms will begin to lessen. Over time and with continued treatments, the body’s imbalance should resolve.
Often lifestyle factors play an important role in successfully managing and resolving them. This includes managing stress levels and emotional stress, getting regular exercise, maintaining a regular sleep-wake schedule, staying hydrated, and a healthy diet. While these seem like common sense strategies, they are indeed pillars of good health and help us to maintain good health throughout the many changes we face in life.
Fatigue is a feeling that most of us have probably experienced at one time or another. Whether from stress, poor eating habits, sleep deprivation, overwork, or even medical treatments, fatigue often has a lot to do with our habits and routines, though it can sometimes be caused by an underlying medical condition. But sometimes in spite of what we do, fatigue can become an ongoing problem. In severe cases, it may be diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome, a complicated disorder without obvious onset or causes.
Fatigue in Chinese Medicine (TCM) includes both chronic fatigue syndrome, and short-term or ongoing fatigue. Fatigue can be brought on by a number of factors. A hereditary weak constitution is one common cause, particularly in chronic fatigue syndrome.
Lifestyle factors also contribute to fatigue, particularly overwork and eating habits. Overwork can mean either excessive mental or physical work of long hours with inadequate rest. This is a very common cause of fatigue in western societies, and in many cases rest is the only treatment needed. Physical overexertion is also a factor, which includes overexertion at work, as well as excessive exercising or sports activities. Again, this can become a problem when not allowing the body proper adequate rest. Improper diet is by far the most common cause of chronic fatigue. Irregular eating habits, eating poor-quality food, rich, greasy, fatty and even sometimes too much cold-raw foods, can all injure the spleen and stomach.
All of these factors can develop weakness in one or more of the vital organs: lungs, spleen, kidney, liver and heart. There can be a deficiency of either qi, blood, yin, or yang of one or more of these organs. Whereas in western medicine, chronic fatigue syndrome is a difficult to understand syndrome with uncertain causes, in Chinese medicine chronic fatigue has well-understood causes, which explain why it may develop in some people and not others. This makes acupuncture is an effective option for people who suffer from fatigue with no relief, as acupuncture can produce positive results.
Gastritis is an umbrella term for a group of conditions that all share a common symptom of inflammation of the stomach lining. Gastritis can be chronic or acute, and for most people it is not serious and resolves quickly with treatment. Symptoms include a gnawing or burning pain or ache in the upper abdomen that may be either worse or better with eating, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, belching, bloating, a feeling of fullness in the upper abdomen after eating, and weight loss.
Acute gastritis happens suddenly and is more likely to cause nausea and burning pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen. Chronic gastritis develops gradually and symptoms are usually a dull pain and a feeling of fullness or a loss of appetite after a small amount of food. In many people, chronic gastritis may cause no symptoms at all. In rare, severe cases, gastritis may cause stomach bleeding- requiring prompt medical care.
Gastritis is a result of the stomach's protective layer becoming weak or damaged. The stomach has a mucus-lined barrier that protects it from the acids that help digest food. Weakness in the barrier exposes the stomach lining to damage and inflammation from digestive juices. This can result from a bacterial infection, regular use of pain relief medications, severe stress, alcohol intake, bile reflux disease (when bile flows up into the stomach), an auto-immune dysfunction, or it can be a result of different conditions or diseases. Treatment may involve addressing the underlying problem, such as stopping the use of substances which lead to gastritis or taking antibiotics if it is due to a bacterial infection, or taking medications to reduce or neutralize stomach acid.
In Chinese medicine (TCM), gastritis conditions are classified as stomach pain, which includes both gastritis and ulcers. Gastritis is a loose term that can apply to so many different conditions, and Chinese medicine does not rely on Western diagnosis for treatment, but rather looks closely at the specific symptoms experienced, in order to determine the specific causes for each person.
From a TCM perspective, gastritis can be caused by a number of different factors. Acute gastritis can be caused by the abdomen being exposed to cold temperatures or damp conditions, which can cause a blockage in the qi-energy of the stomach and intestines. Diet is of course a major factor. Eating too little or too much food, eating too much cold food, hot-spicy food, sugar and sweets, or greasy, fried, or dairy foods can damage the function of the stomach. Irregular eating habits such as eating too fast or on the go, eating late in the evening or at night, eating while stressed or emotionally upset, skipping breakfast, eating while performing other activities, or eating irregular amounts of food from day to day may also be factors. Emotional upset such as anger, frustration, resentment, worry and stress can lead to stomach problems, as can overwork and physical over-exertion. And finally, our inherited constitution may mean for some people a weakness in the stomach, which makes it prone to disorders such as gastritis.
