Acupuncture: A Promising Treatment for Allergies

By Helen Wang, PhD, LAc

acupuncture for allergiesSpring is well underway in North Carolina…are you happy about it, or does the idea of oncoming seasonal allergies make you shudder with dread?

If you suffer from seasonal or chronic allergies, you are in good company. Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, is the most prevalent chronic allergic disease in the US.

Studies suggest that up to 10% of adults and 40% of children in the US are affected by an allergic reaction to pollen, making allergic rhinitis one of the most common reasons for visits to primary care practitioners.

Acupuncture Helps Allergies

Here’s a best-kept secret … instead of relying on drugs, surgery or steroids, you can send allergy symptoms packing with acupuncture! Spring should be a time for fun and celebration, not sniffling, sneezing and watery eyes!

If you struggle with seasonal or chronic allergies, you may get significant relief from targeted, consistent, and evidence-based acupuncture sessions designed to relieve allergy symptoms such as nasal congestion and allergic rhinitis.

Recent randomized controlled trials have found that acupuncture used as an adjunct to routine care for allergic rhinitis has clinically relevant and persistent benefits and is cost effective. Such trials have found that acupuncture is effective in the symptomatic treatment of perennial (throughout the year) rhinitis. They have also found that active acupuncture is more effective than sham acupuncture in decreasing the symptom scores for persistent allergic rhinitis and increasing the symptom-free days.

No Silver Bullet

For the unfortunate millions who get allergic rhinitis and other seasonal and perennial allergies, there is no silver bullet that can treat each and every symptom. As a result of limited treatment options, many people resort to using an array of antihistamines, decongestants, and other treatments simultaneously, which can lead to a snowballing of undesirable side effects.

Acupuncture is another tool in an allergy sufferer’s toolbox. The treatment appears to be able to provide a large percentage of allergy sufferers with significant relief from uncomfortable symptoms. This has led the medical community to begin acknowledging that it is very promising for the treatment of seasonal and chronic allergy symptoms.

Acupuncture for Allergies Can Replace Medication

Even better, in some cases it appears that acupuncture treatment of allergies can replace—or reduce—the need for medication. This makes it a safe, viable option for patients looking for alternatives to traditional allergy treatment. And when acupuncture is used in conjunction with herbal formulas, the impact can profoundly improve the allergy sufferer’s quality of life.

At Acupuncture Balanced Health, we have first-hand experience with acupuncture treatment for seasonal allergies. Patients who receive treatment early in the allergy season do very well in our experience, and as spring turns to fall we generally recommend two to three acupuncture sessions. At the same time, we usually prescribe patients an herbal formula to help alleviate their symptoms.

Dietary Changes

Depending on our patient’s symptoms and health history, we also recommend supplements for patients to decrease allergy symptoms, support gut health and strengthen immunity. In some circumstances, we recommend slight dietary changes as well. Taken together, these treatments are often very effective in alleviating seasonal allergy symptoms.

In addition to providing ongoing allergy treatment and prevention, acupuncture sessions can result in immediate relief from existing allergy symptoms. We often see first-time allergy treatment patients leave our office feeling less stuffy, sniffly, and itchy.

Cumulative Effects

One of the amazing things about acupuncture is that the effects of treatment are cumulative, so a patient with seasonal allergies can go for several weeks without needing acupuncture. Combined with an herbal formula that can be taken at home, our patients have a full-spectrum solution to seasonal allergies and many of them make it through allergy season with little to no symptoms.

4 Ways Integrative Medicine Benefits Patients

integrative medicineIntegrative medicine combines both traditional Western medicine and alternative therapies, such as herbal medicine, acupuncture and nutritional wellness.

While Western medicine was once all about an evidence-based practice, the medical community has been embracing alternative medicine more and more over the past couple of decades.

The practice of integrative medicine is the result of that mix — one that can bring many benefits to the patients taking advantage of it.

Benefit #1: Addresses the Root of the Illness

The medical community that uses integrative medicine understands the importance of shifting from a “treat the symptoms” to a “treat the whole person” approach. Rather than just addressing the current problem, integrative medicine looks at the root of the problem — and works towards changing the habits or issues that generated the problem in the first place.

This approach is always more effective in the long term because it teaches patients healthier habits that not only heal but also improve quality of life.

