An allergy is the body's negative response to a substance or situation that is normally not harmful to others. This response may include sneezing, runny nose, itching, watery eyes, headaches, indigestion, and difficulty breathing. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), allergies affect at least 10 to 25% of the population.
Causes: Most allergic reactions occur after your body comes into contact with something you eat, touch or inhale. Emotional and genetic factors may play a role in the type and severity of allergies. Allergic responses often occur spontaneously causing a reaction in any part of the body.
It is not clear why people suddenly develop allergies or why they sometimes disappear on their own. Many believe that allergies are becoming more common as a result of the body’s immune system being compromised by the increasing number of chemicals in the air, water, food and clothing.
Some of the most common allergens are foods, plants (pollens, weeds, grasses, trees, etc), insect venoms (bee stings, mosquito bites, sand flies), animal dander and saliva (such as cat, dog and horse), dust mites, mold spores, occupational substances (asbestos, latex), and drugs (such as aspirin, penicillin).
What happens when you come into contact with an allergen? When a person with a predisposition to allergies is exposed to a potential allergen for the first time such as food, grass, or animal dander, the body perceives the potential allergen as a foreign substance and produces an antibody that may lodge in the skin, respiratory system, blood or gastrointestinal tract.
During the next exposure, the new antibodies recognize the allergen and cause the body to release histamine and other chemicals, resulting in an allergic reaction usually at the site of exposure to the allergen.
When an allergen comes into contact with the skin’s surface or a mucous membrane such as the lining of the nose or bronchial tubes, the immune system perceives it as an enemy and triggers a series of reactions designed to fight off the perceived threat. Inflammation follows characterized by redness, itching, swelling and increased production of mucus.
Some people can tolerate a large degree of allergens without ever experiencing any outward symptoms while others may only require a very minute amount of exposure to allergens before symptoms appear. The degree and severity of symptoms vary according to the general health and genetic makeup of the individual.
Most people experience mild but recurring allergy symptoms which can appear up to three days following contact with an allergen. These delayed-onset allergies are often associated with consumption of cheese, eggs, wheat and corn products as well as processed and refined foods.
More immediate and often life-threatening reactions occur as a result of consumption of pork, chocolate, peanuts, strawberries and tomatoes.
Common sources of food allergies are homogenized and pasteurized milk and cheese, eggs, wheat and corn products, bananas, coffee, fish and shellfish, citrus fruit, nuts, processed and refined food, food dyes and additives.
Metals found in costume jewelry and cosmetics are common sources of skin irritations, as well as household cleaning agents and other frequently used chemicals.
Patients with food intolerance often have abnormal intestinal flora. In these cases, the intestines may allow incompletely digested particles into the bloodstream. These are seen as foreign substances which are attacked by the immune system. Allergies have been linked to improper digestion and leaky gut syndrome.
Replacing breast milk by cow’s milk, and introducing solid food to babies too early in life has also been linked to allergies. Overeating certain foods may also lead to allergic reactions. Candidiasis and parasites can be related to allergies. Medications such as penicillin and Aspirin are frequent sources of allergies as well.
Emotional problems resulting from a difficult lifestyle or family situation can also trigger allergies, particularly in children.
What to look for? A person who has a classic allergy usually develops redness, swelling, and heat. The symptoms can be subtle and similar to those seen in other health conditions making diagnostic testing very important in identifying allergy-related disorders such as hives, dermatitis, eczema, asthma, abdominal pain, indigestion and diarrhea. Some of the most common allergy related illnesses affect the upper respiratory system - nose, sinuses, lungs.
Signs and Symptoms of respiratory sensitivities:
- Sneezing often accompanied by a runny or clogged nose
- Coughing with thin and clear nasal discharge
- Itching eyes, nose, and throat
- Allergic shiners (dark circles under the eyes caused by increased blood flow near the sinuses)
- The "allergic salute" (in a child, persistent upward rubbing of the nose that causes a crease mark on the nose)
- Watering eyes
- Conjunctivitis (an inflammation of the membrane that lines the eyelids, causing red-rimmed, swollen eyes, and crusting of the eyelids)
Food allergies often go unnoticed because the discomforts are slight and the reaction not always immediate. Symptoms often occur within a few minutes to an hour of eating.