Because of the accuracy in diagnosis, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can yield excellent results in the treatment of gastritis and promote healing of the stomach lining. Acupuncture can also help with many of the symptoms of gastritis including nausea, pain, and vomiting, and can help to reduce stress and improve overall digestive functioning. Combined with lifestyle and dietary changes, it can be an effective treatment option for resolving gastritis, strengthening a weak digestive system, and preventing future stomach disorders from occurring.
Constipation is a frequent gastrointestinal problem that can cause a lot of discomfort and put strain on the digestive system. Being constipated means not being able to have regular bowel movements but it can also include having difficulty passing stools, hard stools, or a feeling of blockage or of incomplete passage after a bowel movement. Fortunately, constipation is usually temporary, but chronic constipation can cause further problems or can be a sign of an underlying disorder. A number of factors can cause constipation, including not drinking enough fluids, eating a poor diet or not enough fiber, not enough physical activity, illness, long term use of laxatives, or it can be a result of certain medications or diseases.
In Western medicine, the solution for constipation in most cases is simple and involves eliminating the factors that are causing the problem. In other words, eating lots of dietary fibers (vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains), drinking a lot of fluids, getting regular exercise, and taking time for the toilet and not ignoring the urge for a bowel movement. However, in some cases, constipation can be a chronic problem that isn’t easy to resolve in spite of our efforts.
In Chinese medicine (TCM), constipation results from a stagnation of internal heat and dryness resulting in a lack of fluids, stagnation of the flow of energy from emotional upsets, deficiency of qi-energy or blood from internal injury, strain, stress or a lack of physical exercise. Constipation is classified into five categories of imbalance that inhibit the proper function of the large intestine, as well as the spleen, stomach and kidneys.
It is interesting that Chinese medicine has such specific differentiations for constipation, whereas Western medicine sees all of the different types of constipation as the single same problem. From there it is a matter of targeting the imbalance and correcting it in order to restore the body’s normal, healthy functioning. This in turn, helps to resolve not only the problem of constipation and improve digestion, but also help with the various and seemingly unrelated symptoms that tend to go along with the constipation.
Bell's palsy is a condition where the nerve that controls the facial muscles becomes swollen or compressed, causing sudden facial paralysis or weakness on one side of the face and making it difficult to smile or close the eye on the affected side. Symptoms may include facial droop and difficulty with facial expressions, pain behind or in front of the ear on the affected side, sounds that seem louder on the affected side, headaches, loss of taste, and changes in the amount of tears and saliva the body produces.
The nerve that controls the facial muscles passes through a narrow corridor of bone on its way to the face. With Bell’s palsy, this nerve becomes inflamed and swollen, usually from infection with a virus, and gets pinched in this tight corridor. The most common virus that causes Bell’s palsy is herpes simplex, the virus that causes cold sores.
Western medical treatment may include medications such as corticosteroids or antiviral drugs, exercise and massage, and in very rare cases, surgery to relieve the pressure on the facial nerve. It’s also very important to protect the eye on the affected side, using eye drops and eye salves to prevent the eye from drying out and causing permanent damage.
Chinese medicine (TCM) takes a slightly different approach to Bell’s palsy. Bell’s palsy can arise when the body is left vulnerable because of what we call a qi-energy deficiency. Our qi-energy is what powers all of our body’s normal functions, and a shortage of qi-energy naturally will have an effect on our body’s ability to function at its optimum health. A qi-energy vacuity is a pattern that develops slowly over time, and can be caused by lifestyle factors that deplete the body, such as a diet of incorrect foods, overwork, or chronic stress.
Acupuncture can offer Bell’s palsy sufferers a quicker and more complete recovery. Treatment promotes the flow of qi-energy and blood to relieve the rigidity and paralysis of the facial muscles and to supply them with a sufficient flow of energy and blood for healing.