Benefit #2: Takes a “Partnership” Approach

Integrative medicine is about becoming a partner in healing, rather than just dispensing medication or recommending tests. With this approach, the patient becomes a partner in the healing process, learning to make lifestyle choices that will impact his future. While an evidence-based practice would look only at studies and drugs that have helped others, an integrative medicine approach takes into consideration other aspects, such as the patient’s views about treatment, past experiences with healing therapies and more.

Integrative therapy is also very much focused on taking things slowly. Rather than overwhelming the body — and the mind — of the patient with lots of changes, the information and treatment moves one step at a time. This gives the body time to adjust and also gives the doctors a chance to see what’s working and what additional changes need to be introduced.

#3: Addresses Chronic Issues

Integrative medicine is an excellent tool for people with chronic issues. Patients with chronic health issues, pain or conditions often suffer from those because traditional medicine hasn’t been able to figure out the underlying problem. Integrative medicine attempts to to bring the entire body into balance — and this often results in a clearing of symptoms much more effectively.

#4: Ensures Personal Attention

Because integrative medicine looks at “the whole picture” rather than just the symptoms, doctors need to spend more time with a patient to fully understand what’s going on with his body. In a time where a lot of medical appointments are quick 20-minute visits, this personalized attention can be a very effective approach. Plus, it’s no surprise that patients who spend more time with their doctors feel better about the treatment they receive and might health faster.

In the end, remember that the goal of integrative medicine is not to help you get rid of your symptoms, but to address the true cause behind those symptoms. By combining a number of therapies, you will not only see results faster, but you will also find more lasting results.

Integrative Medicine: Your Partner in Health

integrative medicine, evidence-based practice, medical communityChapel Hill Doctors medical center was created to stand as a partnership of a number of medical disciplines. By doing so, the center is able to offer an exceptional, integrative medicine approach that focuses on treating a broader range of conditions.

We know that medicine has come a long way from the days of traditional treatment and quick prescription approach. Many hospitals and clinics are now moving to a more all-encompassing method, looking at different diagnosis and treatment options.

Incorporating Functional Medicine
Functional medicine is an approach that looks at the entire body and the relationship between different systems  — such as the immune, endocrine and gastrointestinal systems — and organs to determine what’s causing an illness.

This is different from the approach of standard medicine, which focuses on addressing a specific set of symptoms or one organ to treat a problem. Functional medicine is often referred to as “patient-centered medicine” because it focuses on the person, rather than on the symptoms.

More and more doctors are also shifting to a “treat the patient, not the disease” modality. Functional medicine is a Western concept and the treatments offered to patients after diagnosis are also based on Western medicine. For example, a typical functional medicine approach might include medication, dietary changes and stress-reduction techniques.

The functional approach is all about helping patients who are frustrated by the limited options offered by traditional medicine. In fact, functional medicine is especially helpful for people with chronic diseases and problems that don’t seem to respond to standard treatment. Plus, by looking at the different systems in the body and their interaction, a doctor might be able to determine the cause of a problem more easily than by just looking at the symptoms.

Understanding the Integrative Medicine Approach

Simply put, integrative medicine is a discipline that combines traditional Western medicine with alternative medicine treatment. The goal of integrative medicine is to treat not only the body, but also the mind and spirit at the same time. Integrative medicine always treats “the whole person” rather than an individual problem. There isn’t a standard combination that defines integrative medicine, which means some doctors might adopt a practice such as acupuncture, while others may prefer naturopathy.

Some of the most common alternative practices that are frequently combined with Western medicine include:

  • Osteopathic medicine: the use of manual therapies, such as spinal manipulation
  • Biofeedback: a technique that’s used to control the body’s response to pain, functions (such as heart rate or muscle tension) and more
  • Acupuncture
  • Naturopathic medicine: the use of natural therapies such as dietary changes, reflexology, meditation and Chinese medicine to address health issues
  • Herbal medicine: the use of plants, seeds and roots to treat ailments

Finding the Right Fit

While it might be possible to find a doctor who is both a traditional physician and an alternative medicine provider, integrative medicine is often done in a setting that includes several health professionals. So, for example, a medical doctor will handle the traditional medicine diagnosis treatment, while an acupuncturist or an herbalist might provide complementary treatment to address additional issues.

Whether you choose to go with functional or integrative medicine, keep in mind that both approaches can be equally effective, as long as you choose the right professional. With medical providers across 15 different disciplines, Chapel Hill Doctors aims to offer you the right combination of treatments for your condition.