Signs and Symptoms of food sensitivities:
- Dark circles and puffiness under the eyes
- Chronic inflammation
- Itching in the mouth
- Indigestion, nausea or vomiting
- Chronic diarrhea
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Joint pain
- Heart palpitations
- Mood swings
Individuals displaying severe allergic reactions must immediately seek medical help.
Some examples of more severe allergic reactions are:
- Swelling of the throat
- Difficulty swallowing and breathing
- Thick yellow discharge
- Irregular Heart Beat
- Possible fever
- Deadly reaction known as Anaphylactic Shock
My allergy symptoms are generally mild. How serious is this really? Allergic reactions are very individual. They can be mild or severe, vary from exposure to exposure, get worse over time (or may not), involve part of the body or the whole body, and can sometimes be fatal.
Will my allergies ever go away? Although children do outgrow some allergies, adults usually do not. Allergies that cause the worst reactions, such as anaphylaxis caused by peanuts, do not usually go away. Avoidance of the allergen and advance preparation for accidental exposure, in the form of medications such as antihistamines and portable epinephrine injections, is considered a prudent course of action.
First Step: Develop an allergy profile Developing an allergy profile is an important first step towards being allergy free. Allergy profiling helps identify both food and environmental sensitivities. This information can assist you and your allergy specialist in developing an effective plan to treat your allergies.
Different methods are applied. First a complete review of the health history of the patient helps identify any sensitivities. The family history of allergies is also important in this regard.
One method to help identify food allergens is to take your pulse before and fifteen to twenty minutes after eating a food suspected of causing an allergic reaction. If your pulse has increased more than ten beats per minute, you can suspect an allergy.
Some natural medicine practitioners supplement information from conventional allergy testing with applied Kinesiology-Based Muscle Testing. While the patient holds a food or environmental allergen in one hand, the strength of the other arm is tested to determine if the body is weakened in the presence of the allergen. A weakened arm indicates a level of sensitivity to the particular item.
A widely accepted diagnostic tool for pinpointing allergies is the elimination diet. Following a period of time that you are on a simple, bland diet, or after a fast, suspect foods are slowly reintroduced in small quantities one at a time. Although time consuming, this technique is excellent for identifying problem foods.
People who have suffered a severe or life-threatening allergic reaction in the past must be under close medical supervision while doing these tests, as a another life-threatening anaphylactic reaction is possible.
People with allergic reactions to certain foods often are reacting to poor food combinations. Bad food combinations lead to incomplete digestion which can reintroduce toxins into the blood stream and cause allergic reactions.
To discover sensitivities related to food combinations first follow a modified version of the elimination diet by eliminating the simplest food combinations. If the allergies cease, find out through experimentation which combinations of foods can be tolerated.
If allergies continue, eliminate suspected foods starting with those which are craved most as they usually are the ones producing the allergic reactions.
Medical Tests: Allergy tests available today do not provide a comprehensive and accurate picture of all possible allergens. Skin or scratch tests, although fairly reliable for the detection of environmental allergens, are not as accurate for detecting food allergies. The usefulness of skin tests can also be affected by skin conditions such as significant dermatitis or eczema, and by medications, such as histamines and some anti-depressants.
The most widely medically accepted allergy tests are the Allergen specific IgE/IgG Antibody Blood Test. Allergen specific IgE/IgG Antibody Tests Allergen-specific IgE/IgG antibody testing involves taking a blood sample and checking for each suspected allergen.
Allergens may be selected one at a time or by choosing panels such as food panels, which contain the most common adult or child food allergens, and regional weed and grass panels, which contain the most common airborne allergens in the location where the person lives. Individual selections can be very specific. Usually someone will only be truly allergic to a few substances (4 or less).
Of all of the available medically supported allergy tests, IgE/IgG provides the most comprehensive information on the body’s sensitivity to various potential allergens. Blood tests do not have an adverse effect on the person being tested, which is different from certain tests that may actually result in temporary worsening of symptoms.
My allergy test was negative, but I still have symptoms? Negative results from the allergen-specific antibody tests most often indicate that a person does not have a "true allergy." But there are exceptions. If the allergen was not consumed during the three weeks prior to testing, the immune system may not have had recent enough exposure for the specific antibodies to be present.
A person can also display a genetic hypersensitivity problem, such as sensitivity to gluten with Celiac disease or have an enzyme deficiency, such as a lactase deficiency causing lactose intolerance. There could also be an allergy-like condition for which there are no laboratory tests. Or it could be another disease that is causing allergy-like symptoms.
My allergy test was positive, but I have no symptoms? Even if the specific IgE/IgG test is positive, a person may never have an actual physical allergic reaction when exposed to that substance. False positives may occur as a result of cross-reactivity with other foods or proteins. The proteins are not identical, but similar enough for the immune system to react to them.
For example, a reaction to bananas may also cause a reaction to pineapple and vice versa. Another type of adverse food reaction can stem from emotional or physical trauma, resulting from a previous negative food experience (e.g. food poisoning). Children who outgrow a food allergy may continue to have positive test results for many years. In both of these cases, a person's clinical history and additional applied Kinesiology based Muscle Testing and other medically supervised allergy tests may be necessary to confirm an allergy diagnosis.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) View of Allergies: TCM sees the weakened immune system as the core of the problem. It is not strong enough to fight allergens. In order fully resolve symptoms, the immune system must be strengthened so that the body will no longer be overwhelmed by the allergic response to the invading pathogens.
Before treating the core problem, the outward signs and symptoms must be addressed. These differ depending on whether the allergen attacks the respiratory system, the digestive system or the exterior of the body as manifested by skin conditions such as hives, eczema or dermatitis. Furthermore, allergies usually include an element of dampness manifesting as an abnormally high level of mucous or phlegm accumulation in the body.
According to some research, allergic reactions may result from an imbalance or reactivity between the energy fields of an individual and that of a particular substance or group of substances called allergens. Within this context, allergy testing is often done using NST (Neuromuscular Sensitivity Testing). While holding an allergen in one hand, the patient resists downward pressure applied to the other outstretched arm. A drop in muscle strength indicates a sensitivity to the allergen.
Treatment involves massaging acupressure points located along the spine. This reboots the body's nervous system harmonizing the energy fields of the patient and the allergen. The patient must avoid the allergen for 25 hours after the end of treatment. After a successful treatment, the patient no longer exhibits sensitivity when in contact with the allergen, and in less severe cases, can gradually reintroduce it into his or her diet.
Allergy Treatments: One of the most common forms of treatment for food allergies is avoidance. Results from allergy tests and the health status history of the patient help determine which elements trigger the allergic reaction. The patient then does her or his best to avoid situations that trigger an allergic reaction.
By avoiding the allergens over time the body has a chance to rebuild its immune system. In some cases, a stronger immune system helps diminish or eliminate allergic reactions. After a month or so of avoidance the suspected allergens are reintroduced gradually into your diet one at a time in small quantities. If a severe reaction occurs you may consider eliminating this item from your diet permanently. If the reaction is mild or questionable you may try the food items again in four weeks.
Temporary avoidance may be all that is required. Many allergy suffers find they no longer are sensitive to food if it appears in their diet no more than once every four days. Others find that allergies to a particular food clear up when they totally abstain from it for six weeks.
Western Medical treatments for allergies also include prescribing decongestants, mucolytics (drugs that thin mucus secretions), pain relievers and antibiotics. Nasal decongestants can become ineffective and can lead to dependency over the long term. Antibiotics work well in some cases. Some cases do not respond well to them at all. As a last resort surgery may be used to clean out and drain thick secretions that are blocking the nasal passages.
Immunotherapy or Allergy Shots should be considered as a last resort. This method works by injecting large amounts of allergens in your body so that your system becomes desensitized to them and no longer overreacts in their presence. However, this therapy takes two to five years to be effective, and the effects can wear off. You do not know if you are a good responder to immunotherapy until you take the injections for years.
On a psychological level allergic reactions may be related to feelings of isolation, separation, even arrogance - an inability to accept the world as it is. These toxic emotions weaken the immune system and the anti-deactivating capacity of the liver. So it is important to work towards fewer feelings of separation and self-importance.
The best treatments for allergies are usually natural therapies. Conventional treatments can temporarily help to control allergy symptoms but are often not long lasting. Natural therapies such as diet, acupuncture and herbal medicine can reduce symptoms quickly and provide long-term relief.
Acupressure/Acupuncture: Allergy symptoms vary greatly so it is impossible to cover the appropriate treatment for each specific reaction such as wheezing, itching or blood shot eyes. We will present a general point sequence that can help balance and strengthen the body in cases of allergic reactions.
LI 4 - Joining Valley - Located in the webbing between the thumb and index finger, along the edge of the metacarpal, this antihistamine point relieves all kinds of allergic symptoms, such as headaches, hay fever, sneezing and itching. Counter-indicated for pregnancy.
LIV 3 - Great Rushing - Located on the top of the foot in the valley between the big toe and small toe, this point relieves all kinds of allergic reactions, especially bloodshot eyes and neuromuscular disorders.
SJ 5 - Outer Pass - Located on the top of the forearm between the two arm bones, two and a half finger widths above the wrist crease, this point relieves allergic reactions by strengthening the immune system. LI 11 - Pool at the Crook - Located on the top, outer end of the elbow crease, this point relieves allergies, particularly inflamed skin disorders such as hives and rashes, itching and fevers.
BL 10 - Celestial Pillar - Located one-half inch below the base of the skull, one half inch outward from either side of the spine, this point relieves allergic reactions such as exhaustion, headache and swollen eyes.
KID 27 - Shu Mansion - Located in the hollow below the collar bone next to the breast bone, this point harmonizes the stomach and relieves allergies associated with chest congestion, breathing difficulties, asthma, coughing and sore throats.
REN 6 - Sea of Qi - Located two finger widths directly below the belly button, this point relieves allergies that lead to constipation, gas, fatigue, general weakness, and insomnia.
ST 36 - Three Mile Point - Located four finger widths below the kneecap on the outside of the leg, this point strengthens the whole body to prevent as well as relieve allergies.
SP 6 - Three Yin Intersection - Located on the inside of the lower legs, 3 finger widths above the tip of the ankle bone, in a depression along the crest of the tibia, this point helps relieve allergies especially digestive by calming the spirit, harmonizing the liver and tonifying the kidneys.
HE 7 - Spirit Gate - Located at the wrist joint, on the radial side of the forearm, this point is effective in dealing with allergies that have a strong emotional component by calming the spirit and regulating the heart.
Chinese Herbal Remedies: Different formulas are used depending on whether you are suffering from a stuffy or runny nose, sinus congestion, colored sputum, digestive issues, or other symptoms. It is often advisable to treat the obvious symptoms first. When these symptoms subside the root problem can be addressed.
For example, a typical formula for a person with allergy symptoms of stuffy nose, profuse nasal discharge, difficulty breathing are Yu Ping Feng San - Saposhnikovia & Astragalus Forumla, Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang - Eriobotrya & Ophiopogon Combination, Xin Yi San - Magnolia Flower Formula, and Qing Bi Tang - Pueraria Nasal Combination.
A typical formula for Wetness and Phlegm plus Spleen Yang Deficiency is Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang - Six Gentlemen Decoction with Saussurea Root & Amomum Fruit. Another formula to resolve wet phlegm without tonifying the Spleen is Er Chen Tang - Citrus & Pinellia Decoction (Two Cured Decoction). A formula for Kidney type asthma is Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang - Decoction of Perilla Fruit to Lower the Qi.
A very famous and widely used formula is Liu Wei Di Huang Wan - Rehmannia Six Formula or Pills of Six Herbs or Six Flavor tea, strengthens the kidney and liver Qi, as well as Kidney Essence.
In TCM allergies are considered an immune disorder. Herbal medicine and Qi Gong can help strengthen the immune system, reducing the allergy symptoms. (See Kidney Qi Gong exercises below)
Detoxifying the liver and intestinal tract, promoting regular bowel movements, followed by strengthening of the kidneys are often key objectives in the treatment protocol. Consult a qualified herbalist to determine the best formula for your condition.
Herbal Drink to Alleviate Allergies: Stimulates liver and digestive track helping alleviate most allergic conditions: Combine 2 tbsp each of lemon balm leaves, agrimony, peppermint and celandine. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 tsp. of the herb mix. Drink 1 cup in the morning and 1 cup in the evening.
« He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skill of the physician. » Chinese Proverb
Eat a high proportion of raw food to provide the enzymes the body needs to digest food thoroughly. Omega-3 essential fatty acids found in flax seed oil are excellent to reduce inflammation. Evening primrose oil is an also excellent anti-inflammatory.
Vitamin supplementation reduces histamine levels which are associated with increased nasal and sinus congestion. Vitamin B6 is recommended for its antihistamine effect. Vitamin C and bioflavonoids are very beneficial for allergy suffers as they stabilize the cell walls and inhibit the release of histamine. Vitamins A and E are important for proper immune system response.
Candida overgrowth is also implicated in extensive allergies. Friendly bacteria such as acidophilus should be supplement to help fight bacterial infections which may be causing the allergy. Garlic is a potent antibacterial agent, a natural antibiotic that is effective against bacteria and viruses.
Any chlorophyll-rich foods such as micro-algae and cereal grasses may help clear allergies because of their immune-enhancing, anti-inflammatory properties as well as their abundant supply of omega-3 and or GLA fatty acids.
When wheat or any other seed is sprouted it seldom produces an allergic reaction. The sprouting of grains, legumes and other seeds makes them much more digestible. Soaking grains and legumes before cooking may be sufficient to relieve allergies.
Sprouts are cooling and cleansing. They clearly benefit the fiery, robust individual but when eaten in excess can weaken digestion and worsen the condition of deficient and cold individuals. The cooling and cleansing qualities of sprouts may be reduced by lightly cooking them.
The majority of allergies by far are to foods that can not be sprouted such as dairy and egg allergies. When allergies to these items persist in spite of simple food combining they should be avoided.
- Get plenty of sleep, fresh air and sun to strengthen the immune system.
- Always eat slowly in a relaxed setting.
- Avoid down and feather bedding.
- Wear natural-fiber underwear only
- Breathing and relaxation exercises are important to lower stress, worry and fear.
Medical Qi Gong
Qi Gong exercises focus on strengthening the immune system. In addition, different exercises are recommended depending on whether the allergic reaction affects the skin, respiratory or digestive system.
Points to remember when practicing:
- Feet Rooted to the Earth
- Crown of Head Touching the Sky
- Remain Quiet, Peaceful and Relaxed
- Open the body to the Universe
- Smile from the Heart
- Stay within your Natural Ability
Strengthening the Immune System with Kidney Qi Gong:
First adopt a Standing Posture with the Following Indications:
- Feet shoulder width apart, 70% of body weight on the heels, knees slightly bent, lower back straight, and chin slightly in.
- Arms hang down with palms of hands open and facing the sides of the body.
- Close the anus gently and place the tip of tongue on the upper pallet behind the front teeth.
- Practice with soft eyes fully open or half closed looking down the ridge of the nose.
1. Relaxing with Healing sound SOONG (Can be practiced sitting) Inhale using the mind to open up different parts of the body as big as the universe, and exhale with SOONG. SOONG to the head, neck, shoulders, chest, abdomen, upper back, lower back, arms and hands, legs and feet. The healing sound SOONG will always vibrate the nose as well as the part of the body on which you are focusing. Repeat up to 3 times then SOONG the whole body 3 to 6 times.
2. Abdominal or Relaxed Breathing (Can also be practiced sitting) Inhale through the nose, to the count of seven, expanding the lower part of the body, front, side and back. Exhale through the nose to the count of ten letting the chest drop. Repeat 10 to 30 times. The breath must be gentle, silent, slow, deep and unbroken. Let the inhalation rise on its own from the space between exhalation and inhalation.
3. Swallowing the Pill of Immortality Place the hands on the hips palms facing down. Inhale through the lips while rotating the spine to one side. Exhale through the nose gathering saliva while you unwind the spine. Breath normally while you swallow the saliva, following it down to the center of the abdomen. Rest the mind in the center of the abdomen for a moment. Repeat on the opposite side. Repeat six times on each side.
4. Grinding the Qi in the Lower Abdomen Move both hands to the front of the lower abdomen. The right hand is about a fist’s width from the navel, the left a fist's width from the right hand. Both palms face the lower abdomen. Rotate the hand that is closer to the abdomen in a clockwise direction for 100 times as fast as you can comfortably.
5. Turning the Qi Ball Turn both hands in a circular fashion in front of the abdomen imagining you are turning a Qi ball in the center of the lower Dantien. The hands are always facing the body and the Qi ball is turning in a clockwise direction. Repeat 100 times.
6. Lift Up Kidney Method This exercise will energize the Dantien. It is good for increasing sexual energy, avoiding premature ejaculation, and for prolapsed of the anus, uterus and stomach. The lifting of the anus and perineum is good for the excretory system. It helps prevent hemorrhoids, colon cancer and localized infection.
Move 70 percent of your body weight to the front third of the feet. Bring palms to navel. Women right hand first, men left hand first. Inhale contracting abdomen and lifting anus. Exhale and relax, bringing mind to Lower Dantien. Repeat 10 to 50 times.
On inhalation, visualize the energy moving in a circular fashion from the navel to the Hui Yin (Center of Pelvic Floor) to the Ming Men (Center of Lower Back) and back to the navel where you exhale and relax. Reverse breathing creates a smaller space in the abdomen. It moves the organs and creates more energy. It is a powerful exercise so start slowly with limited repetitions. Movement creates energy. If a space does not move it becomes stagnant and problems can result.
7. Three Centers Merge Palms are resting one next to the other on the lower Dantien, thumbs are resting on navel, fingers are overlapping. Inhale visualizing the center of the eyebrows connecting with the center of the abdomen, exhale relax. Inhale visualizing the center of the palms connecting with the center of the abdomen. Exhale relax. Inhale visualizing the soles of the feet connecting with the center of the abdomen. Exhale relax. Repeat 6 to 9 times.
Inhale visualizing all three centers connecting simultaneously with the center of the abdomen. Exhale and relax. Repeat 6 to 9 times.
8. Closing Method
Standing feet together, weight 70 pecent on the heels. Collect Qi to lower abdomen placing palms over navel area. Ladies: right hand under, left over. Men: left hand under right over.
- Massage lower abdomen in a spiral movement 9 times in each direction.
- Massage from the throat down to the pubic bone 9 times.
- Massage from the floating ribs to the pubic bone 9 times.
- Rub hands together 9 times until they are warm.
- Place palms over face, breath in universal energy, exhale Qi into the face. Repeat 9 times.
- Bend fingers, brush back hard from eyebrows to back of head along the center line of the head. Repeat 6 times.
- Massage the ears with the thumbs
- Massage the throat with the heel of the hands
- Drum the Qi
- Collect Qi to navel, relax and SOONG head to toes 3 to 6 times.
- Balanced Healing by Larry Altshuler, M.D.Healing With Whole Foods
- Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition by Paul PitchfordEncyclopedia of Natural Healing
- A Practical Self-Help Guide by Siegfried Gursche, MH, with Zoltan Rona, M.D., MSc and the Alive Research
- Acupressure’s Potent Points - A Guide to Self-Care for Common Ailments by Michael Reed Gach.
- A Manual of Acupuncture by Peter Deadman & Mazin Al-Khafaji with Kevin Parkeromdclinic.com